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Death of a friendship.

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

Over this summer I have been surprised by people's reaction to my having breast cancer. Most have done a lot to support me. I felt overall that I am loved and valued by many people and that helped me more then I can say. Unfortunately, I just ended a friendship of 45 years (we knew each other from the diaper years). She lives 40 minutes away, doesn't work and her children were in camp. She did the phone calls where she asked how I was, and said "what can I do?" but never actually spoke to me or did anything. This woman has disappointed me many times over the years (being rude to my husband on several occasions, blowing me off for other "more important" friends etc.)In short, being friends with her has not been enjoyable for many years. We have a mutual friend in another state who told me that it was about time I ended this painful relationship. My family (who have followed the drama for the past 45 years) agree that she is not a good friend to me. It took having cancer to make me face up to many truths in my life. I am still amazed at how far reaching this disease is. I am sad to acknowledge how long I perpetuated a lie in thinking this person cared about me. I told her this and also told her "goodbye".

Has anyone else had other changes in their lives as a fallout of your cancer?

mmontero38's picture
mmontero38
Posts: 1532
Joined: Dec 2007

Hi guitarmom, you will find so many surprises going down this road. You may get help from the unexpected and get slighted from the expected. I always said that a catastrophe shows you who your friends really are. Take joy in those that have offered to help and are there when you need them. Don't dwell on the what ifs or has beens because life is too short. And most importantly..... take one step at a time. You have us here to offer you support also. Hugs, Lili

m_azingrace
Posts: 399
Joined: Jul 2009

In my case, when I was diagnosed, I did a kind of mental housecleaning, deciding who to tell and who should not be told. I took serious inventory of the people in our lives.

I have two [former] friends whom I purposely distanced myself from, long before my diagnosis. These two gals have disappointed me in the past, and have proven they cannot be trusted with personal information. I purposely have not told them about my cancer. They can find out "through the grapevine", which is where they get all their other information about people. I have seen first hand that their "concern" will be in making my cancer grist for the gossip mill.

I know them well enough to say that they would give lip service to "being there for me", but actually would always be too busy to really be bothered. When my husband was seriously ill a few years ago, they offered no comfort, support or assistance. I want to be surrounded only by positive people who truly care, who will not in some way try to make this be about them. My health has always been a private matter to me, so hubby and I have released the information on a "need to know basis".

Sickness brings out either the best or the worst in people. And perhaps shutting some people out reveals a flaw of mine. However, because I know their past performance, I have chosen to insulate myself instead of becoming vulnerable again to their insincerities. At this time, we have enough to deal with already. Gracie

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

Thank you for your support. I feel like the Earth shifted under me and I am trying to regain my footing. I agree, you do get support in unexpected places. Gracie - unlike you I "went public" with my story. I felt it was too stressful to wonder "who knows?" and to field those smiling faces at work who ask "How is your summer? Any plans?" For me it worked out well for the most part. I sent out an e-mail telling my friends and co-workers that I had breast cancer and included a link to our team page for the Komen Race fot the Cure. Two people at work who I thought didn't care for me much actually reached out in a big way. We raised $2000 for the race so far (we're doing one on Oct 4th so we should raise more).
So much has changed. Sometimes I still feel really sad about some of the things that have happened.

chenheart's picture
chenheart
Posts: 5180
Joined: Apr 2003

I think, after reading your post, that you are not truly surprised that this friendship has died. I imagine, when you re-read it, and contemplate your history with her, coupled with the obvious which your family has long noted, that she was not the definition of a Friend. And, had you witnessed a family member of yours being so ill-treated over the years, you would have reached the same conclusion. Sometimes we just need to step back and look at things from a different perspective. Your perspective (sigh!) is cancer.

Cancer did not end your friendship! At most, fighting for your life has given YOU the courage to do things you probably never thought you would be doing. And foremost on that? Surrounding yourself with as many HEALTHY things as possible! Be it medicine, or soft sheets, good books, and especially nurturing, loving people, you are letting go of those things/people which will not contribute to your well being. I hate thinking that it took cancer to make this happen. I do know this: Had your erstwhile friend gotten cancer and not you, YOU would have been the friend to her that she is not being to you. It is your personality and heart coming to the fore...not a disease!

I also know that you might mourn the loss of something that has lasted so long, even if it was not the best relationship. But you will move ahead, and concentrate on the business of living life with those who truly value you!

I am known for repeating, ad nauseum, quotes which I love! And one that applies to you comes to mind: "We do what we have to do, so that we can do what we want to do". I know you can figure out why I said that!

