Support For Those Living With Cancer

The charity Yes To Life support groups are run by Wigwam. In their blog on healing they discuss the threat of loneliness and isolation to cancer recovery:

Loneliness and social isolation

Research shows the growing impact of loneliness or lack of support; the risk of many diseases including cancer is increased, and it can also increase chances of dying by over 26%.

Living alone, feeling lonely or socially isolated are different things. You can, for example, not feel alone when you are alone doing mindfulness. Some will read about others on similar cancer journeys and take comfort from not being alone. Crucial here seems to be about feeling alone. This can actually trigger the proliferation of tumour cells while those with more support have been shown to have lower levels of stress hormones that activate the production of cancer cells.

In a recent Penny Brohn survey they found a shocking 8 out of 10 of their clients living with cancer feel lonely at least occasionally as a result of their cancer diagnosis . It is not surprising with the huge impact of a cancer diagnosis and the uncertainty it can bring. On top of that we have lockdown and many of us are also having treatments that can dominate lives with side effects that make us feel too grotty to go connect with others.

There are often cultural issues too; ethnic minority elders can face loneliness five times that of the general population. There are significant racial/ethnic health disparities in cancer - an issue we’ve raised before in a blog here. In some communities, for example, there are lower uptakes of screening and appointments and poor awareness around cancer; this is compounded by a number of factors including racism and cultural and religious myths that exist around cancer being a “death sentence”. This can only sharpen feelings of loneliness for some with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds who live with cancer.

Fleeting moments of connection - not to be missed

One researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, who has spent two decades looking at connections argues that culturally we underestimate the importance of fleeting moments of connection, like saying ‘hi’ to the neighbour or the smile from the barista.

All these moments of micro-connection are meaningful and have been shown to impact us positively. In her book, ‘Love 2.0’ she looks at how you can increase these opportunities and build stronger relationships.

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