On Wednesday from 7am until 7pm MacMillan Cancer Support held a pop-up art installation in Paddington, as part of their ‘Not Alone’ campaign to raise awareness of the loneliness cancer patients feel, and I went along to see what it was all about. Naturally intrigued by art and creativity, but also by what they would do to raise awareness for such a moving and touching subject – most people will know of someone who is/has suffered from cancer.

The ‘Isolation box’, a box with a two-sided mirror so you could see in but not out was positioned in the middle of the busy Paddington concourse. Individuals could go inside the box and listen to a short audio from a cancer patient about loneliness through a headset, whilst the busy commuters were bustling about around the box, looking in to see what was going on. The aim being to evoke the same feelings of loneliness and isolation many cancer patients experience, after diagnosis.

Macmillan 'Not Alone' Isolation Box

Macmillan "Not Alone' Isolation Box

I spoke to one of the lovely team who were manning the box and process at Paddington about the location. She said Paddington was selected for the footfall and to show that life just carries on around you – When someone is diagnosed with cancer, everything else does just carry on.

She also said that the Macmillan Isolation box had been very popular, they had had lots of interest, many going inside to experience the pop-up and listen to the patients’ stories. They had also raised money throughout the event too, which is great.

I took my housemate with me (She’s super passionate about things like this) and we both had a turn in the box. It was so strange, you didn’t know where to look – You don’t just want to stare at your reflection, apparently many look at the floor – and the audio was extremely moving, it almost brought tears to my eyes! It’s hard to hear just how lonely people can get.

Macmillan 'Not Alone' Isolation Box

Macmillan 'Not Alone' Isolation Box

This pop-up was launched in line with new research which was carried out my Macmillan Cancer Support on loneliness. They revealed some shocking and upsetting figures:

  • An estimated 550,000 people in the UK – 22% of those living with cancer – suffer with loneliness as a result of their cancer
  • Research also revealed the devastating impact that loneliness can have on people’s lives, with many forced to skip meals or attend vital appointments alone. At worst this can result in patients refusing treatment altogether.
  • Of those who are lonely, almost half (47%) feel this way despite having as much social contact as they want and more than half (56%) are married or have a partner, showing that loneliness can affect even those surrounded by family and loved ones.

Caroline, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2013 and helped launch the ‘Isolation Box’, said: “During the initial shock stage people were there for me, but that tails off quite quickly when people think you’re ‘getting better’. A lot of people don’t like to talk about cancer or ask how you’re doing, because they are scared of saying the wrong thing. But that just made me feel lonelier and like nobody cared or had time for me. Many people just don’t realise how isolating cancer can be. It’s so important to reach out and help make sure no one faces cancer alone.”

This new research and the quote from Caroline really support what Macmillan are doing in raising awareness for such a big aspect of the cancer patient experience. Even having family and friends around you can not be enough, it could be the little things which make all the difference – just asking how everything is going! Fancy a cuppa and a chat? To help the person diagnosed with cancer know they are ‘Not Alone’!

Macmillan have actually launched a new website full of advice and inspiration to help people reach out to someone they know with cancer and how to offer the support they might need – The Source, . Whether that’s going to a hospital appointment with them, offering to cook a hot meal, or helping them access advocacy services.

You can find this here: www.macmillan.org.uk/source.

I really can’t stress enough how much of a fantastic campaign this is, raising awareness for such an important subject. The research is shocking and to bring this to light the pop-up Isolation Box was a fab creative way to demonstrate this in a way the general public would be receptive – people are naturally inquisitive!

I will be supporting Macmillan in any way I can, and I know my housemate will be too!

Chloe xx