Be well, you have made friends with more people, sight unseen, than you can ever imagine!

Hugs,
Claudia

zahalene's picture
zahalene
Posts: 680
Joined: Nov 2005

We usually have a pretty clear idea of what we want from any given friendship. For instance, we may consider the door man of our building a good friend because he greets us warmly and knows our kids names and even goes out of his way to help us with packages or such. Actually he is just doing his job, but with a personal touch that blesses us. We would not, however, even consider asking him for a loan to make our late car payment, for instance.
On the other hand, we may have someone we consider a true friend whom we have known for years and have come to trust and rely on for just about anything. But when the car payment comes due and we ask this person for assistance, they may stumble and stutter and come up with some excuse why they just can't see us through right now. What a disappointment!
Actually, every relationship has limits and boundaries. Even someone who has stood by us through divorce, for instance, may say when confronted with our cancer....'sorry, I just can't go there with you.' Their response is not necessarily based on their 'weakness' as a friend, but rather on some personal issue they have which may not even be understood by themselves, much less by others around them.
Basically, you need people who can help see you through this crisis. The ones who can't may need to be put on 'hold' until you regain whatever strength you need to once again include them in your life. It really boils down to who is a liability and who is an asset in the battle you are engaged in. A permanent good-by may not be necessary. Especially if you have an emotional investment in this person. But it's your call. This is just my thoughts on the subject.
God bless.

Marcia527's picture
Marcia527
Posts: 2749
Joined: Jul 2006

I think some people were never meant to be in our lives our whole life anyway. Sometimes you just have to let go and go forward. We did change our life because of the cancer. We wanted to spend more time with our kids and ended up moving back where they lived.

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

like I have found a place of love, understanding and support here. Thank you all. I am glad, Marcia that you are near your kids. I'm sure you are happpier sharing your life with them and being a more present part of their's. I have been after my parents to move back near us for years. I do fear that they will wait too long and we will have to "bring them" when they are unable to care for themselves.

chickad52's picture
chickad52
Posts: 499
Joined: Jun 2009

It's funny how I have had friendships come and go through the years. I figure that they weren't true friends to begin with. My best friend is my husband!! We have been married 38 years. It's the people who I never thought were real good friends have been here for me the most. You are in my thoughts and prayers! Hugs, Diane

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

My husband of 16 years is my best friend also. We are constantly asking ourselves how we got so lucky. We only knew each other for four and a half months when we got engaged. Just knew I guess.

aztec45's picture
aztec45
Posts: 757
Joined: Jul 2009

I am sorry about your friend. I think the ladies have covered just about everything. It is unfortunate but I believe you really do find out who your friends are when there is some life altering event in your lives. In my case, I have encountered those who claim to care about me but only seek attention for themselves. You know, look at me, see what I am doing for the cancer ridden co-worker. My brother has let me down. It is not his fault entirely. His wife does not like the attention he gives me when he is caring for me after chemo. I disrupt her weekends, put her out, and take time away from her and my brother. She claims that she is concerned that I will pass on some of the viruses and fungus I have contracted from the chemo meds onto to her. Of course she is full of s--t, but my brother loves her and does whatever she wishes. I told my brother exactly how I felt about it and told him she was being rediculous, but out of love for my brother, I removed myselft from that situation so he would not have to deal with it. What goes around;comes around. But then I have some co-workers who walked for me and raised money for the Race for the Cure. They also donated some of their vacation days should I need them after chemo. So, I basically chuck the ones who hurt me, who are not helpful, and who do not make me feel good. And, I cling to those who truly support me. You got to do what is right for you and what is going to aid in your recovery.

Pat

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

It sounds like you work with some incredible people.

peggy65's picture
peggy65
Posts: 100
Joined: Jan 2009

people come and go during our lifetimes and it is hard to reconcile some of these situations. you followed your gut and got sick of her acting the way that she was toward you. good for you! i have had similar experiences and find it difficult to get to a place where i don't feel bad about it. keep your positive good sense on the front burner. blessings, peggy

