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Loneliness as a Cancer Survivor

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Experiencing loneliness as a cancer survivor can occur before, during or after therapy. According to the first study linked below,

  • low/no,
  • mild,
  • moderate,
  • and severe loneliness,

were uniformly experienced across the board among the cancer survivors who were being studied.

How big a group are  cancer survivors?

  • According to research, in 2022 there were 18 million American cancer survivors-
  • Again, according to research, this group of cancer survivors is supposed to grow to 24 million by the
  • year 2032-
  • 64% of those cancer survivors are age 65 or older.

How can relationships change for cancer survivors?

Some survivors’ needs may change over time and relationships may shift. For example:

  • Some friends may become closer, while others keep themselves at a distance
  • Families can become overprotective or it may feel like you need more support from your family
  • Relationship problems from before the cancer diagnosis can surface again

I’ve laid out the above information in an effort to clearly explain the potential size of the issue of “loneliness as a cancer survivor.” The next step is to provide potential therapies to the problem of loneliness as a cancer survivor.

What are possible therapies for loneliness as a cancer survivor?

  1. Counseling or Therapy: One-on-one counseling with a therapist who specializes in cancer survivorship or in addressing loneliness can be very beneficial. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other evidence-based therapeutic approaches can help individuals cope with loneliness, manage distressing emotions, and develop healthier coping strategies.
  2. Support Groups: Joining a support group for cancer survivors can provide a sense of community and connection with others who understand what you’re going through. Many cancer centers and nonprofit organizations offer support groups both in-person and online.
  3. Peer Support Programs: Peer support programs connect cancer survivors with volunteers who have been through similar experiences. These programs can offer practical advice, emotional support, and companionship.
  4. Social Activities: Engaging in social activities and hobbies can help combat loneliness and provide opportunities to meet new people. Look for local groups or clubs that align with your interests, whether it’s art, music, sports, or other hobbies.
  5. Physical Activity: Regular exercise not only benefits physical health but also improves mood and reduces feelings of loneliness. Consider activities like walking, swimming, yoga, or tai chi, which can be enjoyable and easily adapted to your fitness level.
  6. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress, increase self-awareness, and cultivate a sense of inner peace. Apps, online resources, or classes can provide guidance on incorporating these practices into your daily routine.
  7. Volunteering: Helping others can be a powerful way to combat loneliness and find purpose. Consider volunteering for a cause that’s meaningful to you, whether it’s related to cancer advocacy, community service, or another area of interest.
  8. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Taking care of your physical health through proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and avoiding substances like alcohol and tobacco can positively impact your mood and overall well-being, reducing feelings of loneliness.
  9. Pets: For many people, the companionship of a pet can provide comfort and alleviate feelings of loneliness. Consider adopting a pet if it fits your lifestyle and you’re able to provide the necessary care.
  10. Professional Consultation: Finally, consulting with a healthcare provider or psychologist who specializes in survivorship care can help tailor interventions and support specifically to your needs as a cancer survivor dealing with loneliness.

While each and every therapy listed above has been useful for me in some way or another since my cancer diagnosis in early 1994, of the spectrum of therapies that might help cancer survivors who are experiencing loneliness, I would have to single out “sense of purpose” as being the most significant for me.

PeopleBeatingCancer is my method of volunteering. But volunteering specifically for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers generally and myeloma patients, survivors and caregivers specifically. I would be the first to admit that my “cancer coaching” was average for the first, say, 5 years of my efforts.

However, by following Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule I believe I have become useful to cancer patients, survivors and caregivers the world over.  My cancer coaching now gives me a strong sense of purpose. I think it is a fantastic twist of fate that (awful) cancer experience is the reason why I know enough to support cancer patients.

Are you experiencing loneliness as a cancer survivor? If you’d like to talk about both conventional and non-conventional therapies email me at David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Cancer survivors reporting loneliness experience higher mortality risk, study shows

“A new study led by researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) showed people surviving cancer who reported feeling more lonely experienced a higher mortality risk compared to survivors reporting low or no loneliness…

Researchers observed the highest mortality risk among the group reporting the highest levels of loneliness, even after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. The findings are published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Loneliness, the feeling of being isolated, is a prevalent concern among as a and its subsequent treatment can result in long-term , which can negatively affect survivors’ social relationships and contribute to loneliness…”

This study identified a total of 3,447 cancer survivors with 5,808 person-years of observation, with

  • 1402 (24.3%),
  • 1445 (24.5%),
  • 1418 (23.6%),
  • and 1543 (27.6%)

reporting low/no, mild, moderate, and severe loneliness, respectively. Compared to survivors reporting low/no loneliness, survivors reporting greater loneliness had higher mortality risk, with the highest adjusted hazard ratios (AHR) among the loneliest group..

Q&A: Meaningful social interactions are the only ‘cure’ for loneliness

“What can be done to combat loneliness?

Aitken Schermer: The only “cure” for loneliness is meaningful social interactions with at least one person. The challenge is getting individuals together and interacting in a meaningful way. One option, which appears to have success for some individuals, is the social prescription model adopted in the U.K. In that model, an individual is prescribed activities with others, such as gardening or hiking.

When engaging in these activities, people tend to naturally start talking about what they are doing, perhaps talking about the weather, and slowly the people might start talking about themselves, resulting in a more meaningful interaction…”

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