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Plight of cancer patients dealing with loneliness
A Bradford pensioner who beat cancer has told of the isolation she experienced as a result of suffering from the disease.
Doreen Watt said she barely left the house for two months as she struggled with the emotional impact of her lung cancer, which was diagnosed early last year.
The 67-year-old, of Bannockburn Court, Bierley, was speaking as Macmillan Cancer Support revealed the results of research carried out by Ipsos Mori, which showed the detrimental impact of being lonely on the lives of people living with cancer.
It claimed that 24 per cent – about 16,000 – of people with cancer in West Yorkshire were suffering with loneliness as a result of their illness, leaving many housebound and unable to feed themselves.
Mrs Watt, who is divorced and not in contact with her two sons, said: “I had keyhole surgery to remove a third of my lung and was in hospital for almost a week.
“I live alone, so initially I stayed with family, but I felt I needed to be back in my own house. When I got home, I felt very isolated and lonely and lost my confidence. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t feel like cooking or doing jobs round the house – I didn’t have the motivation to do anything.”
The research compared the experiences of cancer patients who said they felt lonely since their diagnosis, with those who weren’t lonely.
It claimed lonely patients were more likely to drink more alcohol than usual, were five times more likely to have not left the house for days, and had problems sleeping.
They were also more likely to skip meals or have a poor diet, with some saying the reason was because they couldn’t afford food.
Mrs Watt said friends and family kept in regular touch by phone and would call in to see her and take her shopping.
She added: “I put on a brave face when I was around people and did enjoy their company. I didn’t want to burden them though by talking about how I felt.”
Mrs Watt had support from a lung cancer nurse in Bradford who put her in touch with a cancer support group in the city where she found comfort. Here she had met other people affected by cancer.
She said: “I started to make myself leave the house more by going out for a walk, as it was good therapy for my recovery. My lung nurse told me about a support group, so I decided to go along. I must have looked like a rabbit in the headlights when I arrived, but it has been a massive help and I’m starting feel like I’m getting my confidence back.”
Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Loneliness is blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients in the UK. It’s hard enough for people being hit with the devastating news that they have cancer, without having to suffer the effects that being lonely brings. It’s heartbreaking to think of people struggling to eat or leave the house because they have been abandoned and left to deal with cancer alone.”
“This is a growing problem which is only set to get worse as the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles from two to four million in the next 20 years. Macmillan provides a range of services that are a lifeline to people affected by cancer. But we simply can’t help everyone who needs us now, let alone those who will need us in the future, so we need more donations and support.”
Contact Macmillan on 0808 8080000. To make a donation or find out about volunteering, visit macmillan.org.uk.