In This Moment The Corona Virus Pandemic Means That Social Distancing Equates As Love. This Post Raises Important Questions About The Pandemic, Cancer And Being Kind.
A Love Poem in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic
Because I love you.Written by JE Muolo
Could this be one of the new signs of love during this historic, inward searching time in our lives?
I looked for words used online to describe the Covid-19 experience we are all living in… and, unfortunately, many suffering and dying in. The words that stood out include
These words do not convey a sense of joy or uplift in the body-mind. Couple these heavy words with the effects of cancer treatment or the exhaustion and fragility of recovery with being quarantined or isolated because of your cancer, and the result may be an almost unbearable brew of thoughts and difficult emotions. All totally natural and even to be expected.
According to a recent article in The Lancet, research suggests that there are negative psychological effects of being in quarantine or isolation and that some of these effects can be long-lasting. On the brighter side, the research also suggests that we can help to lessen the negative effects by taking measures to ensure that the experience is as tolerable as possible.
This can be achieved by:
- Telling people what is happening and why, explaining how long it will continue
- Providing meaningful activities for them to do while in quarantine
- Providing clear communication, ensuring basic supplies (such as food, water, and medical supplies) are available, and
- Reinforcing the sense of altruism that people should, rightly, be feeling.
The corona virus pandemic is a stark reminder that the impact of cancer is not only physical, but also affects our emotional, psychological and spiritual state.
For cancer patients, especially those whose immune systems may be compromised because of their disease or its treatment resulting in quarantine or isolation, living through the covid-19 pandemic is a perfect storm for experiencing increased psychological challenges.
The ‘emotional, psychological and spiritual’ effects of cancer is a topic particularly close to my heart. I was diagnosed with, lived with and fortunately survived cancer. I have also seen, and felt, the impact of a loved one caring for another diagnosed with cancer. My wife and her three sisters cared for their mother who was diagnosed with lung cancer and who, unfortunately, died from the disease. I saw first-hand the emotional, psychological and spiritual toll that cancer can take. Today, because of my involvement in the cancer community, I see patients, family members and caregivers living with the added burden of pandemic. Within these human stories it is easy to recognise that many are experiencing additional suffering. The rest of your life does not stop when you have cancer or while you are caring for someone else with cancer – covid-19 has put an emphatic exclamation point on this, having to deal now with both cancer and the pandemic.
Two questions, or perhaps better to say ‘areas of reflection’ that are important now.
One, how can we best take care of ourselves, and two, what can we do to help others? Taking care of ourselves might seem selfish to some. If it does, we suggest trying to reframe the concept to ‘taking care of ourselves in order to provide the best support and help to others’- similar to the instructions for oxygen masks in planes. Nothing new here, we must follow the public advice that we are given e.g. stay home, wash your hands, and keep your distance from others.
It is the second reflection – what can we do to help others – that many of us are searching for today. In the second half of 2019, before ever hearing the words ‘corona virus or Covid-19’, I wrote a blog called The Kindest Cancer App.
In this article, I asked can an app be kind, and if so, how. One of the concepts mentioned in the article is the principle of ‘a shared human condition’. Albert Einstein once said:
Our separation from each other is an optical illusion.Albert Einstein
We are all struggling beings, and this is our shared human experience.
Pausing and recognising this, now, in ourselves and in others is a great place to start to begin to develop individual kindness. It is clearer now more than ever before, that our individual health is dependent upon others.
What we are doing to help at NatiaCares? Although we are a start-up company, our purpose and values include being kind
- We are sharing our programs with as many people as possible.
- Because the app is only available on IOS at this time, we also put free content on our website so that many others have access.
- We developed a free web-based quarantine programme called ’14-Day Kindness in Quarantine’(https://www.natiacares.com/courses).
- Finally, we are engaging with cancer charities such as the national cancer charity Maggie’s Centres (https://www.maggies.org), and the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre, offering our content and exploring other ways in which to support the cancer community through collaboration.
We are hopeful that we in some ways we have addressed points 2 and 4 from The Lancet article – providing meaningful activities while in quarantine and reinforcing a sense of altruism
All NatiaCares content is grounded in science
Designed by specialists, including experts in yoga, meditation, poetry, and music, each of whom has lived experience using these techniques in clinical practice, and co-developed by patients and caregivers. We believe, and science supports our belief, that holistic, integrative cancer care is vital for whole-person healing.
We ask you to consider deeply, how can we best take care of ourselves, and what can we do to help others, keeping kindness in mind.
We invite you to try NatiaCares and if, of value for you, to please share with friends and loved ones who you feel might benefit – a small but real act of kindness. By the way, I fully expect that we will eventually have a list of positive words to match the list above, words that reflect the many acts of kindness that have been, are, and yet to come, from the world’s interconnectedness.
So as we keep our distance, lovingly, and as we watch the Spring unfold outside our windows, let’s take comfort from an ancient Chinese proverb:
Keep a green bough in your heart, and the singing bird will come.Ancient Chinese proverb
We hope that our meditations, breathing practices, gentle movement exercises, conversations and inspirational poetry will keep the green bough of hope alive within you.
Raghavendra, MR., Ram, A., Vinutha, HT., et al. Role of yoga in cancer patients: expectations, benefits and risks: a review. Indian journal of palliative care. July-Sep 2017; 225-230. 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_107_17
Lin KY, Hu YT, Chang KJ, Lin HF, Tsauo JY. Effects of yoga on psychological health, quality of life, and physical health of patients with cancer: A meta-analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2011;659 – 876.
Carlson, L., Ursuliak, Z., Goodey, E., Angen, M., Speca, M. The effects of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients: 6-month follow-up. Supportive care in cancer: official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. 2001. 9. 112-23. 10.1007/s005200000206.
Kvillemo, P., Bränström, R. Experiences of a Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction Intervention Among Patients with Cancer. Cancer Nursing. 2011: 34(1), 24–31.
Science Daily. Music shown to alleviate cancer patients’ symptoms. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160817131934.htm
Stanczyk MM. Music therapy in supportive cancer care. Rep Pract Oncol Radiother. 2011;16(5):170–172.
Helping cancer patients
John Muolo, founder of NatiaCares, was diagnosed with cancer in 1997 and has experienced the effects of cancer first-hand, as a patient and caregiver. John has practiced yoga and meditation for nearly 20 years and had the idea for NatiaCares when reading research from a leading US cancer hospital reporting the benefits of Yoga for breast cancer patients. It is John’s mission, through NatiaCares, to provide simple, kind and compassionate support to everyone who has been affected by cancer.