Easing of restrictions
The easing of restrictions will be welcomed by many. A return to something like normal after a turbulent and challenging 18 months.
For a large majority of the population, this landmark moment will feel joyous, a chance to be able to really live again, to move about more freely to see family and friends in more natural circumstances.
For some people though – those who are fearful due to their diagnosis and treatment - this will be a time of increased worry and anxiety.
It is estimated that there are around 3.8 million in the UK who are believed to be extremely vulnerable to the virus, including around a fifth of people living with cancer.
New stats also suggest that about 70,000 people living with cancer in England who think it will never be safe to return to how things were before coronavirus.
So, while many people enjoy ‘freedom day’, the easing of restrictions for the wider public could mean a new limiting of freedom for those who are more vulnerable.
With people no longer taking as much care as they have done over the last 18 months, those who are fearful due to their diagnosis and treatment will naturally feel more anxious and they may even feel that they need to take their own safety measures. They may feel they have to choose not to see friends or family. They may decide not to go on public transport, to a coffee shop or even to the park.
We know from what we hear in our centres that many of the most vulnerable people living with cancer still feel distanced and isolated from friends and family, as well as the wider world.
One centre visitor told me that she actually quite enjoyed lockdown as she felt like everyone was in it together, she was not alone in having her life curtailed by cancer and felt somehow reassured that everyone was in the same position. Now she feels as if she is being left behind as the world opens up once more.
Others we have heard from are worried that even their closest relations won’t understand why they still need to be careful, or that they will get on with their lives and leave them even more alone.
And then there are those who are simply scared of contracting coronavirus when they are already weakened by cancer.
I am so pleased though that people feel safe in our centres, they trust the environment and know that we will always respect their wishes – we only ever do what the person in need of support feels most comfortable with.
This is hugely reassuring as it is clear our support is needed more than ever. We can help people manage their anxiety, stress and loneliness and are always ready to welcome anyone living with cancer to our centres.
But if that still feels like a step too far at the moment, we can also support people from home.
And to the wider public, I would just ask that while you are enjoying your freedom please be mindful of others. Remember that there are those who are left feeling scared and anxious because their lives are disrupted by cancer and whose lives could be immeasurably improved by a little thought and kindness from others.
It is hard to know from appearances who might be living with cancer, or who is immunocompromised, so help those who feel vulnerable feel a little bit more protected and be respectful of their needs.