Stay Vigilant When Living with Chronic Illness

If you live with a chronic health condition, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes, you’ve probably heard that you might be more at risk for complications to arise should you contract the COVID-19 virus.

Before the pandemic, depression and anxiety were already common side effects of chronic cancer treatment. Now, as patients comply with social distancing and other safety measures, mental health services have become even more crucial, says Dr. Victor Medina, a hematologist/oncologist at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital.

“At our cancer center in McHenry, we’re very lucky to have numerous resources available,” Medina says. “We have various types of counselors available, whether it’s a grievance counselor, spiritual counselor, or even a financial counselor. And we certainly have licensed individuals who are able to provide psychological assistance.”

Since cancer typically suppresses a patient’s immune system, patients are usually at a higher risk for acquiring infections in general. So, especially given the current times, Medina recommends that his patients avoid large gatherings.

However, his ultimate goal is to respect his patient’s wishes and provide them with the best quality of life possible.

“There’s a lot that someone can do – social distancing, wearing a mask – and hand washing, without a question, is one of the most important things that you can do to prevent a potential infection. Some patients are incredibly compliant and don’t want to take any risk, but certainly, you can do a lot of activities in a safe fashion and enjoy your life instead of just being quarantined at home.”

Medina also emphasizes the continued importance of regular cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and other examinations. 

“People shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to our facilities for these services,” Medina says. “I would be more than glad to speak with a patient if they have questions or concerns. Sometimes it’s just a matter of providing reassurance and education.” ❚

Northwestern Medicine maintains facilities across McHenry County and the Chicago area, including hospitals in McHenry, Huntley and Woodstock, as well as clinics in Crystal Lake, McHenry, Woodstock and Huntley.