Tips and Stories

Interested in writing a Tips and Stories post? Contact us HERE with your ideas!

Isolation and the Cancer Experience


Isolation from a cancer experience can creep up without notice – so let’s talk about that. Isolation from people, places and the things that are important to you can lead to many different emotions,  and takes a toll on your mental health. Sometimes isolation can be due to physical distance; sometimes it comes from having very different life experiences to others around you right now (like treatment, caring for a loved one, or grieving) – that feeling that you aren’t quite in the same boat as everyone else. It can lead to loneliness (especially over long amounts of time), which people don’t always talk about.

As a child of a parent with cancer:

My experience was that my dad was diagnosed in the middle of Covid in 2020. I was finding it extremely hard to release myself from lockdown/isolation because I didn't want Dad to get sick. It may be hard to return to school, but we still need to continue with our hobbies and be active to maintain our overall mental health and wellbeing.

As a young patient:

There were times in my cancer journey I just wanted to sleep or be alone, but there were also moments where I felt excluded from events or missed out on special occasions due to me being neutropenic - which requires you to isolate yourself in hospital from everyone until you felt better. Covid to me wasn’t exactly daunting when it came to isolating from everyone as it was already the norm being at home or staying away from people who are sick (during Covid). I came across Canteen Aotearoa who provided psychological support for me whenever I was feeling lonely in the hospital and needed a break. Canteen Aotearoa then mentioned that there was a platform called Connect where I could communicate with others like me at any time. This was beneficial to me as I wasn't allowed to communicate with other young people in hospital during treatment.

We think it is important in your journey that you are surrounded by the people that make you feel heard and include you in activities (even if you may not feel well enough, or are busy with the changes in your family). We encourage friends, carers, and family members to reach out to our loved ones going through treatment (even when you want to be cautious health wise), There are many things you can do to brighten someone's day and check in on them - such as sending them funny videos, video calls or delivering their favourite food.

Here are some tips on how to listen (which can make all the difference when someone is feeling isolated!):

Headspace Australia also has a good general info page about Loneliness here, if that’s something you are feeling.

Support systems are available and can be beneficial. Some support systems include Canteen Australia, Canteen Aotearoa, Connect, a school or EAP (workplace) counsellor, or support group. In this modern era we are glad that Connect is available anytime to help us feel heard and included.

By Emily and Janine, Connect Youth Leaders