CHICAGO — Claudia Peyton went to the doctor’s office alone to receive the terrifying diagnosis.
Doctors told her she had an aggressive breast cancer, which would require surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Treatments would be so intense, she’d need rides to every appointment. And sometimes she would be too sick to get out of bed.
“All I could do was sob,” said Peyton, 55, who is single and remembers coming back to her studio apartment afterward and collapsing in grief. “There was fear and anxiety and I wanted to feel supported.”
So the former adjunct fine arts professor at Northern Illinois University and Harper College did what she had to do to get through her illness. She assembled a remarkable team of family, friends and ultimately, strangers, who drove her to chemotherapy sessions, brought over dinner and even did fundraising to make sure her bills were paid when she was too sick to work.
“I’d come from an upbringing where I believed that I had to do everything alone,” said Peyton of Chicago’s Roscoe Village. “I think when you realize when your life might be limited, all my baggage needed to go and I needed to invite people in for support.”
Alone as Peyton felt after her diagnosis last year, the experience is becoming increasingly common for a growing number of single people like her diagnosed with cancer and facing the prospect of fighting for their lives alone, experts say. Their solo efforts to triumph over the disease are inspiring additional resources and training for medical staff as well as encouraging new support groups, according to advocates.