“We’re still here”: Cancer support and COVID-19

Wednesday 27 May, 2020

Susan has been pregnant, and undergoing cancer treatment, during COVID-19.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been an incredible response across Victoria in trying to minimise the harm of this dangerous disease.

But there is still cause for concern among some of the most vulnerable members of our community – such as people going through cancer treatment.

Many cancer therapies can leave people’s immune systems more vulnerable to infection, and with some uncertainty around access to medical and normal support services, this is a very worrying time for many cancer patients, as well as their families and carers.

But people like you are helping provide a vital line of support for people who need it – like breast cancer patient Susan.

Susan was pregnant with her fifth child when she was diagnosed. Then, while she was undergoing chemotherapy, COVID-19 broke out.

Already taking care of four kids under six years old with another coming soon, Susan said the addition of COVID-19 has had a significant impact on her cancer experience.

Susan has been pregnant, and undergoing cancer treatment, during COVID-19.

Susan has been pregnant, and undergoing cancer treatment, during COVID-19.

“At the moment it feels like cancer has to take a back seat; we have to deal with the coronavirus,” Susan said.

“It’s lonely. All of a sudden it feels like all this support has just been pulled away from you.”

With doubts and difficulties in connecting with other supports, Susan reached out to Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support line – a service that you help provide to people in need, who often have nowhere else to turn to.

Susan is certainly not the only one accessing this important assistance. Many callers to Cancer Council’s nurses have expressed concerns over COVID-19 and how it may impact their or their loved one’s cancer treatment.

Fortunately, the nurses have plenty of practical advice and information to share – while also providing empathetic and compassionate support.

“There’s a real concern out there about how COVID-19 could potentially impact them, as a person with or caring for someone with cancer, or how it might change the healthcare system,” Steve, a 13 11 20 nurse, said.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 nurse, Steve.

Like all of Cancer Council's 13 11 20 oncology nurses, Steve has been working from home since lockdown restrictions started in Victoria.

 “People talk to us about their concerns, and we give them information and the appropriate direction to help address them. We also help guide people through the decisions they make and with strategies to reduce their risk, and we link them to other support that is still operating.”

You’re ensuring Cancer Council can act as a vital link between people in need and these services, as well as helping people access the range of supports provided by Cancer Council.

These include the free wig service, which is now being delivered by post; group telephone support to allow people affected by cancer to safely be part of a professionally facilitated support group; Cancer Connect, bringing people receiving cancer treatment together with trained volunteers who know what the experience is like; and the financial assistance package, which can provide small, one-off grants to people affected by cancer to assist in covering essential costs like groceries and utility bills.

These vital services are 100% donor funded. It’s thanks to the wonderful support of people like you that Cancer Council has been able to continue to provide them.

“Many usual channels maybe aren’t operating as normal or aren’t being encouraged due to social distancing, so people are really appreciative that we’re still here,” Steve said.

“For us, it’s business as usual, so don’t let there be any obstacles in making contact with us,” he said.

For people like Susan, having this support available is helping them get through.

“I’m feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but considering how everything’s going I’m doing okay,” Susan said.

“I just have to pick myself up and keep fighting for the kids.”

Your kindness can continue to ensureensure this vital line of support is there for Susan and every Victorian affected by cancer by donating today.

We’re here to help

Are you affected by cancer and concerned about COVID-19? We’re here for you. Please see our latest advice, or contact our trained nurses on 13 11 20 or at askanurse@cancervic.org.au.

We also have information about COVID-19 and cancer in different languages.

If you’re trying to quit smoking during this time, our Quitline counsellors can offer you guidance and support. Call 13 78 48.