Starting chemo when living alone

Hi - I was diagnosed with stage 1c ovarian cancer after a full hysterectomy due to a large ovarian cyst in June - I was told my cancer risk was so low they were not going to bother taking samples elsewhere so it came as a shock when I was told of the cancer diagnosis half an hour before being discharged! (The c was because they ruptured the cyst to get it out).

I'm feeling great - almost fully recovered from the op but I start my first of 6 cycles of carboplatin on Weds. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm scared so any tips, especially on coping alone and on how to deal with feeling unwell or fearful when living alone, would be most welcome!

I guess I feel so alone as I'm in a small village in the beautiful Scottish highlands which is fantastic but means a 45 minute drive to the nearest support group/Maggies centre/Macmillan nurse and very sadly I had the (quite common I hear) experience of all of my 40-50 yr old local friends drifting away after my diagnosis. That was the cruellest thing of all for me, when it was 'just' a cyst they rang and visited then after my op and diagnosis they promised to come see me but never came. The absolute stars were my mums elderly friends (mum is blind and physically disabled and lives in local sheltered accom) who rallied round with lift to the GP and to see mum when I couldn't drive (no taxi service here), food when I couldn't cook, cat sitting and a cuppa and a chat, all of which restored my faith in human nature!

30 Replies

  • Hello there, first of all, never feel ashamed for being afraid, or anything else. We've been through hell, and it's not over. It's not easy being on your own, either. I am, too, and recognise what you say about friends of a certain age. They have busy lives, themselves, and in my case, I've been sick for a couple of years, now, and I think a sort of weariness kicks in for them. Fortunately, I have some new friends, through a new hobby, painting, and also a very active local hospice, who provide volunteer drivers, as well as many other services. I just stayed there for four weeks, while they sorted out my nausea and sickness.

    Of course, then there's this group, too, as well as a very active Facebook group, if you're on it. All the very best, and a big hug xxx

  • Hi and thank you I think after contacting them again I have realised that most of these people where friends who saw me as a person for going out/socialising (while I saw them as closer friends) and some were worried about being put upon - one was having a marriage trauma -so I think I need to find some new friends through hobbies, groups etc but this online group is a really good step to not feeling alone at this time...

  • I'm so sorry you are going through this and feeling so alone. It seems times like this is when you find who your true friends are. I'm glad you gave your mum's friends looking out for you.

    When I went through chemo living alone, I had a sister nearby and one friend who's daughter had died of cancer a few years back. I kept saying to my other sister, who had chemo 10 years ago, it's like they think it's contagious.

    I hope you are able to find some support in your area to help you. I live in the US, we have the American Cancer Society, local transport available, and group support. Do you have an organization you can call so you can at least talk to someone? Best wishes, keep us informed, Nesie 237

  • Hi, I guess it's true that it is worth knowing who those good friends are ... I don't know whether they don't know what to say or they think I will talk about cancer all the time or that I will ask them to do things for me .... Pass! So far the only 'friend' help I've had to ask for is someone to make me a long handled poop scoop for the cat litter tray as I couldn't bend after the op! Sadly small rural communities here just don't have support groups (except arthritis for some strange reason?) and the local cancer support nurse has had an op and will be off work for some time :( but phone support, while not the best option, is there I am told so thanks for this tip!

  • I can't and couldn't guess what goes through people's minds. One even seemed to get angry with me. No explanation for that. It sounds pretty where you live but unfortunate that you don't have more resources available. Phone support will help until the support nurse recovers. There's always this site if you need a boost or to vent, ask questions. Take care, Nesie 237

  • Hi Alibee I also live alone and understand exactly how you are feeling. I have had three of six chemo treatments and would !I've to come home to a cuddle!e a d someone to discuss it all with. When someone on this site talks about the support they get from their husbands I do feel a pang of envy, but remind myself that there are benefits to only having myself to consider.

    You will find that this forum is like a big family that is always here and totally understand everything you are going through. It is sad that your friends have not been supportive but your illness reminds them of their own vulnerability a d scared them. Hopefully they will get in touch when they have come to terms with your illness.

    This is a scary time for us all, but use the sisters on this site to see you through the rough times. Sending you a hug. Jenny

  • Thank you so much for your kind words and the hug - much appreciated!

  • I'm so sorry to read how lonely and afraid you feel, Alibee. Maybe you'll make new friends when you go for your chemo, even if it's just to exchange a few phone calls. I hope all goes well for you. I was very afraid when I first started chemo but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be and the nurses were all very kind and reassuring. I'm not sure how it works in Scotland but they'll probably give you a number to ring if you have any worries. Just remember, if you have bad days - they WILL pass. On the first part of the three week cycle, which were the worst days, I told myself it was the chemo attacking the cancer and my Oncologist agreed that that's what it was. You'll probably feel better after the first week but do remember to rest as much as you can. Be prepared to have what we call " sofa days, or duvet days" and cuddle up with your cat. Just slob out and don't look at any dust or housework. Maybe get simple food and treats just before your next chemo, so you don't need to do much. Try and find ways to be positive, have happy music on, watch TV or listen to the radio. I find that putting the lights on when it's a dull day helps me, not sitting in the gloom, even if it's the middle of the day.

