As all of us continue to adjust to a new normal amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s essential to practice good self-care and prioritize our health. Margaret Martin, RD, MS, LDN, CDE, a registered dietitian at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), highlights the importance of staying well-nourished through nutrition. “Your body’s ability to fight infection and disease depends on your immune system. Although there are no special foods or dietary supplements that can prevent COVID-19, healthy living strategies can help support your immune system now and all year long,” she says.
Margaret answers below some frequently asked questions from patients and caregivers on how to eat healthy during this time.
LLS is here for you. We encourage blood cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and families to contact our Information Specialists for free, one-on-one support at 800-955-4572 or by email or chat here.
Q. Can I catch the virus from food?
COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, “Currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects. For that reason, it is critical to follow the four key steps of food safety — clean, separate, cook, and chill.”
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Food safety rules also apply to take-out and delivery foods, which should be eaten within two hours of cooking, and leftovers must be stored safely and reheated to a safe temperature. For more information on food safety for blood cancer patients, view LLS’s Food and Nutrition Facts.
Q. How can I make meal times feel less lonely?
Sharing a meal virtually with loved ones and friends is a great way to boost spirits and stay in touch. Schedule video chats over meal times. Consider hosting a virtual potluck where everyone shares their favorite dishes or recipes.
Many cancer patients who have undergone treatment understand what’s it’s like to have to practice social distancing and the importance of isolating themselves to safeguard their compromised immune system. And now amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, many of us are doing the same to protect our own health as well as the health of our loved-ones and our communities.
Those who continue to work throughout this crisis, might be dealing with new challenges. For some, remote work might be nothing new, but for others, not only are they adjusting to working from home, but children and other family members who reside with them are likely home too. Those who weren’t working before or are no longer working due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, are adjusting to having other members of the household home with them around the clock. While going out to dinner or the movies, or even a trip to the park are a temporary thing of the past, there are ways and resources that can help us all cope with the new normal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled some helpful tips to keep children healthy and active during this time. And The New York Times shares stories from readers about what it’s like to almost never be alone at home.
How one cancer survivor is making it work
While you might feel isolated and at times wonder how you are going to make it all work, know that you are not alone – many others are echoing the same thoughts and same emotions. We spoke to working dad and cancer survivor, Scott Peterson of Harrisburg, N.C. who shares how he and his family are handling work, home and parenting obligations. He hopes to provide some insight or inspiration for others facing similar circumstances.
Scott was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in 2006. Ever since an LLS-funded treatment saved his life, he continues to fight cancer in various ways, including raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through LLS’s fundraising campaigns like Man & Woman of the Year and Team In Training.
Scott is an experienced marketing professional has a long history of success in the content development, sports, fundraising and events industries. Now that his work schedule has pivoted to a full-time work-from-home-structure, the busy father of two young daughters, 7-year-old Harper and 5-year-old Nora, who are newly homebound says, “There’s been some adjustments for sure, but there’s nothing more important to me than my family and helping find ways to end cancer.”
How have you developed a schedule for educational priorities with your children?
We have been working with our daughters’ amazing teachers to help set a schedule and priorities to keep their education moving and a top priority. What’s been beneficial is, we have incorporated more life skills into their day to day learning. My wife is very creative and has had a lot of fun, creative projects to challenge them and I help as much as I can.
Have you been able to set a flexible work from home schedule?
We have worked with each team member at my company to figure out how they can best work from home, continue to take care of our stakeholders and we have taken the extra time to consider everyone’s new additional parenting / teaching priorities. It’s important to know that every single person has a very unique situation.
How are you balancing your cancer treatment routine?
I am thankfully not currently in treatment right now and will be 13 years in remission in May of this year! But I am still fearful of my immune system and what this virus could do if I were to contract it, so we are taking every precaution possible. My advice to cancer patients balancing treatment and parenting, is try your very best to balance both, even if it means bringing your children to additional appointments. This is a temporary change in schedule and cancer will not wait for COVID-19 to subside.
How are you keeping your children entertained and while at home?
Thankfully, my wife Jaci, who was temporarily laid off due to the current economic state, has taken on an incredible teaching role and I am able to take breaks throughout the day to help with learning, entertainment, etc. There are so many amazing learning based apps currently that they are able to have fun and learn at the same time. We are also doing a lot of craft projects and working on house projects that the girls can help with.
How are you managing self-care and taking time for yourself during this difficult climate?
I have made sure to take time for more walks, yoga and our family participates in a digital fitness program that provides some structure and goals to work towards. We have been very diligent about making sure we all are staying fit and mixing up our day the best we can. This part of our daily routine benefits all of us. As a cancer survivor, my health is a nonnegotiable in terms of prioritizing.
What other words of encouragement would you share with other cancer survivors and parents right now?
Take care of your health FIRST. The financial stresses and work challenges will all return and are far less important than the mental and physical toll something like this can take on you and your family. Cancer brings along more mental uncertainty and stress on a daily basis than most people anyway so it is important to take time for you and your family. I would also recommend listening to the CDC and WHO and stay at home, stay isolated but use today’s technology to stay connected, stay involved and stay social. Most importantly, stay positive!
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society continues to provide support to blood cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Our Information Specialists can be reached by phone at 800-955-4572 by email or chat by clicking here.
The ways we need to conduct our lives in the midst of this global COVID-19 pandemic is changing daily as more states are ordering us to hunker down, schools and businesses are shutting down or moving to virtual settings. We continue to hear every day from patients, caregivers and volunteers about how they should navigate their treatment and care in this confusing time.
You asked and we’re responding. To pick up from the previous posts, here, here, and here, I’m tackling some more questions for you today. And remember, we’re here for you!
What is the difference between self-quarantine and social distancing, and shelter in place? What kinds of activities are permitted for each of these?
Self-Quarantine: People who might have been exposed to the new coronavirus COVID-19 should practice self-quarantine by isolating themselves from other people. They are urged by health care experts to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they are not sick. You should stay home and stay at least six feet away from others in your household and do not enter any public areas where you risk exposing other people. Be certain your doctor is aware of your exposure and your need to self-quarantine. To protect family members, you should avoid physical contact, wear a mask, and clean all surfaces you come in contact with. The virus is spread by droplets, (saliva, nasal secretions, sneezing) and can remain on hands and surfaces leading to exposure of others. If you’re self-quarantined in a building with common spaces, stay out of those areas. Your doctor will advise you of the length of time you should self-quarantine.
Social distancing: This applies to people who have not knowingly been exposed to somebody with the virus, but in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading, are deliberately avoiding crowds, keeping at least six feet of distance from others and generally remaining away from others by working from home, closing schools and conducting classes virtually, and restricting businesses to only what is considered essential. Conferences, sports events and concerts have all been canceled.
While practicing social distancing you can still go outside to take a walk, work in your garden or enjoy the fresh air on your back porch, but avoid crowded areas. If you live in an apartment, you should be conscious that all surfaces touched by the hands of others (elevator buttons, door handles, and communal washing machines) may possibly have been touched by someone with the virus. You can wear gloves, touch with something that you can throw out afterwards (such as a paper towel), and ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly when coming back inside.
Shelter in Place: This requires you to stay in your home unless running out for essential items. You should especially follow the information above for avoiding communal surfaces, and if you cannot remain more than six feet from another person (e.g. grocery store check-out) consider wearing a mask. This is primarily to protect others if you are asymptomatic but have the virus.
Everyone should be VERY conscious about avoiding touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands if they have touched a communal surface.