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Secondary breast cancer: Room for one

Ismena Clout
sitting 300x170 Secondary breast cancer: Room for one

Posed by model (Getty Creative)

When you are ill you have to spend a lot of time on your own. Most of that time falls under the banner of ‘resting’, ‘recuperating’ or ‘feeling rough’.  I’m lucky in that I have always been happy in my own company. Although I am also very sociable and chatty when in company.

The thing is that the time I spent on my own before my diagnosis would be the odd day or weekend. But now it can be a few days or a whole week. If I’m with lots of people on holiday I have to find a way to separate myself so I can rest and allow the pain in my bones to subside.

I’ve started to worry that if I enjoy being on my own too much I’ll start to crave being away from people more and more, and then it will become a real push for me to go and spend time with people – even with family and close friends.

It’s very noticeable right now as I am away on a big family holiday in Denmark. But I’m craving to be shut away from everyone watching TV on my iPad in bed. I’m worried that this disease is turning me into a hermit who doesn’t want to be around people. There are times when I feel like I’m in a bubble unable to connect and empathise with those around me, as the weight on my shoulders is so great.

This terrifies me as I get so much pleasure and enjoyment out of being around people. It’s my main reason for living. So what would I be left with if that was taken away? What life would I have if all I did was shut myself in my house with only a television for company?

There is also the worry that this need to be shut in my bedroom away from people is a sign of depression – a sign that the dark thoughts and feelings are getting too much of a grip on me. This terrifies me too.

Then I start to wonder if this isn’t actually a coping mechanism that I’ve subconsciously put in place? I do love being around people and doing things but I know I can’t do as much as I used to, if I use up all my energy in one go then it can affect me for days afterwards. So I have to separate and have that much needed alone time. By developing a hermit tendency, is that my way of making being at home with just my television more bearable and enjoyable?

I am always going to be detached from other people’s lives in a way now as my life is so different from the ‘norm’. My focus is on blood results, pain and treatment side effects rather than that promotion, the kids or which party to go to. But I don’t have to let that detachment get in the way of my relationships with other people, I can still be sociable but rest too. I think it’s known as ‘balance’ but as I have mentioned in previous blogs, balance is not something I know how to do too well.

For more information on secondary breast cancer visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary

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  • SL

    Hi Izmena,
    Great blog post and hit the nail on the head as I’ve just had a similar discussion about the isolation feeling with my EFT (emotional freedom technique) practitioner, like yourself I spend a massive amount of time on my own and realised recently that I am distancing myself from my friends and family or is it the other way around I think its a bit of both. I feel with friends and family that since I’ve put on Tamoxifen weight and unfortunately continue to do so its making me look well not like me actually (I was always a size 8 now in 2 years a size18!!!!) my best friend walked right past me in the street, she quite simply did not recognise me, they just cant cope with the different fatter me, its bad enough that I can’t cope with it let alone them! I’d even started to wonder what the point in taking the dam stuff was! I wish there was something I could say that would help you not feel so alone, all I can say is you know where I am if you want a chat, rant or general put the worlds to rights. Your right it is all about finding the balance I cope with my isolation with ‘cat love’ lol, my two cats are such great companions, they don’t judge me, they only provide pure unconditional love and affection. Its all very well going through treatments and blood tests but what we actually need is emotional support. xxxxxSarah xxxx

  • richard.loe22

    I don’t know Ismena. I find I need to be on my own sometimes too, and I wonder if that isn’t also an attempt on my part to avoid the sometimes very obvous discomfort my friends feel in my presence. Not all of them seem to know what to say or do, and I’m not sure they always believe me when I say they should treat me as they always have. A friend of mine has similar experiences. She copes by trying to be very active, by not giving in to her cancer any more than she has to. I try to live my (old) normal life, doing the things I always have done, but I’m finding that more and more I can’t manage this on grounds of fatigue. And that I find very frustrating and depressing, and it sometimes gets to the point where I just withdraw into myself. But as Sarah says, cats are a great help (I have two as well). Mind you, so are hugs, and I’m for ever grateful to those of my friends who just walk up and hug me. So here’s a virtual hug for you: {{{Ismena}}}


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