Task force to help cancer patients during pandemic
May 13, 2020
Toronto – Responding to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19, leading oncology patient groups launched a national patient-led initiative to support the immediate, practical needs of people living with cancer.
The COVID-19 Oncology Support Task Force has launched the COVID-19 Cancer Patient Support Hub under the umbrella of All.Can Canada, a multi-stakeholder group working in oncology. Initiatives include an online information hub, mental wellness and practical supports, with volunteer assistance. It includes a public campaign to raise awareness about the unique challenges faced by an estimated 2.1 million Canadians currently living with cancer.
“I was in desperate need of help when I learned that I could no longer get from BC to Ontario for my cancer treatment. I turned to Save Your Skin Foundation, a national skin cancer patient organization, to help me cope with this news and to organize alternatives. Patients need the services this Task Force is providing,” explained Tanya, a melanoma patient.
“Kathy Barnard, the president of Save Your Skin Foundation, called me and told me this story. Other stories started to surface from cancer patients about the practical and emotional issues they were experiencing as a result of COVID-19. We knew we had to act,” said Louise Binder (pictured), the lead health policy consultant on the Task Force.
“Cancer patients across Canada are anxious and trying to cope during social isolation orders. They tell us they need support as medical appointments and treatments are cancelled or postponed,” says Christina Sit, program manager, Lung Cancer Canada. “We knew this was bigger than any one organization could handle.”
Dr. Michael Smiley, medical oncologist and clinical researcher at the Cross Cancer Clinic in Edmonton, lauds the community initiative. “This pandemic has added to the stressful situation for cancer patients. Mental wellness supports and practical help is sorely needed and much welcomed,” he said.
“The Quebec Cancer Coalition is glad to participate in this initiative in solidarity with other patient organizations from the rest of Canada,” said Eva Villalba, executive director, Quebec Cancer Coalition. “Our Coalition will happily contribute the Quebec perspective to the All.Can Task Force on COVID-19 and cancer, and share the work and resources we have developed locally with organisations in other jurisdictions. Together we can make a greater impact!”
A cancer diagnosis is devastating. COVID-19 exacerbates mental health issues, social and physical isolation and difficulty accessing treatments and essential services.
Canadians are asked to share information about the site COVID19OncologyResources.ca with anyone they know living with cancer, caregivers, their families, and anyone else affected by cancer.