LT
Posts: 31
Joined: Aug 2009

I haven't really had much of this type experience since I'm still working every day and no date for surgery, chemo, etc. yet. But this thread has set me to wondering about my own actions or lack of in the lives of my friends. I'm sorry to admit that looking back I see some less than shining moments. Times I bought a card, but got too busy and forgot about sending it, times I thought about calling, but got too busy......... I've never had a friend with anything as serious as cancer, but I'm afraid there were times I neglected those who were hurting and could have used my shoulder to cry on.
One thing I'm learning about this whole cancer journey - it's a discovery every day about who I am and who I want to be when I grow up. (Also, I will never again underestimate the power of a card or note from a friend. Aren't they wonderful? Phone calls are nice, but it can be so tiring and time-consuming to answer the same questions over and over. Besides, when I'm feeling low in the middle of the night I can reread those cards and be comforted all over again.)
I'm praying for a good Monday for all of you. Gotta go, gotta get this card on the couch ready for the morning mail!! Hugs to everyone, LT

chenheart's picture
chenheart
Posts: 5180
Joined: Apr 2003

I love you, LT! You didn't make any excuses, but you saw things from the "other side" of the equasion, and you are taking action! Bravo to you! I am so impressed by that, and I think it is so telling as to the type of person you are!

Hugs,
Chen♥

Cindy54's picture
Cindy54
Posts: 454
Joined: Aug 2006

I have learned to stop being so accomodating to people. I have had friends that, once they saw I was on my feet it became nothing more than lip service. I have left messages on answering machines, sent emails on my progress and my happy news. Last time I only got one reply back via email. Do I need new friends, did I do something wrong to cause this? I have stopped questioning and blaming myself. I have learned to just back away.I keep moving forward. i keep putting myself out there. But it seems the friends I have had are always too busy for this or that. They say...keep in touch. Well, I do, but they don't. I get tired of somone calling me three months later saying they think of me often, but they are busy. I have learned to walk away, even if my heart still cares for these friends. I have always been the first person to help, to reach out if anyone needs anything. And so many of the people I chose to call my friends have disappointed me. Cancer taught me that I was a survivor, and I deserved a lot more. So I have learned that the ones who matter will make an effort, the ones who don't, for one reason or another, are not really friends anymore. It's just sad sometimes. Cindy

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

I agree with you about feeling sad about losing a firend, but others were right in saying that a real friend wouldn't hurt you. My standards for who I call a friend and how I think of myself as a friend have been adjusted. Hopefully we will be better people and friends for these experiences.

Akiss4me's picture
Akiss4me
Posts: 2192
Joined: May 2009

I'm with you in checking my own behaviour. Pammy

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

Over the past few years a couple of experiences have taught me how much it means to reach out to people. The death of my father-in -aw and my husband's grandmother (who was like a second mother to him) made me think, like you, that I had missed so many opportunities over the years. One of my best friends said the same thing to me recently. I think we need to learn and move on. Maybe we didn't always act in the most supportive way, but now we GET IT! We can be those thoughtful people who others are gaining strength from. I have been so inspired by the friends and family who really stepped forward for me this summer. I will try my hardest to remember how important the big and small gestures of support were. I was always a talker and not the best listener, but I am learning how to listen, which may be the best type of support you can offer. I'm sure you will too. What a great world we would live in if everyone kept learning and growing.

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

It took me so many years, but I guess better late then never. Thanks for your good wishes!

MAJW
Posts: 2515
Joined: May 2009

Been down this road myself, since my "journey" began in April... Many people have surprised me with their help and care and others have been a HUGE disappointment.....My sister in law, whom I love like a sister and is a 20 bc survivor told me at the very beginning of this, "You will find out who your true friends are...." She was right on! One of these "friends" of 20+ years and lives 5 houses down, has called me exactly TWICE! And that was in the very beginning, she wanted the "gory" details about my biopsy and then my surgery......She passes my house on average 4 times a day....never once has she called to see if I so much as need something from the grocery.......If I sound bitter, I am...... She says "call me if you need anything." Yeah right I'm going to call and beg for help......get real! She and her husband have had illnesses and the husband has had 3 MAJOR surgeries in the past 3 years.......Guess who was there with them every step of the way? My husband and me! And I would do it all over again. I am by nature a real care giver, worked in the medical field for years. But this is a bitter pill to swallow.......Another "friend" at the beginning, said to me, "I'm not good with these kind of things." Not so much as a phone call since, 5 months now...I swear I want to ask them if they think cancer is contagious! But I have made tough decisions, I am cutting toxic people out of my life......I don't need this...they may have their reasons for staying away, but I have found I don't need or want them in my life any more. I have a wonderful supportive husband, grown supportive kids, 4 grands, fantastic extended family and TRUE friends......I don't need people who really don't care....Okay, I have vented........feel better!
prayers and best wishes to all
Nancy

padee6339's picture
padee6339
Posts: 765
Joined: Jun 2009

I know what its like. I lost not only a friend, but a whole family that I had been very close to over 30 years. That hurt, but being hurt makes us stronger I believe. I have neighbors who did the lip service, but one came through with chauffering me to and from the hospital when I needed to go in. One so-called friend told me that its "just breast cancer, not the real dying kind of cancer". She said I'd get over it. Needless to say, she's out. But there are so many others who came out of nowhere that have been my strongest support. I don't know why people are scared of those with cancer. Its not contageous. Who knows. Thank God for those who stand by us and who love us and are there for us every step of the way. We don't need the others. God Bless you and everyone here!
Pat

