Isolation and Blood Cancer
Last updated: November 2023
In the book of Genesis 2:18, we find a quote saying, “It is not good that man should be alone.” A few centuries later John Donne in his poem reminds us that, “No man is an island.” Simply put throughout recorded, history authors have pointed out the fact that people need to live together in order to thrive and survive in this world.
Suddenly becoming alone
At some point in all our lives we are going to come face to face with significant emotional challenges. Having just recently been through the death of a spouse of 57 years I was forced to face grief that was overwhelming especially after just being treated months earlier for blood cancer and covid pneumonia.
As I went through the process of grieving the loss of my life mate, I slowly began to recognize that it's not only death that can cause deep emotional and physical pain, but also grief and PTSD from any type of significant setback ranging from a change in health status or some type of a traumatic life event.
The impact of loneliness on health
Too often, our medical professionals do not really understand the impact that a diagnosis can have on quality-of-life issues for patients and loved ones. The isolation that occurred with the double whammy of a blood cancer diagnosis combined with the death of a spouse really set off a landslide of feelings that ranged from feelings of hopelessness, anger, guilt, and sadness to depression all compressed into one rage-filled large ball.
It was very difficult to accept the events that had unfolded in such a short period and, as a result, I withdrew into my private cave of social isolation. After 2 months I began to realize, that if my isolation did not end, the emotional pressures would eventually result in increased inflammation that would impact both my cardiovascular system as well as my cerebrovascular system - blood flow to the brain.
Surviving bad news can lead to engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as being physically inactive, smoking or drinking alcohol in excess, forgetting to take medications, or embracing a poor diet.
Reaching our to stay socially engaged
Over time I was able to find simple ways to overcome feelings of being disconnected. I started to get involved with a few local groups such as a Community Center and began to find out about activities that were available in the area.
I was also amazed to see how many people reached out to me. Staying socially engaged, I discovered, was one of the building blocks of good cognitive health and social interaction and it really changed me daily and once again sparked my ability to respond to visual and verbal social clues. One reason I met a new special person in my life.
After COVID there was a marked decrease in the ability of people to communicate and interact. If you are a blood-cancer patient just remember that you might be facing a two-fisted blow with post-COVID loneliness and your cancer. All of this can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and more.
My advice - if you've been diagnosed with blood cancer it is in your own best interest to try to engage other people and become socially active vs. remaining in isolation.
How do you feel about your support system?