Madrid, December 27, 2021.- After many months of changes, restrictions and preventive measures, Christmas is once again approaching and although it is a time of joy, it can also be a time of worry for cancer patients since the COVID-19 pandemic is still out there, despite the many vaccination campaigns. “It will be a special Christmas for cancer patients because we have had a rather complicated year,” explains Marta de la Fuente, head of the Psycho-Oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, adding that “focusing the conversation on the positive can make a difference. We must remember that the cancer patient is going through one of the most stressful situations in their life, full of fear, anguish and uncertainty, so this time of year has an even stronger meaning for them”, she continues. In this sense, the psycho-oncologist reminds us that it is essential to focus on the positive, but it is also important to understand the negative aspect that these days may have for the patient and allow him/her to express their fears. To ensure that gatherings with friends and family are comfortable and safe for everyone, Marta de la Fuente offers a series of recommendations both for patients and those closest to them.
Recommendations for cancer patients: express the negative and reinforce the positive
- Express your feelings: although it is often assumed that people close you are aware of it, professing love never hurts. Christmas can be a good opportunity to express what we feel, not only the negative, but the positive, too. We should try to thank people, express our affection and tell people how much we love them.
- Think about the present: it is vitally important to focus on the now, trying not to get carried away by thinking about a future that is uncertain. "We do not know what is going to happen in the future, but we do know what is happening now".
- Lean on those close to you: some situations may be uncomfortable and it is quite common for more unpleasant feelings to come out. When this happens and unpleasant emotions appear, these feelings must be validated and accepted, relying on those close to us, but tolerating the moment of emotional release.
- Insist on safety measures to avoid infection: If we focus on physical health, we should highlight the importance of setting personal limits. "If you think that someone is not complying with protection protocols related to COVID-19, if you think that the measures are becoming too relaxed, show your disagreement", explains the psycho-oncologist, reminding us that physical situations are diverse and if someone wants to adopt stricter measures, they have the right to do so.
Recommendations for those close to the patient: respect space and emotions
- Respect the patient's space and emotions: although, fortunately, we can enjoy greater closeness this year, the personal space of each patient must be respected in order to have comfortable, appropriate interaction with others, adapting to each circumstance. In this sense, we should tolerate silences, be tolerant of weeping and the patient expressing their negative feelings. "We should not be afraid, rather we should accompany them at those times," says Ms. de la Fuente, "they are normal emotional reflections at an intense time like Christmas".
- Allow a certain degree of distancing: equally, if we feel overwhelmed, it is better to distance ourselves from the situation. "It is common that, at certain times, we feel tired of the situation, but if we feel our emotions are taking over, it is important to distance ourselves a little, calm down and then act".