Cancer survivor and CF patient Aoife Rafter opens up about the challenges of lockdown and how she stays well physically and mentally
Aoife Rafter is a cystic fibrosis and cervical cancer advocate, so is well aware of the importance of protecting your physical and mental wellbeing through challenging times. As she campaigns for vital funds for CF Ireland, as well as vaccines for the vulnerable, she shares some insight into what life is like as a medically vulnerable person in lockdown, and how she makes time for her physical and emotional wellbeing.
Aoife, what has been most challenging for you this past year?
Being isolated from my loved ones and needing to ration my healthcare has been the most difficult. It has been too dangerous to attend some of my clinics due to the COVID numbers in hospitals at times so I have had to reduce my outpatient appointments. It has also been extremely difficult watching others on social media break regulations while so many vulnerable people like me are so fearful and isolated. Overall, it has been the most challenging year on mental health.
As someone who has faced significant health challenges, what is your advice for people who are struggling to cope in lockdown?
I would advise them to reach out to their GPs or a counsellor if they don’t have effective support from their loved ones. I think a lot of us have learned that we need to prioritise our mental health. I do this daily by meditating, eating well and making time for the things and people that make me feel good.
What do you wish the wider public knew about what it is like to be medically vulnerable?
Above all I wish that they didn’t take their health for granted. I’m actually surprised that more people haven’t realised this the past year. When I say ‘health’ I am referring to their own health and the health of the most medically vulnerable in our society. Health and life itself are blessings but, unfortunately, this doesn’t dawn on most people until they have lost one or the other.
It has been very disappointing to see how our most vulnerable in society have been treated the past year. Gandhi said that “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable”. I think that there has been a lot of regression in how we have treated ours at times during this pandemic.
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From your Instagram, it’s clear that you love fashion and beauty, and have shared posts about your self care and tanning routine when in hospital. What are your favourite tips for beauty and style when feeling unwell?
My true love is health and wellbeing with a prime focus on holistic therapies. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019. Holistic therapies really helped me during and after my oncology treatment. I am now doing a diploma in reflexology. I am very much looking forward to teaching others with health conditions the benefits of reflexology and other therapies.
I focus a lot on self-care as I have also learned the importance of this at all times but especially at times that life is proving a little more challenging than usual. I am a big fan of yoga, mindfulness, self-help podcasts and books, as well as a good hot soak, and skin pampering.
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What are your favourite wellness practices in lockdown?
I have found great support through the Calm app. I really enjoy their guided meditations and Sleep Stories. I also love spending time in nature so I try to do this with one of our four dogs as often as I can. I have also just launched my own business called My Indoor Garden where I sell terrarium plant pots via @my_indoor.garden on Instagram.
Aoife Rafter is an ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. Unfortunately, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland cannot proceed with their 65 Roses Day collections on Friday 9th April due to COVID-19. Please support people with cystic fibrosis on 65 Roses Day by donating online at 65rosesday.ie or taking part in a 65 Roses Challenge.