Coping with cancer during COVID-19


by Lisa Kirby, RN, OCN

Sep 30, 2020

For many of us, 2020 has certainly changed how we live our lives in unexpected and challenging ways. Social distancing, mask wearing and staying at home may at times create feelings of isolation, sadness and frustration. Add a cancer diagnosis into the mix, and things can really change.

As an oncology nurse navigator, I have the honor of supporting and walking with women throughout their cancer journeys. There are three observations I’ve learned from these incredible women that I would like to share today for those who find themselves coping with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” – Maya Angelou 

Stay positive.

First, stay positive. Tomorrow is a new day. Surround yourself with positive people. 

With people at home and on their smartphones more, social media has exploded during the pandemic. Social media feeds and the news remind us daily of all the ways COVID-19 has disrupted our lives. I believe there are times when we need to unplug from it all and just take a break. 

Journaling, arts and crafts, and hobbies are a great way to alleviate stress. When was the last time you read a book or listened to your favorite musician or band? Perhaps it’s time to call that friend that you haven’t talked to in a long time to reconnect and laugh about “the good old days.” Keep a schedule and keep moving. Stay positive by focusing on what makes you feel good and enjoy the present!

Keep in touch with family and friends. 

Make sure you have a solid support team on your side — and connect with them regularly. There are many ways to stay connected during social distancing, including online support groups for cancer survivors. 

There are many benefits to connecting with other survivors, sharing experiences and learning from one another. Sometimes it’s hard to share certain feelings with family and friends, but support groups provide a safe environment as well as offer perspectives from other survivors. Perhaps begin your day with a virtual coffee chat or virtually share a meal with others. 

Have faith. 

Faith can take many forms, such as spiritual faith, a belief in the possibility of healing, and having confidence in your care team. 

You can connect online with your choice of worship for spiritual support, which many people find encouraging and healing throughout their cancer journey and survivorship. 

Related: Why cancer hates believers like me

Focus on the things you can do to promote healing. This can include taking a walk every day or exercising along to a favorite workout video. Share with your oncologist any concerns you may have, including any fears about the COVID-19 virus. Talk with them to have a plan in place in case you were to develop symptoms concerning for COVID-19 and understand how that may impact your care. 

Remember, YOU have the power to change how you react to life’s circumstances — whether it be living during a pandemic, coping with a cancer diagnosis, or both.

What makes your light shine bright? Focus on that.

Looking for cancer support? Connect with support groups, spiritual care and more today at

About the Author

Lisa Kirby, RN, OCN, is a gynecological oncology nurse navigator at the Joan Katz Cancer Resource Center located at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center - Fort Worth.

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