As an introvert, I’m particularly comfortable being on my own, in fact, I often prefer it. Being on my own and conducting my own solitary activities is how I recharge, how I refill my energy. Time around people and having to be “on” in terms of interacting and keeping my energy up is tiring.
I’ve never experienced such loneliness as the time I’m often on my own after my diagnosis with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).
I suppose part of that could be that my life and circles have shrunk since my diagnosis. There is no longer an office and a to-do list a mile long to complete as well as employees and administrative issues as well as legal work to do. Many of the colleagues that I connected with regularly have moved on with their lives and careers while mine has changed substantially.
While I’m sure these objective factors do affect my feelings of isolation and loneliness, as well as the pandemic and the fact that my days and weeks and months are typically filled with medical appointments, I think the largest factor is that there are few people around me who have had the same experiences. The significant and often consuming work of simply staying alive means that my communication and learning and time are so laser focused to be overwhelming for those outside the MBC Community. No one else is so interested in the results of every blood test and charting the changing levels of various vitamins or markers in my blood, outside of maybe my husband.
And so there is a plethora of time for inward musing and time on my own.
An introvert’s dream?
To a certain extent, yes. I now have the space and time to recharge as needed. My days are filled with experiences that were often very rare before, like massages. The sad fact of the matter is that my limited energy is even more limited since my diagnosis and more things exhaust me than before. I find myself canceling much more often than I ever did before.
At the same time, the need to connect with others in the MBC Community, to find those people who are similarly focused on research and those pesky numbers on the blood tests, has risen in importance. I never understood before how important it is to connect with people with similar experiences since I was typically surrounded by those who were pursuing similar goals in the past. Now I do understand how hearing “I had the same experience” can fill a void you never really realized was there.