Q: I get really lonely being all by myself at home all the time, but I only have enough energy to go out with my friends once a week if that, especially because it can feel exhausting talking about how I am. What can I do?
A: When philosophers define the meaning of life, one of the four pillars they describe is connection, so we do know that it’s important for you to make and have connections in your life. However, that connection doesn’t have to be intimate or take a lot of time. There are benefits from just feeling connected to other people, even if that person is your barista! Relationships like that, where you can make small talk, can be seen as the guy who takes his coffee black instead of the guy with cancer, can be important boosts to your day and your well-being. Look for little ways and places to make connections throughout your day.
(Kate Hathaway, Clinical Psychologist)
Q: My friends are always asking how I’m doing, but I feel like all they really want to hear is that I’m fine, which isn’t really true. Should I tell them the truth or will that scare them away?
A: If it’s a friend you know and trust, answer sincerely. This happened recently to me and after I talked about how I was really doing, my friend then felt open to talk about how he was really doing too. It ended up being a much more rich conversation than we typically have, all because I answered the question honestly. It made me realize that most of us don’t usually answer that question with the truth and that our conversations would be deeper if we did.
(Jen, Cancer Survivor, Age 25)
Q: My husband finished treatment a few months ago and is really down. He isn’t able to work and can’t do a lot of the things he used to do. I keep suggesting that we invite some friends over, but he declines. I know some of this is to be expected and even normal, but when should I worry?
A: Feeling lonely during and after treatment is completely normal, both for patients and their caregivers. However, it is good to know what warning signs to watch for, such as: using substances to cope, shutting people out, not responding to texts and calls, having poor nutrition, losing weight. If you are concerned about your husband, reach out to your care team for advice and support.
(Kate Hathaway, Clinical Psychologist and Pam Pearson, Home Infusion Nurse)
Q: People are always talking about and inviting me to support groups. Is that something I need to do?
A: It really depends on your personality and what your needs are right now. Some people love connecting with other people who have the same diagnosis. It makes them feel less alone and like they have people who “get” them. Other people find it hard to see people who are further along in the progression of the disease. If being in a room and talking to others isn’t your thing, you could also consider finding online support groups, which are nice because you can use them when and if you want them. There are plenty of people who find support in ways other than diagnosis-related groups. If these aren’t your thing, try something different! There’s no “right” way to get through this hard time.
(Allison, Spousal Caregiver)