Wednesday, 20 November 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: The loneliness of cancer; Nov. 20; 2019


“Cancer is a lonely place to be”

In our discussion this week, we talked about our experiences of loneliness. Naz told us that loneliness can be a long-lasting effect of a cancer diagnosis and can increase the chance of developing depression. So why do we feel so lonely, even among our family and friends?

We found that whilst some of us have experienced loneliness lifelong, for many of us the experience of feeling lonely after diagnosis of breast cancer is new. We find that loneliness continues even years after developing cancer. We find that there is a lack of connection between ourselves and our friends and family, even in the most supportive of our relationship groups. Having a serious illness such as cancer changes our perspective on life with a real sense of fragility and a loss of our own sense of self in a way that cannot be fully understood by others who are not directly affected. We have all lost friends who did not - or could not - support us, which was hurtful. This adds to the feelings of being alone. We feel apart from those around us.

Many of us describe that we prefer to spend time in our own company and that this makes us feel “lonely - but safe”. We don’t feel the need to put a smile on when we feel so alone, even in company.

For some, the physical reality of breast cancer exacerbates the feelings of loneliness. Some have retired from jobs we enjoyed and miss that purpose and connection with our colleagues. Symptoms such as fatigue mean some of us cannot participate in activities we used to love and this makes us sad - missing out spending time with others makes us lonely.

Almost all of us find that being in the company of others who have been diagnosed with cancer allows us to talk honestly about our feelings. There is a sense of connection and common experience in spending time together - either in a local support group or in a virtual group. Nearly all of us agree that our mutual support eased loneliness and many of us have found firm friends in this way - people who “just get it”.

In our private group, we realise we are no longer alone - we hold hands together.

If you are a woman in the UK affected by breast cancer and would like to join our private group, please add your name into the comments or send us a private message and we will get in touch with you.


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