Feeling lonely or isolated is very common when you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Here are some practical solutions.
We get lots of calls to our Helpline from people who feel lonely after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Some people live alone or have few people to talk to. Others have people around them but feel isolated by what they’ve been through.
Loneliness can affect you even if a significant amount of time has passed since you were diagnosed. It can often feel as if people around you are carrying on as before while you’re still processing what has happened to you.
However, there are some things you can do to alleviate loneliness.
1. Find a new routine
Taking up a regular activity can help you make new friends.
- join a local walking group, such as the Ramblers
- start a weekly exercise class at your local gym or leisure centre, for example yoga or pilates
- try a special interest group or adult learning association such as U3A
Even just going to the shops on a set day each week can help you get into the habit of going outside and interacting with people.
2. Take your time
If the thought of going out and socialising is too much, or you feel anxious or vulnerable, don’t force yourself. Taking small steps can help.
If you don’t feel up to a night out, go for a coffee with a friend. It can also help to agree to things knowing you can always cancel if you change your mind.
The important thing is to start with what feels comfortable for you.
3. Talk to someone who understands
While friends and family can be supportive, they may find it difficult to understand what you’re going through.
Lots of people find it helps to speak to others who’ve had breast cancer, even if their experience isn’t exactly the same.
- go on a course to get practical tips and support, such as a Breast Cancer Care Moving Forward course
- join a local cancer support group – search the Macmillan Cancer Support website for one near you
- find out about activities for people with cancer, such as those organised by charity Maggie’s
If you don’t want to go out or need to stay indoors for practical reasons, you could talk to someone by phone or email using Breast Cancer Care’s Someone Like Me service.
Or you could try the Silver Line, a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to people aged 55 and over (0800 4 70 80 90).
You might also like to chat with other people online, such as on our Forum. This can be particularly useful if you feel lonely late at night, or if you want to talk to others anonymously.
Over time, these small steps might increase your confidence and encourage you to socialise when you feel ready.
4. Ask for help if you need it
Many people feel they can’t ask for professional help, especially once their treatment has finished, but it’s important to speak to your GP if you think you might need it.
Counselling is a common source of support for people who’ve experienced breast cancer. Talking to someone who doesn’t know you, and who’s there to listen, can be therapeutic. It can also be useful to have a set time and place to discuss things that might be worrying you, so you can put them aside at other times.
A counsellor or therapist can help you work through your thoughts and feelings and help you find ways to cope with loneliness and isolation.
Ask your GP about counselling services in your local area, or look on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) website. Some services are free or means-based.
Find out more about counselling on the NHS website.
Breast Cancer Care’s Forum is a welcoming community who can offer support at any time of day or night.