Cancer in the time of COVID-19

In my role as an oncology social worker, I often talk to people about the stress of getting a cancer diagnosis, how nothing else they have experienced in life was sufficient to prepare them. The shock of it. The fear of what comes next. The worry for the people in your life. It’s true that it is like a bomb going off, sending shrapnel into every corner of your world.

Fortunately, for most, this initial bewilderment usually gets better, a routine of sorts emerges and things come together in a way that they get through it. Some require more support than others, and that is a big part of the social workers’ role.

Enter COVID-19. Now, we are all part of another experience we have never had any way for which to prepare. Shock, fear and worry. A bomb going off. We’re all struggling with what (in the cancer world) we call, “A new normal.”

The patients I work with at the cancer center are still struggling with finding their footing, and now the universe is once again shaking the foundation. Cancer patients suffer from isolation already, out of fear of what their weakened immune system may do if they are exposed to a germ it can’t fight off. We struggle to keep them engaged, joining support groups, staying physically active. It all plays a huge role in their survival and who they are after the treatment is finished.

Cancer in the time of COVID-19 is a special level of anxiety that few can imagine if you aren’t

in the situation. If you are one of those experiencing it, you should know that there are ways to deal with the anxiety.

To start, contact the social worker at your cancer center. We are a wealth of information and want to help.

Additionally, now more than ever, technology is bringing people together. Take advantage o

f social media, video calls and online support groups to stay connected. Gilda’s Club of Kentuckiana has a wealth of online resources and support groups to help keep patients engaged.

Contact a social worker at UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center. If you’re unsure of the social worker assigned to you, visit the Brown Cancer Center’s Social Work Services page.

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About Kimberly Williams, MSSW, LCSW

Kimberly Williams has been a medical social worker for more than 30 years, an oncology social worker for the last 10 years, and a breast cancer social worker for the past seven years. She specializes in sexual health therapy. She is interested in helping women live their lives after receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer, helping them remember that they are still the woman they were prior to that diagnosis. She reminds women they are still daughters, mothers, friends, partners and lovers, even though during treatment it is easy to define yourself as your cancer. As an oncology social worker, she helps with issues relating to children, relationships and sexuality, as well as work/life and financial concerns. Her goal is to bring a level of normal to an abnormal situation. Kimberly has a master's in social work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

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