We are stuck in hospital - often too weak to see anybody - the neutropenia sets in so that seeing people could actually kill you, and of course, friends lose contact. Consequently, you begin to feel lonely – lonelier than ever before in your entire life.
I remember beginning to feel depressed around 3 months into my treatment plan: I was emotional, exhausted and gradually losing my fiery determination. Loneliness was the dark cloud above my head that followed me every day. Pitifully, I would lay in bed and watch the Snapchat stories of my classmates having fun, it felt like torture – I longed to be like them so much: no cancer and no real problems. When I was diagnosed, I was bombarded with a tidal wave of support from my peers, then with time, they seemingly all vanished. Whilst everyone was moving on with their lives, I was still stuck in the same place, the same hospital bed. But, I got through it; I devised coping mechanisms that pulled me through, so I want to share those with you in this blog post.
Tip 1 – Support network
In a time of unpredictability, it is vital that you have those people that will be your constants, these people will be there for you no matter what. Friends and family are the key to combatting loneliness, because they are the ones that will visit you regularly and message each day to ensure that you are okay. For me, my family played a massive role in helping me combat loneliness by sitting with me and talking, even if I wasn’t up for it – they made me feel that I wasn’t alone in this journey. Cancer is an isolating place, so make sure that you keep your loved ones close.
Tip 2 – Social media
Social media is a fantastic resource that you can use to keep in touch with friends and family, and even make new friends! During treatment, there was times that I would message people all day, whether it was my auntie checking on me or chatting to a new cancer friend, it all helped dramatically to improve my feelings of loneliness. Additionally, you can use social media to post updates of your journey, this helped me a lot as I loved to read the comments that I received. Despite your friends’ and family’s best efforts, they cannot always relate to your situation, so social media can allow you to reach out to those in a similar situation to you - just knowing that they can relate to you makes you feel less lonely.
Tip 3 – DO STUFF
When you are NOT neutropenic, feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus, or in hospital, you should seize the moment and get out of the house. Moments that you feel good are very scarce during cancer treatment, so make the most of it and go shopping, or have lunch at a cafe with your friend. Being around your friends and the general public can make you feel less lonely as you feel like less of an outcast to society - even if it is just for a day. Around Christmas time – 3 months after diagnosis – I was very poorly and rarely left the house, unless I had to go to the hospital. As a result, I became very lonely. But, my mood increased massively when I got the chance to go shopping a few days before Christmas, despite the shopping only lasting an hour, I felt less lonely immediately.
Cancer is a very isolating place and it is hard not to get lonely sometimes but remember that the storm will pass and the light at the end of the tunnel will emerge.