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The Voice of People With Breast Cancer


Our Voices Blog

Single and Breast Cancer? You may be on your own, but you don’t have to go through it alone

By Adriana Ermter

In our monthly column, senior writer and editor Adriana Ermter shares her personal experiences with breast cancer.

I was single when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Freshly divorced too. I’m still single, because let’s be honest, I’m insecure about what my right boob and armpit now look like, never mind the fact that I’m still carrying 40 pounds of Tamoxifen weight. So, when I think about the idea of being naked in front of another human being, it makes me want to run upstairs into my bedroom, rip open my dresser drawers, pull out and put on every single pair of big panties, sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts I own all at the same time. But that’s the easy part. The emotional stuff is harder.

What breast cancer did to my sense of self…
Having a breast cancer diagnosis felt like being soaked in gasoline, before lighting a match and watching my innermost sense of security go up in flames. I’ve since scooped up the ashes and saved them, but I can’t breathe life back into them, they just scatter. What I have now is a new kind of awareness or maybe it’s an awakening, I’m not really sure what to call it. But it’s a distinct and very real shift that has more intensity and lasting impact than realizing and overcoming a painful memory, a career loss or even, a heartbreaking divorce. At least it was for me.

…and partly because I was single and alone
I don’t think we’re meant to go through such momentous experiences alone. Friends, family, and cats (or dogs) are invaluable, for sure. My furball Trixie-Belle was my true and best comfort. Still, it’s not the same as having that one person who loves you, does your laundry, knows your secrets, helps you shower, sleeps in the same bed with you, supports your every barf session in the bathroom, and fulfils the necessary sweaty sheet change in the middle of the night. Being alone when you find the lump, are diagnosed with cancer, have surgery, endure treatment, and start to inch your life forward is scary and incredibly isolating. I couldn’t talk to anyone about what was happening to me in deep detail; it felt far too private and I didn’t want to be judged.

How sharing lessened my feelings of aloneness and helped me reclaim myself
I eventually found relief and reconnected to myself in an unexpected way when I bumped into a former colleague and blurted “I have breast cancer,” while standing in the middle of a downtown street in Toronto. I’d always liked this woman; she was genuine and kind. She encouraged me to write about my experiences with breast cancer to share with other women. I didn’t want to. I didn’t believe I had anything to say that could possibly help another woman. My friend was persistent though, and I finally gave in.

Writing about my experiences has been cathartic. More importantly though, it has granted me access to my people—a community of women who understand me, what I’ve gone and continue to go through, and with whom I can be fully vulnerable. These women are you. You have been my greatest gift and I will forever be grateful. You have helped me understand this disease better, empowered me to reclaim myself, allowed me to rant and air all of my gross and dirty laundry without even blinking an eye. And for all of that and the words I don’t know how to express, I thank you.

You don’t have to be a writer or want to share publicly in this way though, to heal and to feel heard and seen like I have. There are four easy to access resources that you can tap into whenever the time is right. Each one tailored to the unique needs of us, all the single ladies, who are dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis on their own.

1. CancerConnection Canada: A Virtual Safe Space

This online platform provides a safe space to share your experiences and to find solace in the stories of others. Here, it’s okay to be single. It’s also understood, because you can connect with other women who comprehend the unique challenges of navigating breast cancer alone and without a partner. Backing this up, a 2017 study, titled After Breast Cancer Pooling Project and published by the National Library of Medicine showed that those engaged in supportive communities experience reduced feelings of isolation and increased emotional well-being.

How to get involved: Click onto the CancerConnection’s website at and create a free account. The website offers forums and discussions that you can participate in, along with private messaging to chat with individuals you feel most connected to.

2. Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation: In-person and Online Wellness Programs

I’ve written about Wellspring before, as they offer a wide range of different programs, from cooking classes and yoga to self-development and art. Every program is free, and you don’t need a referral from your doctor to join one. They’re also specifically designed to support cancer patients emotionally, physically and psychologically. Because their inclusive approach addresses the unique needs of single women, they simultaneously provide a sense of community, which is super important. According to a 2022 survey by the National Cancer Institute, individuals participating in holistic support programs experience improved mental health and overall well-being.

How to get involved: Log onto to find the center closest to you and enroll in workshops, support groups and activities that align with your needs and schedule. Each one, fosters a sense of community that can be a crucial source of strength for you.

3. HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre’s Peer Support Programming: One-on-One Connections

The HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre has a peer support program that can connect you, one on one, with someone who has gone through a similar breast cancer experience. Having a dedicated person to talk to, who gets you, who knows how to listen and when to share can be a huge lifeline of informational and practical emotional support and companionship. It’s different than talking to your best friend or your mom; they’ve been where you are. A 2021 study conducted by the Sichuan University’s Department of Nursing and published in Science Direct shows the positive impact peer support can have on your life, inclusive of significantly improving your quality of life and your self-efficacy, while alleviating feelings of depression and anxiety among cancer patients.

How to get involved: Contact the HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre’s peer program online at or email A trained volunteer will be matched with you, offering a friendly ear to share experiences, concerns, and triumphs.

4. Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation: Specifically for Single Women

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by single women, the Breast Cancer Supportive Care Foundation offers resources and programs specifically designed to meet your needs. I wish I’d known about this service when I was newly diagnosed and undergoing surgery and treatment. Their programs can help you realize that, while you may be single, you’re not alone. Informative and resourceful, they help alleviate the burden of doing all of the thinking and research alone, letting you focus more on healing. Engaging with this kind of tailored support has been shown to greatly benefit single individuals undergoing cancer treatment both emotionally and physically. The National Cancer Institute affirms this on their website, stating that joining a support group tailored to your cancer experience can improve your quality of life and your survival.

How to get involved: Visit the foundation's Facebook page at to explore their resources catering to single women. You can also participate in their online support groups, access their educational materials, and connect with mentors who understand the nuances of solo navigation through breast cancer.

Adriana Ermter is a multi award-winning writer and editor. Her work can be read in Sotheby’s Insight, Living Luxe and IN Magazine, as well as online at,, and The former Beauty Director for FASHION and Editor-in-Chief for Salon and Childview magazines lives in Toronto with her two very spoiled rescue cats, Murphy and Olive. You can follow Adriana on Instagram @AdrianaErmter.