Living with cancer when you are single and alone

I am a 63 year old man with incurable (but treatable) cancer.  I am on permanent chemo which keeps me reasonably healthy though I relapse and have to be moved to the next drug every 6 months or so.  I am quite well most of the time (with mostly just the usual chemo issues now and again) and still completely self-sufficient though have to admit that I am nowhere near as strong and fit as I was.  I was diagnosed 3 years ago and estimate that with luck it should be around 2 years or so before I run out of treatment options and the inevitable happens.  I have come to terms and am relatively at peace with this.

I would like to socialise and to have a few adventures to make the most of my last couple of years but it’s no fun on your own and I have found it impossible to meet others in a similar position.   I don’t have family close by and virtually all of my socialising used to be based around work so I don’t have any close friends any more.  My ex-partner didn’t take my diagnosis well, and I fully understand that, so we split soon after I was diagnosed and I have been on my own since.  In order to meet people, I have tried U3A and various cancer support groups but everyone seems to be a couple which just makes me feel awkward and alone.  Also, while I could do scheduled activities with groups like those in U3A, my hospital appointments and unpredictable chemo side effects make me unreliable and I hate being unreliable and having to make excuses to anyone, especially to many who don’t understand my circumstances and frequently tell me how well I look.  

Ideally I think I need a companion who understands my position so I’d like to meet someone else currently with cancer or recovering/recovered from cancer to go out with for some or more of meals out, day trips, weekends away, holidays and adventures and just to spend time with and maybe to hug when things are bad and to tell your troubles to for mutual support.  Given the above I think I could only do most of these with a woman (though having men friends would be good too).  

I have asked oncology staff, Macmillan advisors and support group organisers what other singles with cancer do but there seems to be no knowledge that they exist or even a perception that there are singles in my position and that being alone and lonely might be an issue.   Searching this site for every key word I can think of brings up nothing relevant.

So I would be eternally grateful to anyone in the community for any ideas or suggestions on what I can do or where I can go to meet people in a similar position.  Any thoughts from anyone else with cancer who is single and alone and how you cope would be especially welcome.

Thanks for taking the time to read my essay.

  • Dear

    i see from your profile you have multiple myeloma, which happens to be my specialist subject. I am fortunate that my husband of 36 years has been a rock for me, and I give thanks for that every day.

    i think the best approach to meeting somebody is to put yourself in social situations that involve a variety of people where you can relax and be yourself, I wouldn’t focus too much on whether they have cancer or not. Women near your age aren’t necessarily looking for long term full on relationships and like you want someone with shared interests to do fun things together. They will have other commitments in their lives like grandchildren and girlfriends so often want someone who is flexible. As you say myeloma is a unpredictable disease and hard for people to understand so you can’t give any potential partner any guarantees, but as long as you are in remission you can lead a relatively normal life so you shouldn’t make too much of it with potential companions other than to say it’s chronic illness that’s treatable, most people over 60 have something going on health wise even though it may not be cancer. There’s a lid for every pot they say, all you have to do is put yourself in situations where the two can come together.

  • Hi

    Do u have a local day hospice? Mine runs a group called Compassionate neighbours where ppl meet one to one but also meet up as a group once/ week. Age UK also have one to one meetings, where they match u with someone with similar interests. I'm also 63, so I know what u probably think of using Age UK  - we feel we're too young!- but it might be worth getting in touch with them?

    Their advice line is 0800 6781602, open 8am to 7pm. Try them and ask about their befriending service.

    Good luck!

  • Hi Jane, thanks very much for your reply.  You sound very positive like I did in the early days before I unfortunately became single and before I discovered that I had the very worst form of myeloma with cytogenetic abnormalities and poor prognosis.

    I am not particularly outgoing and am not as confident as I used to be and I have found it really is tough socialising on my own.

    Also perhaps I underplayed how much Myeloma now rules my life.  I currently commute to London two days a week for chemotherapy on a drugs trial which pretty much wipes me out the following day too.  Unlike most Myeloma patients who can lead a fairly normal life, In 3 and a half years I have relapsed from 5 different chemo treatments and a stem cell transplant and now only have 2 possible NICE approved treatments left which are only likely to give me 6 months max each.   I have been on permanent chemo for well over 2 years which has just about kept things in check but I would give absolutely anything in this world for any period of drug free remission and some normality but that is never going to happen for me.   Normal fit and healthy people just don’t understand this because I still look quite well and any potential partner would have to accept that I am damaged, have significant hospital commitments, am often not too active or well after chemo and definitely not get too attached to me because I can guarantee that I won’t be around for too much longer.   I think that’s a lot to ask of anyone.

    I will however take your advice on board.  You make a lot of valid points and I can see how I have become a little insular and isolated ignoring the normal social scene whilst trying to find the holy grail of a meetup group for single cancer patients, it’s just that logic says there must be many thousands in my position but I can’t find any of them.   

    Thanks again.

  • Hi Buttercup01,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to reply and for your suggestions.    

    All suggestions are gratefully received and I will investigate thanks.

  • Hi again 

    Have just read about an organisation which sends letters to ppl with cancer - 

    frommetoyouletters co.uk

    The idea is the person writing the letter writes about their life but not the cancer.

    Might be worth contacting them?

    There's a postal address ( PO. Box number ) too

    Sue