Loneliness and Cancer May Be a Deadly Combination

RodneyWarnerIt’s hard not to feel isolated when you’re being treated for cancer. Your priorities so drastically change after a cancer diagnosis. You do whatever necessary to stay alive. All those other considerations in common life drift away. You look at a ‘normal’ person and see someone in another world. I think those of us being treated for cancer live in an alternate universe. Sometimes there seems to be a huge divide between the world of cancer and the ‘normal’ world.

If you’re not working, you’re not interacting with co-workers any longer. Those you thought were friends seem to be afraid of you. You may be so tired or ill, or your immune system may be so compromised, that venturing out into the public may be too high a risk. Even if you’re surrounded by loving friends and family, loneliness may still haunt you.

It’s ironic that at the time when one may feel the most isolated and lonely may be the time when you need people the most, and not just to drive you to treatment or help with chores. Studies have shown that feeling lonely can negatively impact your immune system, disrupt your sleep, promote inflammation (which has been linked to cancer) and may create a chronic state of stress (which also limits the immune system). You’ve got enough going on, you don’t need all this too.

What do you do if you’re feeling lonely? Wherever you’re being treated, talk to your physician or social worker. If you’re genuinely depressed, you might benefit from psychiatric help. There may be local support groups that will help you to connect with other cancer survivors. If you can’t attend in person, there are multiple online support groups. A great resource is the Cancer Support Community, which has chapters across the nation in addition to its online programs.

Loneliness is like cancer. You won’t be able to resolve it until you decide to act, then act to improve your situation. Cancer is bad enough. You don’t need to be lonely too.

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