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some people come out of the woodwork and others disappear?

vermontgirl's picture
Posts: 66
Joined: Nov 2012

I just have to find out if it's just me or what. I have really close friends....the kind that want to share every detail of the day with you, who have all but dropped me altogether since finding out that my husband has cancer. And then there are people who I know and frankly just acquaintences who have all but offered a limb to help us out and check in with us. Last night, my 9 year old daughter's basketball coach who I have met once (she has only had 3 practices) offered to drive her to Boston on the weekends to spend them with us. She travels there to the national guard anyway. I was brought to tears. I try to rationalize that everyone reacts differently and that everyone has their own baggage with cancer....but it still bothers me. I rarely have anything to delegate when people ask how they can help.....but I so appreciate the thought and offer. It's times like this when you find out who really has your back and sometimes it is just plain shocking. Okay....just needed to vent.


Posts: 69
Joined: Nov 2012

I have similar experiences. When i found out i had cancer, TRUE friends stuck around and helped while the others just seemed to fade away. I don't know why, maybe the ones who faded are too wrapped up in their own lives that they can't/won't help or are already struggling and can't deal with added burden of my cancer?....don't know. I don't hold it against them and am not bitter.
I just pray for them.
My friends that stuck around are selfless and have sacrificed their time to come and see me, help me if needed, called, texted, emailed and so forth. Almost daily checking on me.
I thank God for them and I pray for them too : )

Thanks for sharing Kristen, you're not alone in this.


phrannie51's picture
Posts: 4673
Joined: Mar 2012

in times like these. Some people really don't know how to act, and so do nothing at all...no matter how close they seemed to be...maybe it's because something like this reminds them of their own mortality?? Others, like your basketball coach, come out of the woodwork and are willing to help in whatever way they can. I didn't feel any reaction to those who disappeared...I just figured they didn't know how to be...and was surprised and deeply touch by those who kept in close touch with me...offering help, making meals...one couple even volunteered to set up their camper at our house and take care of our horses and give me rides to radiation when my husband had to go to Seattle for three days, to take care of a medical problem of his own.

When I first joined this site, a person who lives in the same area I do, was on here also...she took me by the hand (in person), and led me thru what treatment would be like. She also hooked me up with other people in the area who had been thru this. I got texts every week reminding me that if I needed rides or anything to be sure to call...there were also weekly moral boosters...it was wonderful! We live in NW Montana, where HNC is a real rarity...but Stacey seemed to know many of the people here who had been treated for it.

It does make a person rethink friendships, tho...doesn't it?


staceya's picture
Posts: 720
Joined: Jan 2010

I was SO happy to find YOU!

You have a much better way with words than I do!
Have heard from a few more people for the monthly support group.
Asian Buffet...sometime soon...

D Lewis's picture
D Lewis
Posts: 1576
Joined: Jan 2010

Please don't think too harshly of the 'friends' who have faded. Cancer is horrifying to a lot of people, and they just can't deal with it. My kids refer to the word 'cancer' as the "C" bomb because of the reaction it gets from folks when you drop it in a social setting. Way to end a conversation or clear a room!

On the other hand, if you 'get it', it's really easy to see all the ways you can support someone with very little effort on your own part, even if they are a near stranger. I met this very interesting homeless man, who went throught the same treatment regime I did, just a few short weeks after I did. I was able to provide support and reassurance about all the questions his doctors really couldn't answer. We shared a lot of bowls of soup, I helped him get clothes, we drove around and talked for hours, and I filled up his cupboards with foods he could actually eat. Then he finished out treatment, and left the area.


MarineE5's picture
Posts: 909
Joined: Dec 2005

All I can say to your post is THANK YOU.....

MarineE5's picture
Posts: 909
Joined: Dec 2005

We all have them, much like you, when I was going thru this, my wife was right there, but some of the extended family were no where to be found and they live relatively close. Some of our friends that we see maybe 2-3 times a year were knocking on the door and bringing food, offering help,etc.

I found it to be better to not get upset, as each person reacts differently to different situations. I/we (wife and I) have been able to pay back the helpfulness of those that were here for us during my surgery and treatments. They later had things pop up in their lives. If offers come your way and your not ready for the help just yet, ask if they can be called upon at a later date? make note of it.

One thing I have learned over the years, the only person you can count on is yourself, if help comes from others, that is great, but don't count on it. One little thing I say to myself each day is this...Can I be a better person today, then I was yesterday....

My Best to Both of You and Everyone Here

Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8286
Joined: Sep 2009

I love that, LOL....

