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  • Although cancer patients should take even more care to avoid getting COVID-19 this Christmas, it is important they not only focus on what they cannot do this year to avoid becoming frustrated
  • It is essential that cancer patients talk openly about their feelings and make communication with those around them something natural
  • People close to a cancer patient play a key role during the festive season and must know how to transmit a feeling of safety, to listen and accept that they have to be flexible with the patient at all times

Madrid, December 15, 2020.- Once again Christmas is here, a time when we have always reunited with our relatives, when we have done so many, very special things to celebrate these important days. However, this year has been different, and Christmas will also be somewhat different. This year, "we all have to comply with a series of preventive measures to try to avoid infection as much as possible to stop the pandemic we are living," explains Marta de la Fuente, head of Psycho- oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.


Preventive measures and precaution that cancer patients, being particularly vulnerable, must take much more seriously. For example, it is absolutely necessary to comply precisely with the recommendation of health authorities to celebrate the festive season with only people of our household or to try to stay in open or very well-ventilated places.


The seriousness of the current situation and the measures adopted, may cause a cancer patient to cut themselves off excessively, not wanting to take part in many of the things they enjoyed other years, like, for example, taking a walk to see the Christmas lights, at times when there is not too much traffic or too many people.


These feelings of fear and worry really create a need to avoid situations where there is a risk of infection at all costs because the cancer patient is at greater risk in this pandemic. However, although "all this inevitably leads to a very different Christmas, it does not necessarily have to be a frustrated Christmas," she says.


It is important to bear in mind that cancer patients tend to feel their emotions more intensely at this time of year. So, depending on the personality of the patient or the process he or she is going through with cancer, Christmas can have a positive effect or bring on feelings of melancholy, sadness, longing for other times and even anger. "It also often depends on what previous experiences these patients have had, the type of personal and family relationships they have, or even the losses they might have suffered in recent years”.


So, the cancer patient may have to face a series of new, unfamiliar obstacles these days, like a family member who does not have the same understanding when it comes to the care they need, or they may feel judged by those around them because they take preventive measures very strictly. Furthermore, the fact they cannot physically show affection with family members and loved ones at a time of year that calls for shows of affection. "With the imposition of these restrictions, we are holding back precisely the essence of what Christmas is, which can dampen the patient’s feelings of hope," says Ms. de la Fuente.


Christmas in times of Covid-19 can also be fun


To enjoy Christmas as much as in previous years, it is essential that these patients are able to openly express their emotions to their family and friends and how this peculiar situation is making them feel inside, and that they can communication openly and naturally, which is certainly very healthy. On the other hand, they must try to avoid focusing on complaining and about how odd this Christmas will be. So, "rather than focusing on everything that Covid-19 has taken away from us, we must appreciate what we can be do, without forgetting the necessary precautions”.


It can also be helpful to keep the subjects of conversation moving during the holidays and avoid talking constantly about the pandemic. In other words, while the pandemic is something that must be borne in mind, but without being a constant in our conversations. Furthermore, displays of affection and warmth play a very important role this year. "We have to learn to express our affection through looks, words, and putting more emphasis on the verbal communication that sometimes we forget," she concludes.


But the crux of the matter lies mostly in the role played by those around the patient these days that are so special. That is why it is essential to transmit a feeling of safety, to listen and to be flexible with the patient over the festive period, and to respect the patient’s rhythm. In the words of the specialist, “We must propose, encourage and ask, not impose, ignore and force”. Likewise, it is important to try not to block the negative feelings the patient may have, but to let him or her get things off their chest and then help them find hope and joy in a time as special as Christmas.