Cancer and Loneliness...

I recently came across a study done about cancer patients and their care and how they react to being lonely during their treatment. Some skipped appointments, didn’t take medicines as they should, were unable to pick up their prescriptions or refused treatment outright. One woman (61) said she didn’t want to go through chemo alone, couldn’t afford to be off work and so she just refused to do it risking her life instead of plunging forward.

Patients in the study talked about living alone, not having any friends or family nearby to help them get to appointments or take care of them after treatment. I belong to a group of metastatic breast cancer survivors on facebook and I have seen several post that their significant others have left them after diagnosis – unable to cope with the situation – thus leaving the patient struggling with not only this life threatening reality but a broken heart too.  Anyone who does that to someone they supposedly love is a jerk. There I’ve said it. All I can say is hopefully karma really works and they’ll get theirs for such a horrible act of cowardice.  Because make no mistake about it, caring for someone with cancer or any other significant illness or disease is all about courage, and strength, and love.  Its no picnic being a caregiver, just like it sucks to be the patient.  Depending on how bad things get, you might think you were living in the middle of the seven circles of hell.

I read the article about the study and thought how sad for these patients that they have to choose between their survival and not wanting to be alone while they feel crappy.  I sat back and prayed for them all, for strength, for courage, for them to find comfort and for someone to care enough to help them… and then I looked around my condo and there was nothing there but me and the walls.  I was one of them!  No one was there to help me, no one took me to my appts, no one got my meds for me at the drug store… I did it all, all by myself.  And had been doing it for the 4 years since my diagnosis.

Oh I have family and friends and I know they care about me and I’m grateful for them  – I also know without a doubt that if I were really in a pickle they would help me. But in the day to day – its just me.

I’ve been very blessed that chemo has never made me sick but there have been many times where I wished someone were there to just make me a sandwich or some soup. I wanted someone to talk to, laugh with, or just a hug and there was no one there.

I’m fortunate that I’m able to drive myself around, that I have a large cancer support community in my town and groups and classes to go to. But what if I didn’t?  What if I had to deal with not only the loneliness of the heart, but also the loneliness of the soul and spirit? Its no wonder these people in the study don’t want to go through it all alone.

I had a great husband, he would’ve been by my side I know that. But I also know that before he died four months after my diagnosis of a heart attack, he struggled greatly with the reality of our situation. I know that he was falling apart with the thought of losing me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck in the hospital for three months post diagnosis and was looking forward to getting home and giving him the strength he needed to be strong for me… I never got the chance. He thought he would lose me and I’m still here – he’s the one who is gone. He wanted to be my knight in shining armor and he just didn’t have it in him.  I suffered through recurrent dreams of abandonment for almost a year after his death. It wasn’t his fault and I wasn’t mad at him – I was mad at the situation. And so very, very lonely.  So I get these people and their situations, I totally get it.

If you know someone who is suffering with loneliness, illness or anything – don’t think they want you over there watching them 24/7. Its not what I wanted.  We all know you have lives to live, and family and jobs to deal with. But if you have an hour free, don’t waste it playing some game on facebook, call them. Laugh a little, make them a big pot of soup, or a cup of coffee and just give them your time. It will mean so much, and help to give them the strength to go on.
by Norma Pitzer-Kelly


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