I think many have hit on it above...

I think a lot of people probably just don't know how to approach it or understand it.

Like myself, when I first was told I had cancer. I immediately thought of pale, no color, frail, hairless people that eventually whithered up and died basically.

We all know that is far from the truth... For the higher percentage, yes we do have a bad few months during treatent, but pretty much other than that and a few longer lasting issues, we still maintain our family, our lifestyle, humor and intelligence (abi-normal for me)...

Does it change your relationships longterm...?

For some it does, others not...

Some of it just just have to depend on the ones that are there for you, and the ones that offer, ask when you need help.

Also, like my fellow Marine above..., the one person that I can always count on is myself. I'm very resourceful, a survivor....


MarineE5's picture
Posts: 909
Joined: Dec 2005

A survivor, and that may be why you fish,etc. Give a man a fish, and he eats one meal, teach a man how to fish and he can eat forever.....Take Care Marine, S/F

vermontgirl's picture
Posts: 66
Joined: Nov 2012

Thanks you guys. You all have very valid points. I do think that the "C" bomb (love that)brings mortality to people's minds. I also think that I have to realize that I have had time to process "cancer" and my friends maybe not so much. I also get to be active in battling it and they can't be. I guess I am just surprised by some of our friends' reactions....not mad or judgmental, just surprised. Having to deal with cancer does make me realize how better to help others so I guess in a way all of this makes me better too.

So....I will accept what people can and can't do in response to this new path we take.

Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8286
Joined: Sep 2009


Like you say....

You have had time to process it, and battle it..., not because you wanted to, because you have to..., you have no choice.

I probably was the same to friends and family that have had cancer in the past, or serious illness in general.

I hope to think that I offered to help..., but did I really mean it, was I really there for them...did I help them without them having to ask me.

Again, like you mentioned, the fight makes us re-evaluate things, the important things, our relationships...

I am a better person because of having had cancer and going through the battle. Hopefully I can carry that with me for a very long time.

I go out of my way to give now, to help others, if nothing else at least to help others going through similar to what I have had and went through.

It's kind of like the post of the girl, whose mother is recovering... She doesn't feel like doing this or that, and she tells everyone they don't understand.

It's true, unless you went through it, or so very close as a survivor, you don't understand.

I think that's where a lot of it comes into play...people that aren't directly affected, just don't understand.

Especially understand a person like myself, a person who has always relied on just me primarily... Then you are a place that you actually do need people, people you can depend on unconditionally.

It's rough, rough on you, rough on others...


cureitall66's picture
Posts: 912
Joined: Aug 2012

You said it all...and perfectly well, as always.

You for one, my friend, are incredibly awesome in more ways then you could believe. You have been there for me so many times during the dark, scary, early days of finding out to going through tx. You kept my days bright, which helped me to help my loved one. And I see it everyday in your posts to help others. In my book, you are a true friend and hero!

You're a God Sent!!


Skiffin16's picture
Posts: 8286
Joined: Sep 2009

I'll make sure I send you that money that I promised...HEHE, LOL.


fisrpotpe's picture
Posts: 1349
Joined: Aug 2010

i agree with all the above!

i lots alot of friends (who i thought were friends), i gained only a few ( who are unconditional) friends, some family are more distant, none of family are any closer, things have changed and i am better because of it, except for the gift (radiation) that keeps giving.

new normal, learn to accept and accept even the new normal with be a new normal again and again and again....

vent away

know this, everyone here will not run, we are unconditional

family, i love you all


Posts: 660
Joined: Mar 2012

I did not have many friends to start with that were in position to be there for me. Ironically one Brother never contacted me to this day, but we never really got along but still a little surprised with the C Bomb he might have communicated in some way. My only other surviving brother did stay in touch via text occasionally and check with Diane but never came to visit, he lives 10 miles away. My parents are deceased. My blessings came from Diane and Emily, my granddaughters mother. Ironically her and my son broke up at the beginning of my dx, but she stayed friends which we were so glad she did and she actually became my caretaker along with Diane. She went to most all my treatments so Diane could get back to work and she was just fantastic and Im not so sure I would have made it without her she is like my daughter. I guess if I made any point here you just never no who will utimately be there, although everyone has there own crosses to bear so its understandable. Diane has many friends and thru the love they have for her it carried over to me and although not needed she was constantly offered help and prayers. But I say this as a FACT, my friends who helped me were on this site everday I needed to see how everyone was and if I had posted was amazed by the way it never failed my friends were there for me. Wow I would love to just have a Day in the Park with each of you, now that would be a family gathering I would look forward to. God Bless you All

VivianLee5689's picture
Posts: 546
Joined: Aug 2012

You know I think I ranted about this on at least one occasion here. I know cancer scares so many people and I think for some not facing it they hope it just goes away. I try very hard to not think they are just being selfish. I believe that is the case for some however. I am glad you found us. We will be here whenever you need us.

