PEOPLE with cancer are being urged to reach out for support, as a leading cancer charity warns that increasing anxiety over catching Covid-19, and continued concerns over NHS backlogs, is leading to many people feeling ‘forgotten’ this Christmas.
New research by Macmillan Cancer Support shows that one in three people with cancer in the UK (34%, 1 million people) are worried about the risk of catching Covid-19 from seeing family or friends over the festive period. This rises to more than a third (42%) of those currently having treatment and 45% of those who are immunocompromised.
The charity is concerned that, with many of those with cancer being clinically vulnerable to the virus, and previous research showing more than 700,000 (24%) people living with cancer in the UK did not leave the house at all other than for essential medical appointments during the initial stages of the first national lockdown, this could lead to a rise in anxiety and loneliness for many. The charity’s new research further supports these concerns, as one in three of those currently going through cancer treatment or recovery (33%) say that seeing fewer friends and family because of concerns about catching coronavirus is already affecting their wellbeing.
On top of this, the new research, carried out just last month, shows that even before the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, more than half of people with cancer in the UK (57%, 1.7 million people) were worried that new coronavirus strains or waves would continue to disrupt cancer services in the future.
Macmillan is urging anyone affected by cancer in need of support this Christmas to get in touch. The charity’s Support Line is open every day over the festive break, even on Christmas Day, and peer-to-peer support is available 24 hours a day on its Online Community. The charity is also reminding the public to protect people with cancer this Christmas by getting vaccines, boosters and following Covid-19 guidelines, as well as taking sensible precautions like testing for Covid-19 before visiting vulnerable people.
Dominic Bell, Service Manager on the Macmillan Support Line, says:
“Christmas can be a really a difficult time for people affected by cancer. From the pressure of celebrating while undergoing treatment, to the expense of Christmas on top of the existing costs of a diagnosis, this can be a very tough time of year for many. Added to this, we’re now also hearing from people who are facing the agonising decision over whether to risk seeing family or friends this Christmas, as well as worrying about new strains of Covid-19 causing further disruption to cancer services.
“We want everyone affected by cancer to know that we are here for you this Christmas. Whether you need clinical information and support from our experienced cancer nurses or just a listening ear, our nurses and advisors are available every day of the year on the Macmillan Support Line.”
47-year-old Clare Davis-Eaton is a mum of two from Lincolnshire. She was diagnosed with tongue, neck and throat cancer for the first time in 2016 and then again in 2019. Clare explains how she feels about Christmas this year:
“As someone living with a range of side-effects from cancer treatment over the years and now being in the middle of a pandemic, this is a nerve-wracking time. I worry about my check-ups being postponed and the pressures on the NHS, and it makes me feel anxious when I hear the daily stories on the news about cancer backlogs – it can sometimes feel like we are getting left behind or forgotten. Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year, it’s about being with family. So while I do feel conflicted with everything going on out there in the world and a sense of unease about catching Covid, I will do my best to enjoy the festive period at home with my grown-up children.
“I spent most of the pandemic having to shield – it was incredibly isolating and I felt very vulnerable. What has helped to manage all the uncertainty has been the support from Macmillan. They have been my guiding light to learn to live again after cancer and are like a one-stop-shop with the nurses, the support line, financial advice and more. This time would have been a lot darker otherwise.”
The Macmillan Support Line offers free, confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. It’s open 7 days a week on 0808 808 00 00.
Macmillan is doing whatever it takes to support people with cancer this Christmas, but the charity relies almost entirely on donations to make difference. To find out more about its Christmas appeal, or to donate, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/christmasappeal.