As we near the end of 2020, many Victorians hope to take time out to wind down, reflect and spend time with loved ones. Unfortunately for people affected by cancer time out from treatment isn’t always possible, and time with loved ones can bring with it a range of emotions and feelings. After a particularly challenging year cancer support will be needed more than ever.
Angela Cahill, nurse manager at Cancer Council Victoria encourages anyone needing cancer support or information to call Cancer Council 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,” she said.
“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.”
Lung cancer patient, Vicki knows all too well the burden of a cancer diagnosis during a tough year of COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.
“It’s been a horrible, horrible year,” she said.
The grandmother of two has been in and out of hospital throughout the pandemic, with surgery, chemotherapy and treatment-related side-effects. She called Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for support when she got out of hospital after surgery.
“Not only are we dealing with our own mortality, relationships are being strained, finances are dwindling among other things - it really begins to test your emotional wellbeing, which can totally affect your condition and recovery,” Vicki said.
With Christmas coming up for Vicki and her family she said she’s really grateful to have Cancer Council for support.
“Being able to talk openly and honestly about your fears and feelings when everyone else is in the festive spirit, is scary, but having an empathetic and compassionate ear on the other end of the phone is a very powerful way to inspire peace of mind,” she said.
“At the end of the day it’s not just us, our families struggle to understand, not know what to say, how to act - we are lucky to have Cancer Council for people like me to reach out to when we feel like we can't burden our families or friends with certain issues.
“No one knows what to say, and it's easier to talk to someone that has probably heard the question a thousand times.”
Angela said that delayed grief was normal after being through such a tumultuous period, and it was common for people to be worried that their feelings and emotions may dampen the celebrations for others.
“Cancer Council Victoria has experienced cancer nurses who are here to offer emotional and practical support and to connect you in with other services,” she said. “Whatever you’re experiencing, we’re here to help in whatever way we can.”
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 are not possible. More practical information is available in our fact sheet Special Occasions and Celebrations.
Anyone needing cancer information and support is encouraged to call Cancer Council on 13 11 20 to speak to a cancer nurse. Cancer Council can also connect you with other support services, including counselling, a wig service for cancer-related hair loss, telephone-based peer support, information booklets, financial counselling and so much more. You can also connect with others going through a similar experience at any time through our online community.
Holiday operating hours
Our regular operating hours are Monday to Friday, 9am- 5pm
Friday 25 December - closed
Monday 28 December - closed
Tuesday 29 December, 10am – 6pm
Wednesday 30 December, 10am – 6pm
Thursday 31 December, 10am – 6pm
Friday 1 January – closed
Monday 4 January – return to regular operating hours