Grandmax4's picture
Posts: 709
Joined: Dec 2011

too many people when I first was diagnosed..my family and my very best friend ( 37 years ), gradually as word got out, I heard from all my "friends", all wanting all the gory details...now, 1 year, 1 month and 2 weeks out..Ihaven't heard from some of them since my surgery, and you know what, Im okay with that...I have my BBF and my family, I really don't have time for them..Cancer is an awful disease, it can steal your health, but I refuse to let it steal my life..I have too much to live for. If these "friends" decide to call or send a card,( which many have done this Christmas season,) I'll reply in kind, but, in my heart I know things will never be the same.

CivilMatt's picture
Posts: 4318
Joined: May 2012


It is interesting to see how friends and family take the news. Some are indifferent and others care. I did not intend for my cancer to be blathered around my home town, but there it was and since none have contacted me, they’ll wait to read my name in the paper (hope you have a log wait suckers). As for my family (Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters) they have made themselves available when needed.

For the most part ours has strictly been the Candy and Matt show. While my habits became predictable the scene changes kept thing lively around the house. Candy has a knack for the truth and turned the H&N forum into a shopping list of what’s next and what is needed.

I can’t be mad at those that dumped me as I might have done the same to them. Now ,going forward, if someone has a similar situation I might know what to do. From sitting down and chatting, to providing transportation. Recently, Candy got a call from a friend in Seattle asking if she could drop off some adult products for her father in a (local) care facility. Candy was sick and unable to go to the care facility, but I was ok and delivered the material happily. No big deal, but it is a start.

It will surprise you on who has your back.



blackswampboy's picture
Posts: 341
Joined: Jul 2012

yeah, that's why I didn't go out of my way to broadcast my illness.
didn't want different treatment, one way or the other.

of course a lot of people found out anyway, and that's OK. but I'm sure some friends who I haven't seen for a while still don't know. or if they do know, they've got cover for not saying anything, lol.

my ex-wife never said a word, and I know the kid told her (I didn't). fine by me.

best surprise was correspondence from my Aunt, with whom I hadn't had contact in years. she was very supportive during the worst of my treatment.
she died suddenly of brain aneurysm just before Thanksgiving, and I was grateful to have gotten to know her again before she left us.

wolfen's picture
Posts: 1313
Joined: Apr 2009

I guess it's odd, but I could only think of one friend of ours to tell about my hubby's cancer. At first, he didn't come to visit, but he did call. And now, he drops by.

Like Matt and his wife, there's mostly just "us", with the exception of our son(nearby) and daughter(on the other side of the country). It's funny, but all those I considered "friends" that I worked with for many years just kind of faded away when I retired. My mother was my "best friend" and she's been gone for 6 years now......And then I found this wonderful forum. The Colon Board, and now this board of special people are my sanctuary.

Here's a little Irish ditty for all of you:

May those that love us, love us
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if he doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

To brighter days ahead.


phrannie51's picture
Posts: 4673
Joined: Mar 2012

Deb pretty much called it what it is....the "C-Bomb"...guarenteed to pretty much clear the room when dropped.

In the beginning I told my sisters/husband...three of my best friends, one close neighbor and of course I had to tell work. Other than that, it felt very uncomfortable telling anyone else...I mean how do you tell anybody..."oh by the way....." My husband was my rock, my sisters took over all household stuff...like making sure hubby got good meals, etc. Two people from work kept close ties with me via email and visits. The weird part was how fast word got out...I've never seen myself as much of a gossip subject...I live too low key working nights, and have little social life...that's when the woodwork started moving...even one of the clerks at the grocery store would call and see if I needed anything she could drop off on her way home from work (I certainly didn't tell anyone THERE, that I was sick). I was amazed.


Posts: 760
Joined: Apr 2012

It is not just friends but family members too. In the 2 1/2 years from when my husband was first diagnosed I have not heard one word from my brother, a sister who only lives 8 miles from us and has herself gone thru cancer, rarely calls and never has even stopped by the house and they go to a store right up the street from us. My husband's siblings haven't been to see him in almost 2 years and call occasionally (of course, they are elderly, like us, and driving a few hours is too much on them but calls and emails would be nice). His two best friends came right before surgery and used to call or email but that has stopped. Grown grandchildren are too busy living their own lives, even our children to take the time and come by, call or even email.

