Loneliness and the long distance cancer survivor....
|A promise of spring?|
But what's clear is that it's a very real issue for many. Loneliness has a huge impact on health, affecting survival after major illness like cancer, indeed having the same impact on health as 15 cigarettes a day. Staggering, isn't it?
And of course illness itself can be so isolating , particularly chronic pain or disability making many things so difficult; dementia isolating those people from the world that is increasingly scary, cancer treatments destroying health and well being for some time, depression causing withdrawal from the world. Is it inevitable then that this happens, that people become so isolated and lonely? Well , no I don't think it is.
Just this week I read of a community that has been developed to have an ethos and practice of mutual support ,aimed at reducing social isolation. Investing in those very communities assets to increase social cohesion and support simple kindness. I also saw the launch of a dementia friends initiative to train members of communities about how to support people with dementia in their communities , fostering independence and connection for as long as possible.
We learned too that those living with cancer are more isolated than others. Their illness and maybe their life expectancy separating them from the wider world. The message from a cancer charity who were campaigning on this was, reach out and look out for people being treated for cancer. Loneliness will compound their issues, worsen the pain both physical and mental. That's so true for many who suffer with their conditions long term.
Of course there are many organisations large and small who offer support. I found the warmth and support and meditative space from my local Maggies centre an oasis in the bleak landscape that is caused by cancer. The self management fund funded by the Scottish Government and , in a fine partnership, created and managed by The Health and Social Care Alliance is an essential creative impetus for many groups supporting people across Scotland. Groups like the Pink Ladies of Midlothian who have reached out to women whose lives have been scarred by depression and other issues . Through their kindness, encouragement and belief they have changed lives for the better. For a small investment lives are turned around, the hand of welcome when people are willing to reach out , delivers so much in return.
I could go on but you hear my point I'm sure, loneliness isn't inevitable necessarily but it will be if we don't act to change things and turn around the direction of travel . After all ........it might be us one day.
I've been a secret shopper again this week in the NHS and once more I was impressed by a very thorough visit to a respiratory clinic. I was quite relaxed about it, not expecting miracles but open to them should they be on offer. So when I was sent for a chest X-ray, I was unprepared for the moment of fear that took over. I rationalised why this would be done and managed to return my heart rate to normal. No it was nothing to do with cancer , just a sensible base line. And it was fine, thankfully. The team were kind and the assessment was detailed. I left relieved and with a plan which I hope will help. And just a bit shattered after yet again being surprised by how the "c"word can jump up and bite you when you aren't looking. The title of this blog came to me as I was waiting to be seen, "Loneliness of the long distance cancer survivor". It does feel like a marathon sometimes , never quite knowing just where and what the finish line might be; alone in the experience and all it entails.
Reasons to be cheerful. We've had a lovely family weekend, with birthdays and housewarmings to celebrate. The sun shone, the birds and flowers suggesting its spring and us all feeling maybe we can shake of winter soon. Lets hope so.