Alone and Isolated: That's No Way to Face Cancer

There are times when talking to another cancer patient, someone just like you, could be the key to better coping and a better life with this disease. Join a conversation, make a call, go online to make a positive change.

I often call myself lucky. In terms of health, most people I know don’t think of me that way anymore. Having cancer, and particularly metastatic cancer, has changed that view of me and my life.

When I think of myself as lucky, I think, of course, of my family and friends, but also the facts that I have good health insurance and live in a populated and reasonably well-educated area. In terms of access to cancer resources, I have it all. That isn’t true for many with a cancer diagnosis, and I know from reading comments on my own and others’ CURE essays that many patients feel isolated some of the time.

Occasionally feeling alone or isolated is, I think, a normal side effect of this disease. But those feelings, which for me tend to spiral out of control if I don’t consciously step on the brakes, are best addressed honestly, openly and quickly.

There are many ways to counteract the emotional toll of getting a cancer diagnosis, undergoing treatment and living as either a survivor or “thriver.” My personal steps to learning to live with cancer might not suit you, but there are accessible ways for any of us to feel better as people with cancer.

Although it can be intimidating and a little scary to be open about the fears we have, the unanswered questions that keep us awake at night or the despair that can take hold and be hard to shake, there are resources out there. While none of the organizations that provide support groups or peer-matching are a substitute for medical advice from your doctors, you can find comfort and answers by reaching out. Like CURE Magazine, many of these sites provide a wealth of patient information and support resources, including blogs, webinars and online interaction through social media; some feature peer match-ups, in-person meet-ups and conferences. There are so many ways to feel less isolated. A thank you to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, which started me off on my search for good help.

Talk to your oncologist.

Your oncologist may be able to direct you to local resources, including staff counselors or psychiatrists who can help with your ability to cope, and may be able to advise on or prescribe anti-anxiety medication. Your hospital or treatment center may have a support group for your specific situation—young adult, metastatic, etc.

Talk to your nurse/financial navigator.

Navigators are relatively new roles at treatment centers and hospitals, and are not yet everywhere. They can help you better understand what is to come in terms of treatment, help you find local or online resources, and, in the case of a financial navigator, assist your financial understanding of cancer care.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Network

If you have metastatic breast cancer, this organization provides a wealth of information including a compilation of online and nationwide links for much-needed resources, information on clinical trials and more. Website, mbcn.org.

SHARE Cancer Support

You can talk to someone who’s “been there” with breast or ovarian cancer and get help finding further support. Phone, 844-ASK-SHARE; e-mail, helpline@sharecancersupport.org; website, sharecancersupport.org.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer

This organization can connect you to a peer, direct you to a support group, and has informative online webinars. Find information about getting support online at http://www.lbbc.org/get-support/online; toll-free phone support lines are open weekdays but leave a message other times and you’ll get a call back within 24 hours, (888) 753-5222.

Young Survival Coalition

SurvivorLink can connect you with other young breast cancer patients and survivors; get more information online at https://www.youngsurvival.org/talk-one-on-one; phone, 877-972-1011; e-mail, resourcelink@youngsurvival.org.

Support Connection

Emotional, social and educational support at supportconnection.org/contact-us-for-support.

APOS

The American Psychosocial Oncology Society runs a toll-free helpline for cancer patients or caregivers who need help finding local resources to psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and counselors skilled in the management of cancer-related distress. Phone, 866-276-7443.

Livestrong

This group has an extensive online presence for many types of cancer support. In addition, they run a free three-month exercise program at many YMCAs for cancer patients and survivors, where participation can put you in personal contact with others facing cancer. Website: livestrong.org.

American Cancer Society

This organization also addresses cancers of all types online at cancer.org. By providing your zip code, the ACS can connect you to local resources for things like Look Good Feel Better, transportation and financial resources.

4th Angel

4th Angel was started by Scott Hamilton and provides peer-matching for all types of cancer at 4thangel.org.