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Up to 40,000 cancer patients live alone - and one in three sufferers needs practical and emotional support, says AECC
AN ESTIMATED 40,000 residents in Spain who suffer cancer live on their own, and many of them have no sources of help from friends or family, according to figures from the AECC.
The country's main cancer charity made this devastating, but unsurprising, revelation to coincide with International Cancer Survivors' Day.
One in three people in treatment for cancer need regular help of some description – mostly psychological, but also practical, such as lifts to chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments, someone to call on to take them to A&E if they run a temperature or suffer a bad reaction, which are fairly common; or even someone to help with cooking, cleaning and shopping and to bring them food and drinks.
Of these one in three – about a million in total – 40% need emotional support and counselling and 28% need practical help.
And considerable scientific research exists to show that those patients with cancer who live alone and have to fend for themselves physically and emotionally have a much worse prognosis than those who have friends, family or partners around them at all times.
AECC volunteer Susana ('Susi') García Dalmau began helping out with the charity after she was forced to call on them herself.
She lives on her own in Barcelona, widowed after her husband died just six months after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and although her children live close by, she mostly had to fend for herself after a routine health check 18 months ago uncovered breast cancer.
Although she generally felt fit and well during her six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiotherapy sessions, and her three children helped as much as they could, Susi says: “There were times when, after getting home from chemotherapy, I just wanted to be alone in the bedroom to rest – but later on I'd feel a bit better and feel like a cup of tea.
“And there was nobody to make me one.”
She says accompanying patients to hospital and at home is 'one of the most-requested services' the AECC offers, and calls for assistance by cancer sufferers who live on their own have risen by 52% since 2013.
The 40,000 who live alone are expected to rise in number over the coming years – until recently, Spain's demographic has been of extended families living close by and helping each other out, but greater mobility with younger adults relocating or emigrating for work, and the number of foreign residents having shot up since the end of the 1990s, means one-person households and residents with no family nearby are far more frequent.
For Susi, the end of the story has been a positive one – as well as making lifelong friends through her volunteering and being helped by the AECC, she has been declared cancer-free and has progressed to six-monthly check-ups which will continue until she has gone for five years without any treatment.
Photograph by the AECC
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