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Support available for Victorians affected by cancer this holiday season

Monday 14 December, 2020

As Victoria’s restrictions ease and many of us look forward to celebrations and fun with friends and family over the festive season, for Victorians affected by cancer this can be a particularly difficult time of year.

Angela Cahill, Nurse Manager at Cancer Council Victoria, encouraged anyone needing cancer support or information to call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 to speak to a cancer nurse.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in calls from people affected by cancer this year as they deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of a cancer diagnosis, either personally or of a loved one. Sadly, for many, this has meant not being able to access their usual support systems, restrictions on who can visit them in hospital or accompany them to treatment, or not being able to be with their loved ones when they pass away.

“The holiday season can be tough during a normal year, but it is likely to be even more so this year. People affected by cancer may be feeling very overwhelmed and may need some extra support,” Ms Cahill said.

“Cancer Council Victoria has experienced cancer nurses who are here to offer emotional and practical support and to connect you in with other services. Whatever you’re experiencing, we’re here to help in whatever way we can.”

Ms Cahill said that delayed grief is normal after being through such a tumultuous period, and it’s common for people to be worried that their feelings and emotions may dampen the celebrations for others.

Cancer patient Vicki said that for her, Cancer Council’s support services are imperative over the Christmas period.

“Not only are we dealing with our own mortality, relationships are being strained, finances are dwindling, and among other things, it really begins to test your emotional wellbeing.

“Talking openly and honestly about your fears and feelings when everyone else is in the festive spirit is scary. Having an empathetic and compassionate ear on the other end of the phone, is a very powerful way to inspire peace of mind, not only in yourself but your family. At the end of the day, it’s not just us - our families struggle to understand and don’t know what to say or how to act. We are lucky to have Cancer Council and the many facets of support services they offer.”

Some tips for getting through the holiday season include setting realistic expectations with friends and loved ones, keeping activities simple and creating new traditions when usual celebrations may not be possible.

Anyone needing cancer information and support is encouraged to call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 to speak to a cancer nurse.

Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 nurses can also connect you with other support services, including practical and financial support, counselling, our telephone-based peer support program Cancer Connect, information booklets and so much more.