A Survivor's Guide On How To Handle Friends Who Leave During Cancer
When you first hear the words "you have cancer," I believe the typical thoughts began to circulate in your brain. These thoughts include: "Am I going to die," "How sick will I get from treatment," "How will I take care of my family," etc. The thought "I may lose some of my closest friends" never comes to mind.
At first, my friends rallied around me. They planned fundraisers, sent words of encouragement, called daily and were there whenever I needed them.
As my treatment plan began to unfold, my circle of friends began to diminish. The constant messages and words of encouragement began to fade. Invites to hang out or go to dinner weren't sent. At first, I felt hurt and betrayed. I blamed cancer for another disruption in my life. I began to lean on the friends that stepped up. Over time I realized that I couldn't take their disappearances personally.
I didn't scare them away, it was the bigger world of cancer that did that. Everyone handles difficult situations in their own way, just like cancer patients handled their diagnoses. I was extremely open about my diagnosis and shared my emotions with many people and started a blog. I have met other individuals who are more private about sharing their diagnosis. I dramatically changed post treatment and unfortunately became more judgmental because of it.
I had a hard time being around ego driven friends as I couldn’t give them the attention they desired when my focus was, for obvious reasons, elsewhere. I couldn’t listen to my philosophical friends ponder what life is all about when they hadn’t been pushed to the limits like I just had. I couldn’t stand listening to the "woe is me" friends as they had no understanding that a bad day could be much worse. I couldn't be around my drama crazy friends because all I wanted was peace in my life. I didn’t lose these friendships as much as they haven’t been the same as they were before cancer. Cancer may have turned my world upside down and I lost some friends but I also learned some valuable lessons.
I learned not every friendship is beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life to show you who you can be, to teach you to love yourself, to make you feel better for a little while, or to just be someone to walk with at night and spill your life onto. Not everyone is going to stay forever.
As a survivor, we move on, keep going and thank them for what they've given us. These are my five biggest pieces of advice:
- Don't take your friends disappearing personally.
- Be grateful for the friends who stepped up.
- Connect with other patients or survivors.
- Find a passion.
- Love yourself, no matter what.
In the end, I honestly don’t think I really knew what true friendship was until now. The old friends that stuck it out during cancer and the people I met during treatment are probably the most real friendships I’ve ever experienced. There really is no reason to fix old damaged relationships when the new ones are so strong. You don’t need countless friends, you just need the ones that count.
Did any of your friends suddenly leave after a cancer diagnosis? Share in the comments below.