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The Collective Loneliness of Cancer

Embracing the Inner Shadows Through Fellowship

By Laura GentlePublished 5 years ago Updated 7 months ago 3 min read
Our inner shadow, like the one we cast on the ground, is a reminder that we are still here.

When someone faces cancer, they are told many things by medical professionals and loved ones. The one thing no one tells you about living with cancer is the intrinsic loneliness that comes diagnosis.

Amidst the slew of doctor visits, treatment plans and messages of support, there lies the ever-present enemy within. The strange and dangerous passenger we live with every day for the rest of our lives. What this uninvited guest brings to our life is not only illness but a palpable sense of isolation. We become remote from our own body, thrown from our core.

Cancer forces the mind to consider what life must be like without physical form. How we are, just by the very act of living, trapped in a constant prison of flesh and blood.

It can be difficult not to lose ourselves in fantasy about the freedom it must feel like to be disembodied, to live without confines. What was once a given, our connectedness, become distant and distinct.

This deep isolation manifests both within our interior landscape and on our outside relationship with the world. Mental toughness is more than the strength of will. It is in purest explanation—the habit of living. Since we cannot survive without shape or vessel, our mind must make peace with our body. It is a peculiar awareness of understanding, and longing, for a freedom that does not exist.

Of course, very few people are truly alone. Family, friends, lovers—most of us have and find comfort in these relationships. Love is a powerful tool in the arsenal to fight cancer. It is the fuel of endurance against a great enemy, a very personal foe.

Yet, even surrounded by love, those of us living with this disease regularly fight chronic loneliness. It is difficult to explain this solitude shadow within ourselves to those who live without it. This is through no fault of our own, nor those we care about. It is merely another condition of the disease. A cruel side effect of a toxic invader.

In my own thirteen year struggle with cervical cancer, I have found great fellowship with other cancer fighters.

When the symptoms weigh down your sanity, they will understand. On the days when fighting seems a worthless cause, an empty pursuit with no reward but further pain, they will empathize. When your loved ones distance themselves out of their own fear for your life, embrace your fellow warriors and let their shared loneliness wash over yours.

We face a solo battle that each of us must fight alone, but we do not have to endure it alone. We are a sea of connected strangers who navigate the same rogue waves. Embrace the loneliness, because so many who fought before us no longer can. Our inner shadow, like the one we cast on the ground, is a reminder that we are still here.

Fight for the light, fight for love. Fight as long and as hard as you can, for you are still alive. Though you may feel alone, you are never without companions on this difficult journey.

Reach out when you need to.


Learn more about me and support my writing at lauragentle.com


About the Creator

Laura Gentle

Copywriter, equality advocate, cancer+endo fighter. Odd Hollywood-Hillbilly Hybrid.

Learn more about me:



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