Loneliness and isolation

If you have cancer, you may sometimes feel lonely and isolated.

Why you might feel lonely

If you have cancer, you may sometimes feel lonely and isolated. It is natural to feel like this at different times during your diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes you still feel like this after treatment finishes.

You may feel lonely even when you are with other people. It may seem like no one understands what you are going through. You might feel you have to be brave. This could be because you do not want to upset your family and friends by talking about your feelings. Family and friends may live far away, be busy, or feel uncomfortable talking about the cancer.

Side effects such as tiredness may mean you do not go out as much as before. Your family and friends might not realise you feel lonely. Or they may think you want time to yourself. Try to tell your family and friends how you feel. This can help them find ways to support you.

Loneliness can be worse if you find it difficult to talk about your feelings. Sometimes it may feel easier to lie and tell people you are okay. You may find yourself giving people other reasons for not talking, such as 'I'm just feeling tired'.

If you live alone

Living alone can add extra stress when you are coping with cancer. You may usually like being independent, but being ill may make you feel lonely and frightened.

It is okay to ask for help. Some people may find it difficult to support you emotionally, but could help in practical ways. For example, people might be able to help you with shopping or household tasks. You could make a list of practical things that need to be done. If people then offer to help but are not sure what to do, they can choose something from your list. Other people may be comfortable talking with you about how you are feeling. Talking with them helps you share your worries and fears.

You may not have people who you can ask for help. Marie Curie has a free helper service in some parts of the UK. Someone can visit you to have a chat or just be there to listen. Or they can help you get to an appointment, do the shopping or help with household tasks.

Your GP, social worker, or community nurse can also help. They can tell you what help and support is available from local health, social care and voluntary organisations.

Coping with loneliness

Connecting with other people can help you feel less alone and help you manage your emotions. You could:

  • talk to family or friends
  • join a self-help or support group
  • speak to healthcare professionals
  • contact a support organisation.

Different things work for different people, so you may need to try a few approaches to see what you find most helpful.

You can also use our Online Community to:

  • talk to people in our chat rooms
  • blog about your experiences
  • make friends
  • join support groups.

You can also call the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00, 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm.