Support available for cancer patients affected by bushfires

Tuesday 11 February, 2014

Cancer Council Victoria has released a new fact sheet to support people coping with cancer after a natural disaster, such as bushfires. 

With many Victorians affected by bushfires already this summer, and the threat looming for many communities, the fact sheet will help people with cancer who are facing additional hardships due to a natural disaster.

Katherine Lane, Manager of Cancer Council’s Helpline, said natural disasters could increase practical difficulties and emotional reactions for people affected by cancer.

“A natural disaster can have a severe effect on someone with cancer, including disturbed access to treatment and support services, feelings of shock, disbelief and anger, and financial difficulties.”

Sandra Slatter, a cancer survivor who worked as a counsellor and small business advisor following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, said it was important for those affected to look after themselves and talk about what they were going through.

“I found that following a traumatic experience people become fatigued - their minds become foggy, and they forget to take good care of themselves. My advice is to put a self-care plan in place, ensuring you eat well and rest,” Ms Slatter said.

“I worked with many people with cancer who were left feeling particularly vulnerable after the Black Saturday bushfires. It can bring up a lot of emotions to be put in another potentially life-threatening situation; be it cancer or a bushfire.”

Ms Lane said the fact sheet would guide those with cancer to the information and support they needed.

“After a natural disaster it is normal to feel distressed and anxious, especially if you are already coping with cancer and its treatment.

“The Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20 is a particularly valuable resource if people are feeling overwhelmed. The helpline nurses can refer you to specialised services such as support groups and face-to-face counselling.”

The fact sheet, available for download or by calling the Cancer Council Helpline (13 11 20), provides information about:

  • What to do if patients are having treatment and are unable to access their hospital
  • Staying safe and avoiding infections
  • Managing stress
  • Links to other available support