Cancer is creating an epidemic of loneliness

Lonely cancer

Survey finds people don't know how to deal with loved ones who have been diagnosed with the disease 

4th February 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

An estimated 30,000 people with cancer in Scotland have no close friends they could talk to about their cancer, a new survey has revealed.

A YouGov survey for Macmillan Cancer Support found that around one in seven people with cancer in Scotland have no close friends they could talk to about having the disease.

The same number also feel they have lost touch with one or more of their friends as a result of having cancer.

However for many people living with the illness, support from their nearest and dearest is invaluable, with around half saying they couldn’t have coped through their experience without the support of their friends.

For those in Scotland who have had a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer, half find it difficult to support them, with more than half of these again saying this is because they don’t know what to say.

Other reasons include people being worried about upsetting a friend with cancer, being hard to understand what a friend with cancer is going through and people finding the situation too upsetting for themselves.

This World Cancer Day (Saturday 4 February), Macmillan Cancer Support says talking is an important part of dealing with the illness. The charity is urging people with cancer to connect with Macmillan if they feel they have no one to talk to or don’t feel supported. Macmillan says it can also support people to be there for a loved one, friend or colleague with cancer.

Some people feel as though they will burden friends with their worries - Janice Malone

The charity says a range of factors can contribute to friendships being strained following a cancer diagnosis.

Janice Malone, Macmillan's engagement and volunteer manager in Scotland, said: "While lots of people have an amazing network of friends, unfortunately we know that a cancer diagnosis can cause relationships to break down.

"Some people feel as though they will burden friends with their worries so they choose to deal with them alone. At the same time, often people don’t know what to say to friends living with cancer and so avoid communicating altogether.

“Cancer can cause so many worries that are not just related to health, such as the impact on your work, your finances and your confidence. It can be an incredibly overwhelming time and so it’s crucial that people feel supported and have someone to talk to. Simply being there is often exactly what a person needs.

“In Scotland, we have a wide network of information and support services in local libraries offering help to people affected by cancer, as well as their friends and family.

"Alternatively, you can access Macmillan's online community or call our support line."

Leigh's story

Cancer is creating an epidemic of loneliness

Leigh Roberts, 53, from Longniddry, was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015.

"When you're going through treatment, people are nice because you’re looking ill but they don't actually want to talk about it. You can walk past five people you know who don't want to look at you and suddenly find the sky more interesting.

"You also don't want to burden people because they have their own problems and they don't understand how you feel."

The mum-of-two says that while her close-knit group of friends have been very supportive, she finds it hard to confide in them about how she is feeling - especially now a year after finishing treatment.

"You can't keep banging on about it a year later but your brain is still processing what you've been through. There are a lot of loose ends floating around in your head. You're left with incredible anxiety. Things you could have taken in your stride are now ridiculously stressful but there is such pressure to perform and be normal.

"There isn't anyone to talk to and that's why Macmillan's online forum is so amazing. That just reassures you in the middle of the night that other people are going through the same and you're not alone."