The Secret to Making Your Way on Your Cancer Journey


Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life. Pythagoras

We all know the feeling of facing a new, life changing journey and feeling very, very alone. I lived alone in my head the first year after my “suspicious” mammogram. No matter what I was doing or who I was with, I felt completely disconnected and isolated.

For the past week, I’ve recognized that feeling in my daughter as she works through her loneliness at college. As a brand-new freshman in a brand-new environment, everything is foreign. She’s homesick for her parents, her brother, her own bed and her old life. Every day is a challenge. Every new experience is a struggle. There is no soft place to land, because home is no longer home.

We’ve talked numerous times and I can only repeat the mantra: “It will get better.” How do I know? Because life has taught me the secret to climbing out of the loneliness hole: Friends. Not just the kind of friends who are fun and chatty, because being with them often makes loneliness worse. No, I’m talking about friends who “get it” because they are (or have been) in that hole too.

Over and over again I’ve had the experience of talking to other survivors about how it feels to be alone in a crowd, how others don’t understand and yet judge and how it feels to still be in the very thick of it emotionally while everyone around you wants to move on. Without empathy we have no ladder upon which to climb out of the black hole of loneliness.

No matter your struggle, be it cancer, divorce, a new job, going away for the first time to college, or any of life’s other challenges, empathy from a support network is the key to healing. That’s the foundation of WhereWeGoNow and WhereWeGoNow as Cancer Survivors at Facebook. We all need to find someone to take our hand and walk the journey with us. As Helen Keller put it so well, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”

Thank you for taking my hand and journeying with me. Let me know in the comments below how you have found support from others on your journey.

Survival > Existence,


Image courtesy of Fabrizio Lonzini

Related Posts:

Death and Cancer Loneliness

Life with Cancer and a Little Help From My Friends


Facing Cancer Together's picture

Those who ‘get it’ help us stop feeling alone.

Very well put, Debbie.

Debbie's picture

The Quest to Find Empathy

Facing Cancer:

Thanks for your comment and “getting it.” Feeling alone is such a painful part of the solo journey and so unnecessary. We need others and have a right to their support.

Survival > Existence,


mynde's picture

“empathy from a support network is the key to healing.”

thank you for this beautiful post on loneliness. reading about this part of your journey inspires me to think about sharing more my own, which i also think is a key in healing. i feel like life is a process of learning to see myself more clearly; my needs, my desires, my own shadow, my fears & expectations.

immediately after my diagnosis this may, i set up a private group on Facebook. it felt like the easiest place to pass along important information to members of my family & close friends in order not to have to re-tell the story multiple times. the group started small but has grown to over 30 members to include some of my clients, and is an extended network of support for my healing. In this safe place that is completely private except to members when i ask the to join, i share not only important medical information so we can all pray together, but when i have a really human day and hit the bumpy spots, i can share it there and that team will prop me up, help me process which helps me to gently refocus myself back to what matters most… my wellness.

my daughter is a freshman too this year, although she has the benefit of being close to home. Therefore, not all of her world has topsy-turvied, yet enough is & will as she continues reaching for her new center of gravity. which is what we are reaching for also, yes?

i love that on a topic about loneliness, we can still find one another.

Debbie's picture

New Center of Gravity; I Like That!


The more stuff I go through the more I recognize the patterns in life. The pain my daughter is feeling right now is no different than I was feeling that first year of cancer. We all need others who “get it” to get us through our challenges, whatever they are. Your private Facebook group sounds like a marvelous idea and I’m so glad you shared it with us. Good luck to your daughter, to you and to all of us as we move forward in our lives.

Survival > Existence,


Marie's picture

you are not alone

Your post echoes the theme of Judy Blume’s blog this week Debbie..or the other way around 😉 Writing about her breast cancer diagnosis whe wrote “Medical diagnoses can leave you feeling alone and scared. When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it.

Debbie's picture

Best Wishes to Judy Blume & Her Support Network


I know! I heard about Judy’s diagnosis after I wrote my post and was struck too by the recurring theme. I live every one of my post-cancer days with gratitude for my support network. There is no way on this planet I would be where I am today without them. That network was, and is, the single largest contributor to my healing. Best wishes to Judy as she starts her journey hand-in-hand with her network.

Survival > Existence,


Claudia Schmidt's picture

I’ve been reading through

I’ve been reading through some of your older posts, and just came upon this one, Debbie. So very insightful. I too found most of my comfort in friends and often, in NEW friends that I met through BC. One is an oncology partner, we both shared the same Adriamycin/Cytoxan and then Taxol regimen so saw each other at chemo each week for about 3 months during the last 12 taxols. We’ve become really close and I don’t even think I ever would have met her if not for BC so we consider each other to be the gifts we received from BC. I have another friend who was what I’d call an acquaintance, she was one of the “baseball moms” that I saw during my sons millions of baseball games (OK, so I exaggerated a bit). She was diagnosed last summer and we have since become quite close and I would consider her now to be one of my dearest friends. Thanks for writing!

Debbie's picture

My Cancer Friends are My Most Precious of Cancer Gifts

Hi Claudia:

My cancer friends are my most precious of cancer’s gifts. I really do believe that the secret to making it through cancer is finding and making these friends. Their empathy, support and love heals and I’m so grateful for each and every one of them. Thanks so much for your comment!

Survival > Existence,


Fronlen's picture

I am sure this article will

I am sure this article will be a source of inspiration to many patients who are suffering from this disastrous experience of having cancer. I would like to extend my sincere time and joy with people suffering. Thanks for the share.

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