Cancer and Loneliness

Currently, our society is engaged in social distancing to minimize Coronavirus’ footprint. Many of us are spending more time at home which can help us to rekindle our connections with our loved ones, but some of us are lonely. Elderly people may not have or know how to use devices that would allow them access to social media, FaceTime and the like. And even if you are able to stay in touch electronically, it’s not the same as having a physical, personal interaction. 

This made me think about cancer survivors (and their caregivers), many of whom may be alone at some point in their journey. This solitude may serve a purpose for many, but there’s a thin line between solitude and loneliness, which reflects a state of suffering and sadness due to lack of company

As a cancer survivor or caregiver, you may withdraw into yourself for a number of reasons. For instance, it may help you to process your thoughts and feelings and get ready for the overwhelming new situation that you have on your hands. Another reason could be self preservation; you may not want others to see you at your most vulnerable. Keeping up a facade to protect others from your feelings and thoughts or the severity of your situation may be another reason. Also, it can be distracting to have to navigate the reactions of others around you if you barely have enough reserve to keep yourself going.

However, it takes two to tango! People around you may give you more emotional or physical space than you need. They may want to avoid ‘bothering’ you. They may not know how to be of any help or what to say. They may not want to cause hurt by saying the wrong thing or introducing infectious organisms. But it can also be due to the fact that those not affected don’t want to physically contract cancer or have their perfect life stained by the perceived misery.

The reason for my outlining the different reasons for loneliness is that it may help you to gain insight into the potential drivers behind your behavior, which can prevent misunderstandings and allow you and your loved ones to communicate more openly and respectfully with each other and health care providers, and therefore act with more intent and purpose.

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