The fear, the anxiety that surrounds all of America today is what cancer families feel every day. What cold or virus will we bring home from work to our children. With their compromised immune systems, every interaction with strangers is a potential threat to our children’s health and ability to receive the next chemotherapy treatment. We live in constant fear that the sniffle from our co-worker will mean a week in the hospital to our kids’ bodies that are already struggling to fight off the cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute website: Some types of cancer and treatments such as chemotherapy may increase your risk of infection. This is because they lower the number of white blood cells, the cells that help your body to fight infection. During chemotherapy, there will be times in your treatment cycle when the number of white blood cells (called neutrophils) is particularly low and you are at increased risk of infection. Stress, poor nutrition, and not enough sleep can also weaken the immune system, making infection more likely.
"I'm trying to stay as calm as possible during this whole 'virus' event that is happening now. I'm also trying to be as preventable as possible as is it imperative that Addison does not contract this virus. So my clothes are being taken off in the garage and all items that go with me to work are being left in the garage as well. I am sanitizing my hands and phone before coming into the house. A.J. is doing the same. Doing whatever we can to keep all of us healthy. Call me crazy, I don't care."
- Heidi Varns (DIPG Warrior Parent)
This picture is a startling reality of these same parents in this current environment. Kids who are battling cancer are in the highest risk groups for COVID-19. Any transmission, no matter the extent, could mean danger for their kids. Parents of cancer patients take the greatest precautions to prevent that spread in their house including, for Addison’s mom, even removing clothes that were worn out side of the house so as not to risk the transmission of the virus to their family. For them it is beyond an inconvenience, it is imperative to keep their children safe.
Keith Desserich, Chairman of The Cure Starts Now and also a cleaning, remediation and bio-hazard professional with nearly three decades of experience with RestorAid Restoration, provides the following tips to keep homes as free of invasive outside germs that put cancer patients at risk:
- Respect social distancing and avoid touching your face.
- Consider the use of N-96 facemasks for those susceptible to viruses.
- Remove garments before entering the home. Clean all items with hot water and consider placing shoes in a tray with antimicrobial cleaner to sanitize surfaces.
- Wipe down high touch objects such as cellphones, wallets, purses and keys.
- Always clean your phone as much as you wash your hands. You are constantly touching your hands to your phone and your phone to your face.
- Wash hand immediately upon entering your house and before exiting any other location.
- Clean your car door handles and steering wheel each day.
- Wipe down high touch surfaces such as counters, handles, light switches and toilet handles.
- Isolate family members who are displaying symptoms of sickness and minimize contact with cancer patients.
- Consider using sanitizers with virucide properties for the most effective cleaning. Take care to review MSD sheets of every chemical to make sure you don’t have allergic or chemical sensitivities.
Cleaning is not the only way to add safety precautions to benefit people battling cancer. Exercising basic guidelines in your daily routine help elevate risk factors for cancer patients as well. Consider these reminders from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Wash your hands often and ask others around you to do the same.
- Avoid crowded places and people who are sick.
- Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot or other vaccinations.
- Take a bath or shower every day (unless told otherwise).
- Use an unscented lotion to try to keep your skin from getting dry or cracked.
- Clean your teeth and gums with a soft toothbrush.
- Use a mouthwash to prevent mouth sores (if your doctor recommends one).
- Do not share food, drink cups, utensils or other personal items, such as toothbrushes.
- Cook meat and eggs all the way through to kill any germs.
- Carefully wash raw fruits and vegetables.
Please send extra thoughts and support to families who have this added stress in their cancer battle. Though COVID-19 may go away in several months, that distress and anxiety will live on in cancer families.