A couple of people have asked me to write about when friends disappear or when people go all awkward when you are diagnosed with BC. This is followed by 15 Tips for when people don’t act like you thought they would.
BC can be confronting
BC may raise issues for other people. It may trigger memories of a lost loved one or raise uncomfortable issues about those squeamish medical stories. Illness simply makes many people uncomfortable.
BC can bring out the warmest support and care from friends and family. But also BC can illicit ‘nothing’ from many people. All of this lack of warmth can hurt a lot. It can make you feel angry, disappointed, confused, alone and rejected – when you are already trying to deal with the BC.
- think that illness is something that you can opt in and opt out of i.e. your illness is not my thing or I’m too young to have to deal with this.
- do not know what to say and instead of saying “I don’t know what to say”, they say…nothing and sometimes, just disappear.
- have so many things happening in their lives that they can’t give to others. So they conserve their life energy and don’t give any of their energy to you. OR some people are going through challenging personal times and don’t want to share that with you as you have enough on your plate to deal with.
- have for whatever reason, made a decision to NOT be there for you. You may never know why.
- don’t want to bother you as they know you are not 100%. Some also don’t want to discuss BC with you as they might upset you.
- know that you are going through a hard time…so instead of being supportive, tell you lots of awful things that they are going through to kind of make you feel less alone. It ends up being a negative situation and makes the friendship one that isn’t good for you when you need positivity.
- are busy. Life seems to be so much busier these days. People often are thinking of you but have multiple commitments and deadlines.
- Compassion fatigue is also a factor. I have found that some people were wonderful for the first month and then I didn’t see them again. I think for most people, BC gets a bit boring after six months. They are kind of over it and feel that you should be better by now. Well, aren’t you!
They just don’t understand
- People don’t always understand or ‘get’ BC unless they’ve been though something similar. Some people do not understand how difficult or complex BC can be. They do not realise that staying in touch is really important and that how you feel at Day One of BC is not how you feel at Day 33 or Day 365. Because BC is such a variety of illnesses – some mild, some medium and some long and drawn out, some survivors might feel terrible at Day 365 and need more support than at Day One. I also may need most support during and after the chemo than with radiation therapy for example.
- I have also found some employers very supportive and others simply don’t understand.
I have found that with BC, a few good friends and family members have stuck with me. Others have disappeared but for a variety of reasons…and some people aren’t in touch but I know they care about me. But there have been times when I have wondered why someone wasn’t in touch.
Whatever the reason, it is not about you.
It is true. People do come in to your life for a season, a reason or a lifetime. It is easy to say that phrase that but sometimes, it takes time to get to that place of peace. That Let it Be stage.
Cancer is personal development
As well as being a physical illness, BC requires you to go through an emotional, mental and spiritual experience:
- If you have a long and/or a really difficult BC experience, it is likely that you are a lot stronger for it. And …a slightly different person. So sometimes, when you are very strong and courageous, you draw stronger and more courageous people to you. Some of your flippety floppity friends may just not have as much in common with you.
- Part of BC is doing this on your own i.e. no one can do your chemo or surgery for you. But do surround yourself with only positive and supportive people when you want to be with people.
- Part of the BC experience is getting on a trail to the unknown. No one knows the exact outcome. It is a bit of a mystery who will be your closest friends at the end of BC as BC really does provide a sifting experience for friends and family. You will end up with a dear group of great people but it will not be what you expected.
- And as old friends disappear, new ones come in. That is the amazing thing. As you finish your BC journey and I hope you do, you will find life is different in a good and surprising way.
15 Tips for when people don’t act like you thought they would…
- Let people know what you need and how comfortable you are to discuss BC.
- Keep a blog so people can find out how you are without bothering you. This is also good for demystifying the cancer journey so people are educating themselves while reading how you are.
- Be as assertive as you can be and if you can’t be assertive, ask someone else to help with communications (as it can be quite tiring).
- My friend Amanda talks about putting it all out there. If you put all the information out there to everyone, no one needs to feel awkward. This has worked really well for her.
- Get a BC friend or two – whether that is through the Cancer Society, a support group or just someone you know going through BC. It will help you talk about the rollercoaster of BC.
- Support, support and support. See a counsellor, therapist, art therapist, talk to your local Cancer Society Nurse and talk to supportive friends. Write, do art and express how you feel.
- Accept offers of help from people.
- Be around people who are supportive, kind and positive.
- Be grateful for your support crew, the ones who go to hospital appointments, ring you, visit and talk to you about the uncomfortable stuff. A gratitude journal is a good idea too.
- Maintain your energy. You don’t have to be the one who contacts friends all the time; kind of wait and see who wants to be your BC buddy. Focus on your health and doing things you enjoy.
- Be mindful – notice things without judgement. Notice how you feel after spending time with people – do you feel positive or drained? Notice that the people who are there for you are literally there with you. It will be a surprise to see who is there with you at the BC finish line; it may not be the people that you think.
- Be peaceful. Meditate and sit with emotions when you feel able to do that.
- Hang in there. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
- Check out my free e-Book on 10 Dos and Don’ts for Supporting Someone with BC and forward it to anyone you think might want to read it.
- Read the following poem:
People come into your life
for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON. . .
It is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
to provide you with guidance and support,
to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are!
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part,
or at an inconvenient time, this person will say
or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die.
Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met,
our desire fulfilled, their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered.
And now it is time to move on.
Then people come into your life for a SEASON….
Because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons:
things you must build upon in order to have
a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all
other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.