Help available for cancer survivors and patients in the age of COVID-19 - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Help available for cancer survivors and patients in the age of COVID-19

Photo courtesy of Wyoming Cancer Resource Services

CASPER, Wyo. — According to the American Cancer Society, “cancer patients are among those at high risk of serious illness from an infection because their immune systems are often weakened by cancer and its treatments.”

That’s why Wyoming Cancer Resource Services is encouraging both patients and caregivers to take the proper precautions to prevent getting and transmitting COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control list a series of steps that high-risk individuals can take including ways to cope with stress:

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  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
  • If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

There are local resources as well such as the Wyoming Cancer Community. They partner with Theraexpressions Mediatation, LLC for the Healing Hands Wellness Group, a group designed for survivors and caregivers that focuses on relaxation, stress management, strength, and balance, all which can be negatively impacted by a cancer diagnosis and treatments. 

“A cancer diagnosis can feel very isolating and changes many people’s abilities, such as strength, balance, and emotional coping” said Molly Johnson, founder of Healing Hands Wellness Group.

“An important part of this group is connecting to other cancer patients, which brings a different understanding to the group, where we can build understanding friendships with other survivors in all stages of cancer,”

The Wyoming Cancer Community has moved exclusively online and can be accessed through Facebook page found here. Theraexpressions has also continued having Healing Hands Wellness Group classes online Thursdays at 7:15pm and Saturdays at 12:15pm. Visit Wyoming Cancer Community on Facebook to be entered into monthly drawings for free memberships or visit their website to sign up.

While most facilities in Casper are not performing non-emergency procedures such as screening mammograms during this time, you can still take action to prepare for your recommended screenings.

“We are still able to help eligible individuals get enrolled in the state cancer screening programs,” says Grace Niemitalo, Wyoming Cancer Resource Services coordinator. “There will be a time when everyone is able to get screened again, so now is a great time to prepare by getting all the information needed on recommended screenings and getting coverage set up for those screenings.”

Additionally, WCRS has transportation assistance for individuals who still have to travel for cancer treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many people have lost their primary source of income but still have to get to their cancer treatments. I want those people to know there is help in the community for them and hopefully this can relieve some of the stress they are already experiencing,” Niemitalo stated. 

For more information on the Wyoming Cancer Program or information on cancer prevention, screenings, and assistance, contact Grace Niemitalo at 307-577-9760.

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.