A Message from Clinical Director of Palliative Care
Thanksgiving is a time when we put the focus on giving thanks and appreciation for what we have and enjoy the company of our family and friends. However, having a cancer diagnosis, or a debilitating illness that requires treatment during this time of year can be a big stress to our patients.
As providers, we go about our daily responsibilities even during the holiday season. We continue to see patients, order imaging and testing, and manage our own types of stress. As we do so, we must be mindful of the stressors that our patients feel such as wanting to feel normal during their treatments, putting extra expectations on themselves, and having the feeling of disappointment if they are not well enough to follow their normal traditions; all while undergoing treatment or anxiously awaiting news of results.
Questions of diagnosis and future treatment create more anxiety in an already stressful time of the year, more so this year with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For patients dealing with cancer treatments, worry about side effects such as decreased appetite, nausea, and fatigue can put a big damper on the holiday joy others around them may be feeling. This year the added feeling of loneliness, as big family gatherings may not be going on, is something we need to be considerate of.
So, what can we do to help our patients during the holiday season?
Listen to our patients, provide support for them, and advise them to do what they can to alleviate the pressure of expectations. It is ok to express emotion and share experiences. It humbles us in our patient’s eyes and creates a greater interaction. Focus on what they can do. They can share laughter, create memories, and spend time with loved ones, even if not at the dinner table. Cancer does not take that away.
Cancer teaches us the lesson of gratitude. Celebrate small victories, listen to music, watch a movie, sit in silence, meditate, find joy in the simple things because after all, that is what matters the most to patients and families. Encourage a good support system and try to find reasons to be grateful this season.
We have this great ability to be able to assist our patients through their difficult journey with the amazing services that our practice offers. Focus on symptom management to allow a better quality of life. Being able to refer to our wellness specialties; i.e., nutrition, social work, psychology, physical therapy, and palliative care allows us to be interdisciplinary and focus on the whole patient. Allowing them to be involved in these services early on enhances the quality of life for both patients and their families.
In celebrating thankfulness, I would like to take a moment to thank all the staff, the patients and caregivers, advocates and supporters, and survivors for continuing to maintain hope after a cancer diagnosis. I am grateful to be part of the NYCBS family.>
Happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all!XOXO MaryAnn Fragola, DNP, ANPc, ACHPN