Cancer Patients Face Tough Decisions This Holiday Season
December 23, 2020
With the 2020 holiday season well underway, many folks are not just considering which pies to bake or how they might deck their halls. For most families, health risks associated with large gatherings are causing concern.
For cancer patients and their caregivers, health issues related to COVID-19 likely weigh heavily on their minds as they plan their holiday festivities.
Stress complicates the process of determining the “right” or “safe” way to celebrate during a global health crisis.
It is essential for families facing aggressive cancer such as mesothelioma to make decisions based on their specific needs. It is also important to protect both the physical health and emotional well-being of medically fragile family members.
Approaching this decision inclusively, considering both physical and emotional health, allows for an adequate response to more of the patient’s needs.
Understanding the risks cancer patients face during celebratory gatherings, the importance of both physical and emotional health, and ways to protect vulnerable family members can be helpful when making decisions about get-togethers this holiday season.
Understanding the Risks for Mesothelioma Patients
By now, most of us have adjusted to life during a pandemic. Many people have incorporated additional protective factors into their daily operations to maintain their health. However, we may not be as dedicated to virus mitigation during the holiday season.
When considering holiday festivities, it is important to analyze the risks involved and the potential benefits of spending the holidays with loved ones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies cancer patients as being at higher risk of a more severe experience with coronavirus infection.
Some of the medical complications for those at increased risk include hospitalization and the use of medical devices, such as a ventilator, to assist with breathing.
According to the CDC, higher-risk patients should take extra precautions to protect their health.
Balancing Physical and Emotional Health
Coming together during the holidays seems like a good way to enjoy each other and develop circles of encouragement for someone facing cancer. Most families find love and joy in celebrating, but engaging in festivities this year involves additional risks for vulnerable populations such as mesothelioma patients.
Those in the mesothelioma community are privy to understanding the impact cancer treatment may have on one’s physical body, namely one’s immunity to sicknesses.
Cancer itself, chemotherapy treatment or radiation may result in patients having compromised immune systems, thus making them more susceptible to illnesses, especially the coronavirus.
Mesothelioma patients and their families also understand the imperative nature of having adequate support from friends and loved ones while dealing with a difficult diagnosis. Families typically lean on each other during times of distress.
Maintaining emotional well-being is more difficult when dealing with intense and more complex stressors, such as navigating cancer treatment during a global pandemic.
Perhaps the challenge in deciding how to celebrate this year stems from the discrepancy between protecting and supporting a physically vulnerable family member. Loved ones understand the need to mitigate unnecessary sickness while recognizing the significance of family support.
Making Difficult Decisions During the Holidays
Because 2020 has been such a difficult year for so many, finding a bit of joy in the holidays seems even more necessary.
Christmas and other seasonal celebrations offer a much-needed diversion from the burdens and worries of uncertain times. Cancer patients may feel an even greater sense of anticipation and urgency to enjoy family get-togethers.
Patients should always follow the directives of their cancer treatment team when planning for the holidays.
Dealing with cancer and the coronavirus does not have to “ruin” the holidays. Celebrating this year may not incorporate every family tradition, but families may easily modify events to protect vulnerable loved ones.
Yes, families may be able to have their holiday fruit cake and eat it too.
Merry Mitigation This Holiday Season
Most folks in the mesothelioma community are aware of the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the CDC to mitigate the community spread of the coronavirus. Families may choose to incorporate some, or all, of the guidelines to protect loved ones.
A few of the health measures recommended by the CDC include:
- Social Distancing: Staying six or more feet away from people who do not live in your home may decrease exposure risks.
- Hand Washing: The CDC recommends maintaining good hygiene, such as washing your hands with soap and water, to decrease health risks.
- Masks: Facial coverings can decrease the chance of breathing in contaminated droplets, which reduces risks of contracting COVID-19.
Following CDC guidelines reduces, but does not eliminate, one’s chances of contracting the virus.
There is no foolproof guide to gathering with friends and loved ones for the holidays, especially regarding medically vulnerable people such as those facing cancer. However, some families are navigating this holiday season by trying new ways to celebrate.
Changing Celebrations During the Pandemic
With a little creativity, families affected by mesothelioma may have a few new options to consider regarding holiday celebrations.
While we may be inexperienced at celebrating Christmas in the garage, it seems 2020 is an opportune time to try new things.
A few ideas to decrease risks include:
- Changing Location: Having a well-ventilated venue, such as the outdoors or the garage, might be a good way to reduce viral droplets in the air. This idea mimics outdoor dining options we’ve see in restaurants of late.
- Masks: For gatherings that include family members who do not live in the same home as the patient, it may be a good idea for attendees to wear face coverings to decrease the spread of germs.
- Meal Delivery: Having a meal delivered may allow each family member to enjoy dinner while decreasing physical interaction through shared utensils. Single-use dishes and cutlery decrease contact.
- Virtual Parties: Some families may determine the risks outweigh the benefits of celebrating together. Planning a video chat party allows participants to engage in the safest way possible.
Patients and caregivers should consult their cancer treatment team for guidance on having the merriest and safest holiday celebration possible.