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A cancer diagnosis triggers a tsunami of information. Blood count numbers, survival rates, treatment options, names of diseases you can barely pronounce.

Dr. Margarita Bobonis, Section Chief of Behavioral Medicine in the Supportive Care Medicine Department

Dr. Margarita Bobonis, Section Chief of Behavioral Medicine in the Supportive Care Medicine Department

Having a loved one by your side can not only reduce fear and anxiety, but also help gather information to make important decisions.

“Patients undergoing treatment or receiving diagnoses are so anxious and overwhelmed about what is going to happen,” said Dr. Margarita Bobonis, a psychiatrist in Moffitt’s Supportive Care Program. “It’s hard to listen to everything the doctor is saying, ask questions and capture everything that has been said, so bringing a family member is like having a peripheral memory.”

Since Moffitt has instituted a no-visitor policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients are facing parts of their cancer journey alone for the first time.

Here’s some things you can do to stay connected to your loved ones during this time:

Bring your caretaker to your appointment virtually – Whether your caretaker is waiting at home or in the car, you can bring them into your appointment with a video chat application or a phone call. They will be able to hear everything the provider is saying and participate in the conversation. They can still take notes to make sure you have all the correct information about your care. Inpatients can also connect with their loved ones virtually while they are in the hospital.

Take notes – Carry a small notebook or journal with you to all appointments and write down your thoughts and questions as they occur. If you wait until later to do so, you may forget.

Bobonis added you can also plan ahead. “Before your visit, sit down with your most trusted caregiver and come up with a list of questions that are important to get answered,” she said. “Then after the appointment, you can debrief and go over what has been answered.”

Bring things from home – For hospitalized patients, having something from home can improve comfort and bring familiarity to the room. It could be a picture, blanket, piece of clothing or even music you enjoy listening to with a loved one.

Plan small surprises during self-isolation – Family and friends may not be visiting patients at home during the pandemic, so it’s easy to feel isolated. Doing things like taking pictures and writing postcards is a special way to stay connected to love ones.

“With technology these days, we sometimes forget the excitement of receiving a letter in the mail,” said Bobonis. “Things that are tangible, that you can touch or see, can help keep you connected to others while we are self-isolating.”