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One woman who reads my Blog wrote me about her long-time friends who frequently stayed as guests at her cottage on the East Coast free of charge. When she was diagnosed with cancer, these friends never contacted her to offer their help or support in any way. Eight months had elapsed through her Mastectomy, Chemo and Radiation and total silence on their part. She was so angry at these friends, wanted to share her pain and ask my opinion. I told her I had no solutions, but understand this to be the experience of most cancer patients as I have seen thousands of posts on this topic.
As a follow up, I wrote her again to inquire what happened with her “friends.” She said as soon as she completed treatment, they contacted her and indicated they were ready to go to her cottage with her and her husband, never mentioning what she had just been through. Basically, she told them what she thought about fair-weather friends and let them know they would never be staying with her again. She said she experienced much freedom emotionally after this conversation.
I’ve been trying to figure this out since my cancer diagnosis. Why do some friends step forward and help you immediately in loving, kind and supportive ways, and other friends disappear never to return until you (1) are through cancer treatment and live or (2) until they run into you and have to face you. This has been extremely perplexing to me.
Two of the top searches on my Blog consistently are:
1) What to Say to a Cancer patient
2) When friends abandon you during cancer
So the first group is wondering what to say to their cancer patient friend, and the second group is feeling totally abandoned. They both care enough to search the internet for answers.
This all has been beyond me until I discovered an extremely interesting article in The New York Times entitled “Coping with Crises Close to Someone Else’s Heart.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/health/views/17essa.html?_r=2&ref=health&pagewanted=all
It is a fascinating article which explains that the people who abandon you are terrified that they will attract trauma into their own lives and are desperately afraid to be close to your trauma. Of course it explains it in much more psychological depth, so I suggest reading the article!
When I examined my wonderful friends and family members who have supported me in unbelievable and consistent ways, I realize that all of them have been through traumas in their own lives. They are not afraid of trauma. They have gone through their trials, learned their lessons, and have become stronger and more balanced individuals as a result of them.
People who abandon others either have had no traumas or had traumas, but always ran away from them either by not facing them, running to their addictions, or by putting a happy face sticker over the trauma and never dealing with the psychological or emotional issues.
This article brought me a little peace and a little understanding. But I am still working through my anger. UPDATE: I am now one year post treatment. I have cleaned out my friend’s closet. Those who abandoned me are not part of my life now. If I see them or our paths cross, I am polite.