Coping With Cancer When You’re Single

  • Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is always hard. But when you’re single or living alone, it can sometimes be even more difficult.

    You might be used to doing things on your own if you don’t have a partner or spouse. However, now isn’t the time to try to go it alone. Building a strong support system is key for managing the physical and emotional challenges of cancer.

    Here are five steps you can take to help ensure you have the support you need.


    Adjust your mentality

    Do you feel like you’re bothering people when you ask them to lend a hand? Try to put those feelings aside, suggested Michelle Rodoletz, PhD, a psychologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

    “We like to help patients get over the I-don’t-want-to-burden-people mindset, and that can be an issue for single people who don’t want to let go of their independence,” she said.

    Remember, most people want to help when a friend or loved one is going through a hard time. Let them!

    Ask for what you need

    Even though family members and friends may want to be useful, they might not always know the best way to help. So gather your inner circle and let them know that you need their support, Rodoletz recommended. It’s a good idea to:

    • Pick a point person. Designate a healthcare proxy who can come with you to your appointments and help you navigate information about your diagnosis and treatments. “Look for someone who’s reliable and someone you trust and feel safe with,” Rodoletz said.
    • Get specific. Would it help to have someone provide childcare, pick up groceries or walk your dog? It’s easier for loved ones to step up to the plate when they know exactly what they should do.
    • Set your emergency contacts. Compile a list with a few names, including a co-worker or neighbor, and place it somewhere visible in your home. Consider giving one of your contacts a key to your home.  

    Take advantage of technology

    Online care calendars like Lotsa Helping Hands or Caring Bridge make it easy to post updates about all aspects of your care, and for loved ones to coordinate their efforts to help you. All you have to do is share the tasks that need attention—and let family and friends figure out who can do what. You can also have someone post updates for you if you want, or even manage your profile themselves.

    Expand your circle

    Even with the support of loved ones, you might still crave a connection with others who really understand what you’re going through. That’s where cancer support groups come in. Having a space to share your cancer experience—and listen to the experiences of others—can help you feel less isolated. Fox Chase offers free support groups for people with a variety of cancers.

    Believe in yourself

    Sometimes you might feel like you can’t cope with this diagnosis on your own. When that happens, think about the hard situations you’ve gotten through before—and know that you can do it again. Remind yourself of the resources you do have.

    “Even if you’re single, you have support,” Rodoletz said. “You’re not alone.”

    Learn more about support groups offered at Fox Chase.