Feeling Isolated? Open the Door

Author, blogger and online friend Nancy Stordahl recently shared a piece on the METAvivor blog about the isolation many metastatic breast cancer patients experience, and the variety of contributing factors. I urge you to read her post here: Ending the Isolation – Every Voice Matters. I agree whole-heartedly with Nancy.

In fact, about a week before I read Nancy’s post I had been thinking about this issue of understanding. Knowing how to share what we endure is a delicate balance of time and place and degree of detail. We are generally well aware that no one around us lives in the disease the way we do, and when we are lucky with effective treatments that aren’t particularly debilitating, our illness is largely invisible. When MBC patients claim that others can’t understand unless they have been here, then we check out of trying to share their experience. If we stick to that, then we perpetuate our own isolation. We can’t blot the door and blame others for not walking through it.

Nancy writes:

If you have observed a loved one suffer and ultimately die from metastatic breast cancer, you understand a whole lot, but still you don’t really know. Until it happens to you and your body, you can’t really know. This is true of many things in life.

Her last line was already in my head before I finished the paragraph before it. It is true for so many things in life. When I trained as a social worker one of the first things we were taught is that we don’t have to have a client’s particular experience to bring forth our empathy – there are many opportunities for us to leverage our own situations to understand the feelings of others. We do so every time we cry at a movie or offer sympathy to another, and in countless other situations. It is true that unless we live through most things we can’t completely understand. It’s also true that we can come close enough to lend support and encouragement, share fears and frustrations, and express our mutual fury at the loss that is metastatic breast cancer.

As always, I am grateful to Nancy for her frank and thought-provoking perspective. While there are plenty of people who don’t want MBC patients to disrupt their own denial, it’s important that we find the ones who are standing at the door with support, thank them, welcome them, and help them learn.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nancyspoint
    Jan 22, 2015 @ 06:51:50

    Hi Lori,
    Thank you for the kind words about my METAvivor post. I will always be ‘standing at the door’ offering whatever support I can. xx


    • Anonymous
      Jan 28, 2015 @ 10:59:33


      People like you, who fully understand the complicated world of MBC and use your platform to speas the word within the “world of pink” and beyond who are critical to shifting attention. I owe you a debt of gratitude…


  2. bethgainer
    Jan 22, 2015 @ 08:34:20

    I will also be “standing at the door.” Thank you for this insightful post.


  3. jbaird
    Jan 25, 2015 @ 20:54:11

    I can really identify as a metavivor. Just having someone to listen is an incredible lift to the spirits of those like me who feel isolated at times. I posted on a similar theme last week. xxx


    • Anonymous
      Jan 28, 2015 @ 11:02:25

      Jan! I agree – it’s hard for some to even listen, isn’t it? I suppose for many we represent their greatest fears, but turning their backs on us isn’t going to change that.


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