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Being Single With Cancer Doesn't Mean You're Alone

September 10th, 2014 |

by tracymax | Survivor: Ovarian Cancer    Connect

Diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer seven years ago, Tracy understands the unique mixture of hopes, fears, insecurities and triumphs of a single person with cancer ready to make new connections or renew existing ones.

A cancer diagnosis can make you feel alone. Being single can make you feel alone. So when you have cancer and you are single...well, it goes without saying that can make you feel really, really alone. Not only do you have to make major decisions about treatment, employment, insurance and financial issues, but you also have to worry about who will take care of you when you're feeling your worst.

But if you are single with cancer, remember that just because you don't have a "built-in" support system like a relationship doesn't mean that you have to feel alone. Support can come in many forms. Research has shown that our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy and relationships.

The most striking study on this was published in the British journal The Lancet in 1989. Dr Spiegel initially set out to prove that social connection did not have an impact on survival. Participants in the study - women with metastatic breast cancer - were divided into two groups, both of which received the same conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. One group also met together for 90 minutes each week over the course of a year to talk about the impact of the disease on their lives. They became comfortable enough to share their feelings openly, including fears of disfigurement, abandonment and even death.

Five years later, Dr. Spiegel reviewed the data and was shocked to discover that women in the support group lived on average twice as long as the control group, and that all of the women in the group without support had since died. Other studies have shown that support groups as short as six weeks long have had similar outcomes for the people who attended regularly. Each study controlled for diet, exercise, family history and other factors that typically impact disease and found significant advantages to social connection even beyond these other factors.

So if you are single and battling cancer, connecting with the people in your life or finding new sources of support may be one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Whether it's talking on the phone more regularly, going out for a walk, sharing coffee once a week, visiting or hosting a friend or sibling for a weekend, joining a support group, participating in group meditation or yoga classes, serving others directly, or any number of other things do--connect with the world around you.

No matter what form it takes, it requires a willingness to be vulnerable enough to truly open yourself up to others, and to reach out and ask for what you need.

Were you single during your cancer journey? How did you find support?

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tracymax's picture
Tracy Maxwell is a three-time ovarian cancer survivor, author, blogger and founder of Solo Survivors – providing healing coaching, adventures and trips for single survivors and others. Her book, "Being Single, with Cancer: A Solo Survivor’s Guide to Life, Love, Health & Happiness" was released in August, 2014. You can read more about her programs, services and book at www.IAMTracyMaxwell.com and connect with her on IHC under the username tracymax.