Following information from UK Government and the publication of NICE guidelines, we have updated our advice on the coronavirus for people who have received or are waiting to receive a stem cell transplant to treat their blood cancer or blood disorder. Read our coronavirus guidance here: www.anthonynolan.org/coronavirus
Lockdown - how have you been?
As we're now almost through the 9th week of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I wondered how everybody was coping. We're all at different stages of treatment and recovery so I guess it has been more stressful for some than others. I don't know whether many of you caught it, but I took part in a Blood Cancer Alliance webinar on Zoom last week that was broadcast on Facebook to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on blood cancer patients.
For me I suppose I've been fortunate due to the stage of recovery I'm at as it's 7 years since my transplant, so the risk to me is much lower than those of you who have had transplants more recently. The government guidance for shielding was particularly aimed at those who've had transplants within 6 months, but I think all of us no matter how long ago our transplants were, are acutely more aware of the risks of infection regardless of the current pandemic.
Having gone through a period of my immune system being compromised, I am probably more rigorous in my approach to infection control than I was before treatment, and this recent period has heightened that again considerably. I find myself washing my hands constantly, particularly if I handle anything that has been handled by anyone outside my home, such as our shopping, post or parcels.
I haven't been shielding, but have minimised trips away from home, taking a daily walk to the local park with my dog, and the occasional trip to the local supermarket, maintaining more than the recommended two metres social distancing. One thing that has astounded me at times though is how oblivious people are to the precautions they should be taking and how they carry on as normal when shopping for example. Given the restrictions we've all faced in supermarkets to maintain the social distancing, to see people dawdling around browsing goods, picking over loose fruit and vegetables, and picking goods up then putting them back on shelves, has at times caused me quite a bit of anxiety.
I'm lucky in that I've been able to do my normal job working from home, and was one of the first to be asked to work from home the morning that lock-down was announced later in the day. During my recovery originally, I built a home office in my garden and worked from home for probably 18 months after my transplant, so for me this is familiar territory and has been quite easy to cope with. As such I've been working full time, and have been on full pay, but I recognise that not everyone will be so fortunate.
My wife has also been working from home, but my twin boys whose A level studies ended abruptly, took on some contract work in a supermarket frozen food warehouse, so are the only ones who have really had prolonged exposure to the outside world. It will still be a big relief to us all when things can return to normal though.
You may or may not be aware but Anthony Nolan recently launched a new telephone emotional support service specifically for patients like us, giving an opportunity to speak to an experienced psychologist for therapeutic support during these stressful times. Hopefully this will help those who have found this period difficult.
Without wishing to turn this into a political discussion about the rights and wrongs of the lockdown, I'm interested to know how others have felt about it, what effect it has had on them, and how they have coped practically and mentally. Have you had the support you needed, either within your family, or externally. Do you have any tips and advice for coping during this time?
I look forward to hearing peoples views and experiences.
All the best,