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We don’t have all the answers

Posted on: Monday, 30th March 2020 by Debbie Shipley, Support Service Manager

Your world might have changed, but we haven’t. In this series, we talk about the impact coronavirus might have on your life and how to manage it.

The sudden changes to how we are living our lives can be hard to comprehend. Advice and restrictions change daily as we learn more about coronavirus. It can feel all-consuming at times. Keeping up, as well as trying to interpret what it means for us, can be extremely difficult.

You might be worried about how coronavirus will affect you – maybe you’re wondering what your risk is, or how your care and treatment might change. At Jo’s, we want to help you make sense of this new world we are living in, give you some tips for coping, and offer some reassurance around the decisions that are being made.

We don’t have all the answers, but here’s what we can tell you:

It’s important to acknowledge the situation

This isn’t a nice situation to be in and it’s okay to acknowledge that – in fact, we encourage it. Give yourself permission to recognise your feelings so you can start to process them. And, let’s face it, there is a lot to process at the moment, especially if you are currently having or waiting for treatment for cancer or cell changes. Mindfulness could help. Here is a quick mindfulness exercise to try:

  1. Find a quiet space in your house.
  2. Get comfortable – perhaps sitting on a comfy chair, lying on the floor or even standing in a relaxed position.
  3. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts. If you do fewer counts, that’s okay – do whatever gets you into a calm rhythm. 
  4. Now let your thoughts or feelings about your current situation in. You might choose to let them in one at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  5. Once you have let them in for a short time, try to let them go and choose to focus on something else – this could be your breathing, or simply the feeling of your feet or back on the floor.
  6. When you are ready, end the exercise and gently bring yourself back into the day. 

You do can this exercise, or one like it, whenever you feel it would be helpful. There are lots of free tools to help you practice mindfulness, including ones created by organisations like Mind and apps like Headspace

Look after your mental health

It’s so important to try and look after your mental health during this difficult time, especially if you are shielding or self-isolating. How you do this is up to you, but simple things such as trying a new hobby, connecting with an old friend or starting a diary can help. At a time when things can feel out of control, it could also help to think of things you can maintain control over and developing a routine for your day. Exercise is really good for your mental health, so setting aside time to get some exercise can be really beneficial – if you aren’t sure what you can do at home then there are lots of tips on the NHS website.

The Jo’s team have a few tips too. Our Head of Communications, Kate, is setting aside time each morning to try a different online exercise class, while our Senior Digital Officer, Ellie, is embracing the app House Party and our Information Manager, Imogen, is falling back in love with old video games.

Peer to peer support can also be a really valuable tool and our Forum provides just that. It’s a safe space to chat with others who are going through something similar, and right now there is a lot of conversation and support around coronavirus and cancer. If you don’t feel like chatting, you can read through the threads.

Join our Forum >

There are some amazing resources out there which you might find useful. Here are a few: 

Ask questions 

Everything is changing really quickly and you might feel a little out of control, even when it comes to your own treatment. We know that delays or changes, as well as different ways of keeping in touch with your team, can be extremely hard to deal with.

Where changes are being made, they are to keep you as safe and healthy as possible. Understanding what is happening and what the next steps are might help you process these changes and lessen any anxiety you feel.

We have some suggested questions that you might find useful to ask. It isn’t an exhaustive list so do think about what would help you and create your own list.

Questions you could ask

  • Can you explain my current risk of coronavirus?
  • Should I be shielding or self-isolating?
  • Should I be staying away from the people I live with?
  • How might my treatment be impacted by coronavirus?
  • Is it safe for me to come to the hospital for my treatment?
  • Is it safe for my loved one to bring me to the hospital?
  • What are the risks if my treatment is delayed?
  • What are the risks if my treatment isn’t delayed?
  • What are my other treatment options?
  • Is it likely that there will be more changes?
  • What are the next steps?
  • Will my team change? If it does, who should I contact?

Your health care team are still there for you

As fewer face-to-face appointments are happening, phone or video consultations might take a little while to get used to. But if you try to treat every appointment in the same way you would if it were face to face, it will become normal quickly. Like face-to-face appointments, try to have a loved one with you still – if they aren’t able to be physically there, think about tools, like a group call, that could mean they are virtually with you.

Remember, whether you are still seeing your team in person or you are in touch virtually, the level of care they are committed to giving you has not changed. They are still working just as hard to look after you and make the best decisions for and with you. If you have any questions at all, whatever they are about, your healthcare team should be the first people you contact. 

Try to focus on yourself

At the moment, there are lots of opportunities to get involved in volunteering and supporting efforts against coronavirus. There are also lots of people who are facing difficult situations. We understand that you may want to get involved and help support others but it is really important to look after yourself before you help others – especially if you have recently finished or are in the middle of cancer treatment. As hard as it might be, your focus should be on making a full recovery. Try to follow the advice of your team and let others support you for a while. The better place you are in, the more you will be able to help others further down the line. 

If you truly feel well enough or need to be doing something, Jo’s has some less intensive opportunities you could get involved in to support others living with cervical cancer:

  • Join our online Forum and offer peer-to-peer support. Our Forum users have created the most welcoming, supportive community and you could be a part of that. A simple friendly ‘Hello!’ or virtual hug can make a real difference in the current situation.
  • Become a Jo’s Voice to help shape the information and support we offer. We rely on Jo’s Voices to give a personal perspective, so we can improve what we do and how we do for everyone with cervical health questions or concerns. 

Talk to us

We are still here. Whether you want to chat, cry or vent, the Jo’s team and our amazing volunteers are just a call away. 

If you haven’t used our free Helpline before, it’s a safe, confidential way to talk through anything that is on your mind and get support from someone who understands. No question is too big or silly – honestly, we’ve heard it all and have probably asked it ourselves at some point! We don’t have all the answers, but we can help you find reliable sources or point you in the right direction. 

Give us a call on 0808 802 8000 (make sure to check our opening hours first >).