But I look at it like this, those that can't be bothered will be the ones to loose out. I just can't figure our what is wrong with people today. We can find cures or medicine that give people long lives from things like AIDS but when it comes to cancer, the story is different. We hear all the terrible stories on the news today, like the terrible shooting yesterday in CT and the small children that were killed and we think what is going on. What is making people like they are today compared to 30-40 years ago.

yensid683's picture
Posts: 319
Joined: Apr 2012

I was lucky I guess, I had a wonderful group of caring people willing to do anything to help. From physical tasks like cutting the grass to support and prayer groups, I had so few people that turned away with the awkward silence.

My wife and I are pretty private people, we're friends with many but not so close with any (the rhyme is unintended) but I was amazed at the depth of caring that came from so many.

My neighbors just showed up one day to cut the grass, the one directly across the street, retired from a manufacturing job, said "don't worry about the yard, I've got all the time in the world, I'll cut it" and he did, caring for it as though it was his own. Our next door neighbor, who had just recently moved in and whom we had not even met stopped my wife as she came home one day and offered any help we needed.

People from work (I work for a national company) set up prayer groups, constantly sent emails, sent gift cards for my Nook so I'd have something to do, even the president of the company offered any help that we needed. It was so nice to know that my job would be there when I was well.

Even now that I'm recovering and back to work, we get offers of help. Another neighbor saw my wife the other day and asked about me and told her not to worry about shoveling the driveway, he'd take care of it.

I am overwhelmed by the depth of caring of these fine people. I don't know if it is something I even deserve but I'll thank them and be forever grateful.

I wish that everyone could have the same experience.


NJShore's picture
Posts: 423
Joined: Nov 2012


I could have written your post.. and I am constantly scratching my head at the way people react. I was a bit prepared, since I was a caretaker and helped care-take a time or two before this.. so I have seen some strange things.

There are two kinds of people that get me the most. The one's who see the sign on the front door that says "Please do not ring the bell. Please call before visiting" - I am talking about the ones who call from the front porch.. as if that's going to help, and I will just be delighted to see them at a moments notice, since I have nothing better to do than keep them from touching my husband who has a weakened immune system. Ug..

Then there are those who I refer to as the "non-listeners" -- they look at him and say jeesh, he looks great! But they never ask how hes' feeling or what do the drs say, they just walk around saying he's almost normal! (at his work location, which adds to confusion there).

I am not even go to near the ones that save their tears for us..

Glad to hear you've gotten some good surprises, and sorry that not everyone is not strong to be there for you.


donfoo's picture
Posts: 1648
Joined: Dec 2012

Hi Kristen,

I see you joined recently and looking over your profile, it appears this is all still very new for you and your family. I have to believe you are still spinning and things are pretty blurry with all the thought, appointments, tests, new med lingo, uncertainty, fear, and every other emotion that all but causes you to freeze up.

I offer the notion that many of your friends may be feeling various aspects of all this as well and given every one has a life story full of experiences different than yours, it really is no surprise you get different reactions and responses.

For the most part, my advise, right I am the expert, just having been diagnosed 14 days ago, is to not take any of their reaction personally or accept any responsibility for their thoughts, reactions, and expression or lack thereof. Certainly, there may be some really close friend who just has no response but I would not own that at all. Feel empathy for them as they are likely struggling and feeling really bad that your life is taking a fork in the road of life that nobody wants to travel.

Be strong, focus on what is needed to take care of yourself and prepare as best you can. Accept the help offered and don't dwell or start keeping score of who is helping as everyone has varying amount of capacity given their own condition and circumstance to assist others.

Best to you,

Greend's picture
Posts: 678
Joined: Feb 2010

I had a friend I spent over 15 years with in the military and when he found out I had cancer he just vanished. I found out later from his wife that he didn't want to see me so sick and then was embarassed afterward that he hadn't checked on me. Haven't heard from him for 16 years now.


donfoo's picture
Posts: 1648
Joined: Dec 2012

I expect this sort of thing as well but so far most have returned with kind words and offers of support. Not to make an excuse for a long time fried who disappears but every person's journey through life is different, maybe that person had a very hard experience seeing a close relative struggle with severe illness, maybe even die, never dealt with the feelings and has been running ever since.

Although 16 years is a long time, just curious if you reached out first to say you were doing alright and wanted to reconnect. That is what comes to mind if that happens to me.


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