    Keep in touch with us all on this group and don't be afraid to voice your anger and fears. I do hope you find your friends will be back in your life soon. Maybe you could give them a ring. If you approach them, and show you're still the same person, despite cancer, they may be relieved. It's surprising how so many people are embarrassed and don't know how to respond to us, once we're diagnosed. Maybe you could ask them to send you funny jokes by email. When my Daughter's friend was having chemo, she told all her friends that she wanted nothing from them, other than any jokes they could send. It was her way of coping and it worked!!

    Keep your chin up. With love and a ((((big hug)))), Solange 😊

  • All great advice thank you x

  • Hi I live in the Highlands-please feel free to contact me x

  • Would love to - new to forum so I'm going to find out how to do this! Alison X

  • Hi and here's a big hug for you whether you want it or not! (((((X)))))

    Use this group whenever you feel up down or need a hug or a rant.

    Make sure you have some good quality traditional lemonade or ginger beer for mouth taste after chemo

    Get fresh pineapple and apples to munch on when your mouth is tasting bad or you don't feel like eating

    Get some good books and or good magazines to read/thumb through

    Mobile phone near you is good too

    Ring your unit if you don't feel well, they'll advise re change iof meds if need be.

    Try travel wrist bands if you are nauseous

    We are here for you so try not to forget that

    Big cuddles with your cat too

    Take care

    Clare xx

  • Great advice Clare, I'd never thought about using my travel wrist band for anything other than my sea sickness so great tip!

  • Hi, I just wanted to say that although I am not living alone, friends sometimes don't know how to react or think you prefer to be on your own. Actually, my family were the most supportive. I realise I am lucky in that sense. I went through a period of blaming friends but then I was too tired to think about them. I had a cyst removed which was the size of a football so I was told, it kept growing. In my case, it was not the carboplatin but managing the symptoms. Everyone is different, mine was aching muscles, tiredness but did not feel sick. After a while you manage how you feel and get used to having bed days and then on the good days you treat yourself. That is my advice and take each day as it comes, use the nurses for support, that is their Job and also you may make friends at the hospital as I did.

    Best wishes



  • Good advice Angela! I actually feel much better currently (chemo day 2) than I did when I had my cyst which meant I couldn't eat, sit, lie down or breath easily (it grew to 20cm and I'm only 4ft 4 due to a spinal curvature which means my trunk is very small (legs, arms normal) and all the organs are compressed) So I must remember I'm feeling better now than before and, as you say, listen to my body.... X

  • Hi there :) you've already been given some excellent advice but I just wanted to offer up my thoughts & support. It's always ok to admit to feeling frightened...but I'm sorry that you've felt lonely. This really is a truly wonderful community with truly amazing people. Sending a big ((hug)) from the Cotswolds. Jemima xx

  • Hi, and welcome to our club but am sorry that you have had to find us.

    I think there are people who just don't know how to deal with a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. They don't know what to say and in fear of saying the wrong thing they stay away. I don't think they realize how hurtful that is. So pleased your mum's friends are there for you. You should tell them how you feel, it's likely it will get back to your 'friends'.

    Perhaps if you speak to Macmillan, they might have some volunteers in your area who go and visit people going through this on their own.

    There will always be someone on here who will reply to your posts.

    Good luck with the chemo.

    Ann x

  • Hi Anne thanks for your welcome - I've been looking for but now finding an active online group for a while so this is great! I'm taking mum's friends out for a meal when I next feel OK to thank them again - I did flowers a few weeks ago (and beer/whiskey for the gents!) they said it wasn't necessary but they were/are lifesavers! X

  • Sometimes I long to be alone. It is great to have support with my husband but there are times when I could scream because he doesn't understand I just need to have my own space, or he wants to do something and gets sick of me not feeling well. I envy you because you get time to think and reflect and gain peace to fight this disease. Our lives are so different. The other ladies have given great advice. Just sending you hugs and good thoughts. Sharon

  • Thank you for a perspective I'd never thought about! True I have no one else to please (except the cats), can spend the day on the sofa if I want, eat what I want, watch what I want and cry if I want all good but - I still miss having hugs available - cats purrs are good but not as good as human hugs!

  • Hi

    I was too stage 1c and had the op and 6 months carbo/taxol.I don't live alone, but lost friends through it all,but the people who stay with you are your true friends.

    I agree with all the ladies have said,you need to be kind to yourself and don't feel guilty if you need a rest day, I always found mine was the second day after chemo.If they get your meds and infusion right,you will be fine,I found the worst struggle was with my strength and fitness,but don't give up,you will be fine.

    Take any help you are offered and if you get the chance of councelling or support groups,take it.

    When you go for chemo wear comfy clothes and layers as I always got cold.Plenty of books, magazines,music and if you need to sleep,don't feel guilty, do so!