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

The people who disappoint us actually did us a favor. They made it easier to decide who belongs in our lives. I did not expect everyone I know to hold my hand, but a certain amount of support is expected form those closest to us. I was so happy with soem of teh small but big gestures from people I do not know very well. I'm so glad you had a neighbor who drove you. That's a very sweet gesture.

guitarmom2's picture
guitarmom2
Posts: 39
Joined: Aug 2009

I HATE IT when people say "is there anything I can do?" It puts the stress on you to think of something. The woman I was referring to said that many times. All I could think is "Gee, that's the kind of thing you say when you don't want to do anything" I ask my husband sometimes "do you want me to drive?" I always hope he'll say "No" and he usuallly does. I'm sorry your neighbors were such losers. How incredibly selfish of them to accept your help so many times and not return it.
I read an amazing quote, "Courage is doing what you must when doing what you must is the hardest thing of all" Obviously your friend who is "not good with these kind of things" isn't very couragous, but YOU ARE, so remember that!

Wolfi's picture
Wolfi
Posts: 425
Joined: Aug 2009

Everyone -

This is a great post. It's hard to think that some "friends" may not be there if you really need them. I have a friend that I've known for over 25 years. I have not spoken to her since I found out I had bc because I know that even though she cares about me she would cause more harm by telling a bunch of other people (that I don't know) all the details and making a federal case out of the fact that I'm sick. She is the kind of friend who would announce to her whole congregation at church who I was and what my illness was so they could all pray for me. Prayer is great, but I don't particularly want a lot of people who don't know me or only know me casually to know the intimate details of my bilateral mastectomy.

My father is the same way - he will tell strangers (or worse yet, people I went to school with who have nothing to do with me now) all about my personal life just so he can talk.

Right before I left on my leave of absence from work I went to lunch with a woman who I've known (through work only) for a few years. We've worked on a few small projects together and she is a hard worker and a very nice person. During our lunch I let her know I had bc and that I would be gone for a while. I asked that she didn't tell anyone else and she said she would keep it to herself. I've been home for a week and yesterday she came over after work with spaghetti, garlic bread and a bag full of magazines and movies. We sat and talked for a couple of hours and she said if I needed any help at my house (I have some pictures that I need hung up) or any other movies to watch I should let her know. She said she would come back and visit me soon. This was an unexpected, but very nice gesture of her and I am grateful that she is so understanding and open to talk to me and keep me company.

What other people have posted is correct - the more unfriendly, unreliable "friends" you try to keep the less room there is for new friends who would bring optimism and positive energy to your bc situation. We ALL deserve the best care - from our doctors, nurses, families and our friends. We are worth it!

Cindy54's picture
Cindy54
Posts: 454
Joined: Aug 2006

from my last staging surgery for ovarian, it was the middle of winter. We had record snows here in Pennsylvania. Because I needed to get to my follow up appointments at the cancer center and could not drive yet, my 80, yes 80, year old neighbor took me, waited with me and brought me home. I was touched beyond belief.I had a friend to drive me to that staging surgery in another city. She waited until I got into the recovery room. When I got up to my room I was asking and looking for her. No one knew where she was. Finally some nurse ran down to the waiting area and they said that she had left. Still groggy, I called her on her cell and she was on her way back home because a storm was coming in and she did not want to stay there in it. Yes, I understood this because she had her hubby at home who has heart problems. But it bothered me, because I did not expect this and we had not talked about it. She had said she could stay with her sister who lived in this city and I assumed that was what she would be doing. I sure felt abandoned at that point. Three days later, someone from another support board who I had known only via email, came down to see me as she lived in this city. She brought me a balloon and stayed and talked with me. I had never met her before this time, but that she came to see and meet me was just incredible. Looking back, people came into my life when I really needed someone and they offset the pain of the people I thought were my most trusted friends.I guess it evens out. Cindy

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