Collaborate Against Cancer06 May 2020

A message to cancer patients in light of COVID-19

Baxter Hutchinson is an ambassador for the Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2018 and Minderoo Foundation helped him raise $462,760 for brain cancer research. Baxter’s goal is for people to understand the complexities of brain cancer and to pursue further avenues for funding and research.

COVID-19 is a situation no one saw coming. The effects of COVID-19 have been huge among society, forcing much of the population to self-isolate and stay inside. While it is a dangerous time for everyone, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for cancer patients and immune-compromised people alike. This unforeseen pandemic creates many challenges for those recently diagnosed and those who have been fighting for some time against the big C monster. While surgeries are postponed, hospitals fill up, and loved ones are pushed further away due to the risk of contagion, there is now an opportunity for positive change in our society.

People are learning more than ever about personal hygiene, and they realise how big a risk such viral diseases are to cancer patients and themselves. Not just in Australia but globally, people will now understand why sanitisation in hospitals and in life generally is vital in our fight against cancer.

Despite the opportunity to learn about these things, this pandemic comes with the condition to self-isolate for some time. To put it simply, this absolutely sucks and can be an absolute drag for not only immune-compromised people, but for society as a whole.

I have spent almost a year in isolation from the end of 2018, and I am now back isolating just a few months after getting out. While this time came with ups and downs, I now classify myself as a professional at having fun in isolation, either by myself or with my family. Thanks to cancer, I have managed to re-orientate my relationship with time.

As a cancer patient, I have been lucky enough to see the beauty of life on a day by day approach which goes something like this: Enjoy the span of time you know you have. Extract everything from it you can. Every concert, walk, swim, wheelchair ride, dinner, conversation; just enjoy the time you know you have. With this mindset you can add an amazing amount of joy and happiness to your life.

While this situation changes life for many of us, it simply brings me back to where I was last year; except this time I get to pimp out of my own room instead of a hospital room, and sleep in a much larger bed with no cords attached!

I wanted to share with you all 7 things I did to entertain myself and pass the time during isolation. These consist of different things anyone can do at home; some might find it a bit weird; others might love it and some of you might just think that I am crazy. But at the end of the day, this, along with my day to day mindset got me through.

1. Physical exercise.

It will come as no surprise that this is included as #1, as it is one of the most important things to do; not just as a cancer patient, but for anyone who wants to remain happy and healthy. Completing just 10 minutes of exercise a day can make such a difference to your mind and body. The best part about it is that you don’t need any equipment. And if you are currently fighting cancer, you don’t have to do as much to get a workout! Depending on where you are at with your fitness and treatment, this can range from a light walk all the way to 100 push ups!

2. Bring out those board (or card) games.

I know it sounds lame, but I don’t know a single person who doesn’t own at least one board game. Even while isolated, it is important to try and limit screen time during the day, and what better way to do this than playing a board game! Not only are board games fun and they give your eyes a rest, they force the brain to think and you keep learning new things. One of mine even worked on my fine motor skills that were damaged by treatment (Operation, ouch).

3. Video games.

While I did mention that limiting screen time is good, we also need to take advantage of the technology available to us. As cancer patients, the effects from surgery or treatment can leave us very immobile and therefore limited in what we can do. Video games can be amazingly valuable when isolated in a household. There are tonnes of weird and wonderful party games out there that the whole family can enjoy together. No one knows exactly how long until this pandemic will be over, so it may be a good idea to purchase a more long-term entertainment system. PS: I find Nintendo Switch perfect for myself and the whole family.

4. Keep in touch.

Now is a time where we must stay away from each other physically, but we are lucky to have so many ways that people can stay connected. I am not saying you have to stay connected; sometimes you might feel like not talking to anyone as it can make you miss being able to get out and do things, and that’s OK. However, as a patient these tools can be awesome when you feel comfortable. Support networks such as Canteen Connect Community is a great way to reach out to other patients around Australia and see what they are doing in their daily isolation.

5. Go back to your childhood.

When put into isolation at a more mature age, it can be hard to entertain yourself because we are so used to going out and enjoying life through travelling, partying, working, and being social. However, once you are told that you cannot leave a room that’s only a couple of square metres due to having cancer, or even as a person isolating through this pandemic, it can be even harder to find things to do.

This is when going back to your childhood can help. Think of the things you used to do as a house-bound child; use your imagination again and think of the fun you had. For me when I was a kid, I was very sporty, but I also had a little hobby collecting Pokémon cards. Throughout my isolation in hospital, I got out my old cards, relearned how to play, and by the end of my treatment I was competing in online Pokémon events. That gave me the rush of being in a knockout tournament, except I was indoors on an iPad and not on a football pitch. For you, however, it might be that time you beat your parents in cards or defeated your brother in darts. Taking what you used to enjoy as a kid, and experiencing it as an adult, can be even more rewarding than it was when you were younger.

6. Personal development & life skills.

While all the above should help you stay entertained, I believe that doing something new can help with personal development. Whether you are studying a uni course or learning how to mow the lawn, or you are simply stuck in hospital; it is vital to continue developing as a person through your personality and life skills. Again, we live in a world where we have the technology to study from home, work from home, and do just about anything from home. I encourage everyone, cancer patient or not, to continue doing these things as much as they can, while using this time to bring their loved ones closer and come out the other side a better person.

7. Get creative.

There can be all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas to help pass the time around the house! I encourage all people, cancer patient or not, to start getting creative. Your imagination is your most valuable tool during this time, so why not build your own water slide or the largest tower out of playing cards (I gave up because my dog kept walking into it!) Now is a time where we can focus on ourselves and enjoy time on our own or with family.

I have listed above just a few of the things I did during my long time isolated away in hospital, and now at home. I hope at least one of these things might be right for you and can help turn this terrible time into a not so terrible time. When going through cancer or anything like this pandemic, it can never be a solo effort. We must collaborate with one another, as only together can we all get through this, immune-compromised or not.

Baxter Hutchinson
by Baxter Hutchinson

Baxter Hutchinson is an ambassador for the Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative. Minderoo Foundation connected with Baxter after he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2018 and helped him raise $462,760 for brain cancer research. Baxter’s goal is for people to understand the complexities of brain cancer and to pursue further avenues for funding and research. Baxter is currently completing a ten week flexi-track course with the aim to study sports science at Murdoch University. He can’t wait to get back on the soccer field.

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