Egon Turci at the Royal Marsden

Life after lockdown for young people with cancer

As of July 2021, coronavirus restrictions are currently in the process of easing in the UK. For young people with cancer, that may bring up a mix of emotions. Here, we talk about common feelings young people might have, and share some tips and info on how to face this change from some of our Youth Support Coordinators.

How should I be feeling about coronavirus restrictions easing?

Coronavirus restrictions easing is a big change for everyone, and it is totally normal if you have a range of feelings about it – that’s especially true if you’ve been facing cancer during this time too.

You might feel relieved that some things are feeling more ‘normal’ or that you can see more people. And you might feel excited to be able to make some plans for the future again.

You also might feel anxious about how to keep yourself safe, and the risk that coronavirus could still pose to you if you are going through or have been through cancer. You might feel particularly nervous about how to manage being around others again.

You might feel a sense of pressure to ‘make the most’ of the summer now that things are opening up again. You might be looking back on this time of restrictions and reflecting on the things you’ve achieved, or wanted to but didn’t get round to doing.

And you might also have worries about how the pandemic has affected other important things in your life, like catching up on school work or how your exams might be affected this year. If you’ve missed exams because of cancer treatment and then again because of the pandemic, it might feel particularly unfair and worrying for you.

These are all valid feelings to have, and you might find that you feel OK about it one day and worried the next. And if someone else you know is feeling totally different to you about it, that’s OK too. We’re all different.

Read our latest coronavirus information. And read the latest government guidelines for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

How should I keep myself safe from coronavirus now restrictions are lifting?

Legal coronavirus restrictions are due to be lifted at different stages across the UK this summer.

Each UK country is reviewing their guidelines separately, meaning the restrictions and timings will be different depending on where you live or are visiting.

Lifting of restrictions will apply to clinically extremely vulnerable people too.

But it’s still recommended you take extra precautions to reduce the risks of catching coronavirus and other infections. You can help do this by:

  • Following all the advice from your clinical care team, which may include continuing to stay away from others. Cancer treatment sometimes involves periods of isolation anyway, if it’s important for your immune system to be protected from different infections (not just coronavirus). We know this can be really hard, so check out our isolation hacks for some ideas of how to keep a routine.
  • Keeping up to date with and following the government coronavirus guidelines for where you live or where you are visiting. This is important because the rules will be different depending on which country you’re in. And it is possible that things could change again.
  • Washing your hands regularly with warm water and soap, and using hand sanitiser when you’re out and about. It’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face. 
  • Choosing to meet outside if you’re able to see other people, or make sure the space you’re in is well ventilated. 
  • Wearing a mask if you’re indoors with lots of people, or if it would make you feel more comfortable. Masks will still be mandatory or required in some countries and places, like in clinical settings (the hospital or doctors) and on some public transport. But even if they’re not, governments and advisers are still recommending people wear masks in busy indoor spaces.
  • Choosing to limit your contact with other people – you might want to only see a few select people and not meet in big groups, or you might decide you don’t want to start hugging people just yet. It’s OK to ask people if they’ve been vaccinated too, as that might reassure you if you’re meeting up with them. 
  • Choosing to limit how much you use public transport. You can talk to your school, college or place of work about how you can avoid peak times, if it’s not possible for you to drive or cycle yourself.
  • Using free coronavirus lateral flow tests regularly and asking those you’re meeting up with to test themselves before you see them, too. You can order these from, or check your government’s website.
  • Keeping an eye on how you’re feeling – if you’re feeling unwell, always look after yourself and check in with your clinical team. If you have symptoms of coronavirus, they can advise if you need to get tested. The legal rules around self-isolating because of coronavirus are due to change at different times across the UK, so always make sure you know what you need to do by checking online. 
  • Considering getting the coronavirus vaccine. If you haven’t had it already, and you’re eligible, talk to your care team about any questions you might have. The vaccine provides the best protection for you and those around you, especially after your second dose.

How should I look after my mental wellbeing now coronavirus restrictions are lifting?

As well as helping to reduce the risk of infections, it’s also important to look after your mental wellbeing now restrictions are lifting. It’s a big change for everyone and it’s OK to find that hard sometimes.

You might want to try:

Talking to your Youth Support Coordinator or care team about what’s safe for you to do now, and where you still need to be careful.

Talking with family and friends about what would help you feel safe. If those around you know what you need, it can make you feel a little less anxious.

Taking things at your pace. You don’t have to rush back into doing lots and seeing lots of people. Maybe set yourself a weekly goal like going out for a walk, meeting a friend in a park, or going to a shop to slowly ease back into doing more again. But remember, only do what you want and feel comfortable doing.

Thinking about things that worked for you during lockdown. There might have been things about lockdown that you don’t want to lose, and you don’t have to abandon those things if they work for you. That might be exercising at home, or keeping in touch with people more remotely. Think about the things that make you happy or give you energy, and focus on them.

Being kind to yourself. If you’re not feeling up for doing things on any particular day, that’s OK. Try not to feel pressured if friends or family are looking forward to doing more, but you’re feeling anxious. Everyone has a different reaction to risk, and it’s OK if yours is understandably different from those around you.

You can read our information on how to look after your mental health during coronavirus
And you can also learn more about how to manage worry and uncertainty in our blog post from Clinical Psychologists Dr Laura Baker, Dr Louise Brown and Dr Bec Mulholland.

How do I talk to my friends and family about how I’m feeling about coronavirus restrictions are lifting?

Many young people have said that coronavirus restrictions have actually helped their friends and family understand more about what people with cancer go through when it comes to isolation!

But you might feel that now restrictions are lifting, you’re not on the same page about what you want to start doing again and what you don’t.

You might want to try:

  • Talking to your family. Parents might feel a bit over-protective of you after such a worrying time, but they’ll also want to help you find a routine that works for you. So talk to them about what you need to do to keep safe, and what you want to do more of as time goes on. Maybe suggest that you all read through our blog post on goal setting from life coach Steph Davies, and work through the steps together.
  • Chatting to your friends too. If your friends are busy booking up every weekend in your diary with plans, talk to them if you’re feeling anxious about joining in, or if you can’t because you still need to isolate. You could give them a ring or drop them a text explaining that things have been different for you during this time and that you’d love to join in, but you need to take things at your own pace.
  • Keeping in touch with people in a way that’s best for you. Maybe you can’t see people in person yet, or you’re not feeling up to big crowds. But it’s important to still keep in touch. So make the most of what we all got used to in lockdown, and arrange some virtual meet ups with people you care about.

You can also read our information on how to manage changing relationships during cancer.