Mum-of-three Karen Fitzgerald has spoken of the loneliness she felt after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Her case has been highlighted by Macmillian Cancer Support, which estimates there are 9,000 cancer patients in Lancashire who are struggling with similar feelings.
Karen, 46, from Chorley, was diagnosed with incurable cancer 11 months ago after doctors found secondary tumours in her neck, stomach and left side of her body.
They could not identify the primary cancer however, and estimated she would live for just eight months Karen, who had to give up her job as a tax advisor for HMRC, found this hard to accept, and with no ‘cancer of unknown primary’ support groups in the area, she started feeling lonely and isolated.
She said: “Due to the nature of the cancer, I was passed from specialist to specialist as they each tried to diagnose me. As soon as I built up a rapport with one person, I’d be moved on to the next.
“It was very hard and I felt I had no one to talk to. I felt so alone.
“There were times when I didn’t want to leave the house.
“After my first chemotherapy session, I couldn’t stop crying which was unlike me as I’m normally such a positive person.”
She finally found support in the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support service at Preston Royal Hospital, which helped her come to terms with her condition and confront its practical and emotional challenges.
Karen added: “My prognosis hasn’t changed, but there are some people who have lived for seven years after being diagnosed.
“I’ve just had to come to terms with it. I can’t curl up because I’ve got three boys, aged 16, 22 and 24, so I just have to get on with it.”
Ciarán Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s hard enough for people being hit with the devastating news that they have cancer, without having to suffer the additional effects that being lonely brings.
“Macmillan provides a range of services – including a Support Line and an online community – that are a lifeline to people affected by cancer.
“But we simply can’t help everyone who needs us now, let alone those who will need us in the future so we need more public donations and support.
“We also urgently need the NHS, policy makers and local authorities to wake up to this looming loneliness epidemic and work with us to provide these vital services to ensure no one faces cancer alone.”