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When Your Friends Disappear After Breast Cancer

Friends and Breast Cancer
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It’s happened to all of us. We have something big happen in our lives and all of a sudden our friends seem to disappear. Just when we need them the most they aren’t messaging or coming around.

This seems to happen regularly after a breast cancer diagnosis; I see it a lot. Relationships are complicated, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Hopefully my take on this issue of disappearing friends can help some people to navigate something that can be distressing at an already difficult time.

First, let me start with a little disclaimer. I don’t know that I am the best person to weigh in on this topic – or perhaps, ironically, because of this I am – but I am not one to be reliant on my friends for, well, anything really. I am an independent soul who believes only I am responsible for my own happiness.

I choose my friends carefully, and I don’t suffer fools. I prefer to be alone than deal with friendship drama, so I rarely have disagreements, arguments or negative experiences with my friends. If that happens too much, mostly I move on.

So when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my friendships didn’t change. People called when they felt like it or popped in if they wanted to. I didn’t feel like it was any different to how things had always been.

So in some ways it’s hard for me to understand why friends and family would suddenly disappear after a breast cancer diagnosis. Oh, I understand how it happens – all of a sudden those people don’t know how to be around you. They don’t understand cancer and they are scared to say or do the wrong thing. They don’t want to upset you.

Perhaps there are other reasons too. Perhaps you’ve always been the strong one, the one that has always helped with their problems, but now they don’t know how to help you in return. Perhaps your cancer is triggering their own memories. Perhaps they really are that selfish (in which case you are better off without them IMHO!).

Like everyone, there have been times thought my life where I have felt my friends have deserted me. I’ve felt betrayed and deceived and yes, lonely, when I’m no longer included (even if it was my choice!). It’s not a nice feeling.

A big part of my personal philosophy in all aspects of my life is that I am the one I control here (yes, control freak vibes are strong!). No one but me chooses how I live my life. That means I control how I feel, and so if I am feeling lonely and deserted by my friends, there is only one way to fix that.

That way does not involve sitting around feeling sorry for myself and waiting for my friends and family to make contact with me!

Perhaps they are sitting at home, also feeling lonely and deserted by their friends and going through something of their own that no one has bothered to ask about! Or perhaps it’s been a busy week at work and the kids have had a thousand things on and their elderly dog has just had to be put down. Perhaps they are at the end of their own tether.

Perhaps they are wondering why their friends are not contacting them!

You see, just because you and I have cancer, and that has completely overtaken our worlds, that’s not central to our friends’ lives. Everyone’s first concern is about themselves, and probably their kids and partner. We are all, in a way, self-centred. We have to be. It also doesn’t mean our friends have forgotten us in our time of need.

So if we want to feel less lonely, we have to be the one to reach out! Be proactive and help yourself, don’t rely on others to do it for you. Remember you can only control your own actions, not the actions of others. So send a text or a message, pick up the phone and call, or even pay them a visit.

Ask yourself – are you being a good friend to them right now?

This is often something I think about it all sorts of contexts. We often “blame” others for not contacting us – but have we made an effort to contact them? How can we feel sad and upset over something that we haven’t made an effort to fix. It could be as simple as a brief text message saying “How are you?” that will get the ball rolling.

I’ve been on the other side of this fence. I had a friend say to me one day that they thought they must have done something wrong because I hadn’t caught up with them as much as I had in years gone past. They were feeling upset, but I had no idea.

I was in a really busy part of my life with a stressful job I wasn’t loving, a shift-working husband, two very busy teenagers that needed to be driven everywhere. It was all I could do to get through the week, and on the weekends I did the housework and collapsed on the lounge!

I wasn’t meaning to ignore her, I just didn’t have the capacity to think of anyone else. (I actually think of that time as more stressful than during my cancer treatment, so that’s saying something!)

If she had called or messaged though, I could have told her, and explained it wasn’t her, I wasn’t catching up with anyone! It all could have been resolved, instead she spent months wondering what she had done wrong.

Another upside to asking how your friends are is that when listening to their problems, you have some time away from your own. Breast cancer can become so overwhelming and all-encompassing, it’s nice to have some time where we are no thinking about it.

So rather than feeling lonely and sad and waiting for others to contact you, take the initiative. Do it. Just send that text. And you will soon have a text in return.

Want to read more of my story? Here are some of the key posts

Here are some other posts that will help you navigate through your breast cancer experience

Have you joined a breast cancer support group on Facebook but been completely overwhelmed by some of the posts? It’s fantastic that these groups are an open forum and all sorts of questions, worries and issues are addressed, but sometimes they can be too much. In fact sometimes they can be downright scary.

If you would still like to join a support group on Facebook but not be faced with some of the scarier aspects when you don’t want to see them, come and join Positive Breast Cancer Stories. Here we share positive stories, celebrate milestones and encourage each other rather than deal with the technical information >>
Click here to join now

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