Cancer is a solitary event, and in that isolation lies empowerment, one survivor has found.
Lesli Moore Dahlke
You are alone. In a waiting room. During a medical procedure. Riding up or down an elevator. Waiting for test results. Quietly sitting reading that terrific No. 1 summer read. In a room filled with people. You are alone. Alone in your head. Thinking, worrying and wondering. Why me? How come now? What’s going to happen? Am I going to die? All the questions you’ll never stop asking and never have answers to.
Everywhere around you there are people involved in your care, treatment and healing. No matter how many people you surround yourself with, cancer is a solitary event. There is the deep reality that you are sharing this experience only with yourself. Surprisingly, this is one of the most painful realizations of your having cancer. It will probably hit you in the most unusual of places — in a room filled with noise and lots of activity. It will come in the middle of some simple task. It’s nothing monumental or earth shaking, but you will be saddened to your core. No matter how hard people who love you and those around you try, you are ultimately in this alone. They could never know or feel exactly the emotions that now churn through you.
I often feel this aloneness is a driving force to our survival. In loneliness, there is strength. This solitude quietly focuses our energies to concentrate on the job at hand — moving forward and accomplishing the work of another day.
When this aloneness first hits, it is strange and frightening. But this sense of isolation will become a part of your new life; as you identify and recognize these feelings, they somehow become comforting. Perhaps it is a form of possession or ownership of the place we are in: “It is up to me! I’m in this alone, I have to work harder than ever!” It becomes a boisterous, strong and dedicated cheering section in your head. It is you rooting for yourself. You are fighting for your own survival.
Remember, there are many forms of healing that your body takes on during this time of great assault, so don’t be afraid when this sadness creeps up on you. Allow yourself to feel these emotions. Go with it: It is unfair what is happening to you! When this feeling is overwhelming, give yourself a time limit. “I am going to feel really sorry for myself for 15 minutes — then I have work to do!”
Put your aloneness to work. Who knows? You might make a new friend of yourself along the way.
Lesli Moore Dahlke is the author of “The Best Is Yet to Come — An Inspirational Story of Life and Joy.” An advocate for veterans’ health rights, she recently founded the Oneness Foundation to help veterans integrate back into society after their service. She is a survivor of three rare cancers connected with her exposure to the carcinogen Agent Orange during her time as a USO volunteer during the Vietnam War, and is currently living with two blood cancers.