    Just want to say this site is a life saver,anything you want to talk about we are here for you, don't be lonely, there are plenty of ladies in your position,

    Wishing you all the best


  • Thank you so much for the advice Carole, 1st chemo went ok today (after a small hiccup as my OT referral had got lost and as I'm only 4ft 4in due to scoliosis I couldn't climb on the chair! Much hilarity trying various filing boxes and items borrowed from wards But even when I got on my feet were dangling like a schoolchild! Till a bright spark bought in a waiting room chair... Bingo! After all that I'd forgotten my fear! ) I know the side affects are to come but at least the actual treatment is now a 'known' so I'm no longer afraid of it! Alison

  • Well done Alison!,I used to struggle with the chair and I'm 5 ft !At least it broke the ice and fear of the unknown is worse,I had a reaction on my first time,but after that was fine,you will get through

    Carole xxx

  • Hi Alibee

    You are not alone . At least you are not alone in being alone ! It's a tough one to call but it is doable . I just started Carbo only on Mon . I normally live in an isolated rural area but this week I came to the city for a few days where i am alone. Not sure if my friends knew what to do with me . I met some last week but this week I feel rotten . At least yesterday I did but today a little light is creeping in . Your mums friends sound like absolute darlings. You know that you are not alone on this website and someone will always come to your aid . If you want to compare notes anytime with me please do. There are so many other women here too with reassuring words and great tips for just about anything that can happen. Good luck. You will be fine and try not to worry .


  • Another 1c warrior I also had op then chemo, not a walk in the park but not the nightmare I had imagined, and yes the fair weather friends drifted away. Take heart in the help you can get and always always keep in touch wit the ladies on here, we are all travelling the same road. As I write this I sitting in my best friends house with a nice shiny bald head, ( more fetching than you would think) having embarked on my third time round the track. It's extra hard at night alone (my husband is currently in hospital in London) read, make tea just don't go to dr google. Above all be kind to yourself there will be people who will rise to the surface. Whatever the time log in have a chat a moan or pm me if you need a voice xxxxxAnn

  • Hello Alibee2, I'm am going to have my last one on weds was diagnosed with stage 2 I've had 6 lots chemotherapy, I felt okay with the first two - third one hit felt very sickly the ant sickness tablets help for two days - plus they give you some more to help you - no5 was bad was very sickly and tired - I found walking helped me a lot didn't go mad and resting - you will probably get a metal taste in your mouth they call it chemo mouth your food will taste very different - I found strawberry helped me and blueberries I just had a fridge full - pls don't feel ashamed sorry to hear about your friends just keep positive and chin up you can do this and keep in contact on here if you want to have a good rant we are here for you take care and good luck with your first chemotherapy xx Tess

  • HI Ailibee 2 and you are very welcome to the site. You have been through a lot. Yes friends let us down and drift, it is part of the course, some of them its probably better because they might be the ones to say the wrong thing to you. Is there any support as in home help you can apply for? Perhaps your Oncology Unit has a Social Worker that could help you with this, Well I would say ask for strong anti nausea, get in tins of prunes in juice for constipation. Maybe plain biscuits and seven up if you dont feel like a cuppa. Keep hydrated as much as you can. You are facing down a hard road and you will come out the other end. Is there anyone you can ring to help out with shopping and cooking light meals etc. Although your Macmillan Centre is a bit away, they may have someone in your area that will do calls etc. Dont ever feel lonely because we are all here to help you.

  • Thanks for the advice Suzuki! I'm feeling virtuous as I filled my freezer with single portion soups and meals last week and bought apple juice and cocKnut water to drink as everything but them to drink tasted nasty after the op so hoping they do the same for chemo side effects! Alison

  • Very good Alison and there will be days you can get out and replenish your stock, it wont be all bad. Did I mention prunes in juice about five a day to help with constipation if that happens?

  • Hey Alibee,

    You have received some great advice from the ladies and I agree with all of it! I just wanted to let you know that I had the same diagnosis as you and was also told that it was unlikely that it was cancer but it turned out to be. We are lucky in one sense as it is rare to be diagnosed at such an early stage!

    I am almost 5 months out from my last Chemo and it gets better every day! I feel great today and take each day as it presents itself! Chemo is hard but very doable so don't be too afraid of it, the key is to listen to your body and if its saying rest then rest. Drink loads of water as it really helps with the digestive system which can be badly hit by chemo, mine was bad but I was able to manage it ok and that involved the consumption of copious amounts of water! If you feel bad tell your team, you will get numbers to call when you go to get your Chemo and don't be afraid to call them.

    This forum and the ladies on it were a lifesaver for me I genuinely don't know what I would have done without them!

    So I wish you the very best of luck on your Chemo journey! I hope you wont experience many side effects and are able to manage those that you do experience. As someone has already said come to the forum at any time of the day or night there are ladies here at most times!

    Good Luck and Onwards and Upwards


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