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That’s What Friends Aren’t For

August 18, 2010

I’ve been reading Caroline’s Breast Cancer blog since I found it, after getting the stupid cancer. Recently Caroline’s been fixated on cancer and friendships. I thought, “Dang, Caroline, let it drop already!” Which is kind of ironic because during this cancer crap, the friendship issue has come up alot in my mind. I’ve had a lot of couch time to fixate on all sorts of things. Relationship fixation was a large part of my laying around.

Today Caroline linked to a New York Times article that I found to be interesting. Regarding coping with your friend’s crisis. Or crises, as the author writes. And boy, do I get the plural on that one. We’ve been dealing with a family issue since before the stupid cancer. Then the stupid cancer came alone and piggy-backed our family issue.

To summarize the article – when someone goes through a crisis, some friends just disappear. Maybe they’re afraid of catching the cancer. Maybe they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. Maybe they just can’t watch someone go through hell.

I wasn’t going to write about this. I was just going to let it slide. But that danged Caroline won’t stop blogging about it and that NY Times article ripped off my bandaid.

I had friends who disappeared. And it hurt.

At first I was pretty sympathetic to their difficulties.  They don’t know what to say or do. I wasn’t much fun to talk to when I was in post-op pain. I wasn’t much fun to talk to when I was post-chemo ill. I wasn’t much fun to talk to when I went on and on and on about the hell I was living in. I didn’t want to be my friend either and would have been thrilled if I could turn my back on me.

I was really surprised by a couple of particular friends who really let me down. One of them came to visit me after I got home from my bilateral mastectomy. I didn’t hear from her again until recently when she sent me an e-mail invitation to go out with her to a trendy night club. “It would be fun!” her e-mail said. Sure. Fun, I thought. Which ball cap should I wear to the trendy night club? What shirt, without darts, will I wear? She had no idea where I was in my fight with cancer. I hadn’t heard a word from her at all during those months of chemo. And you people know who well I didn’t do with the chemo. A few times I thought, I suppose I could call her. But then I decided that I was the one with cancer, she should be calling me. Or at least e-mailing me. Thus was the extent of my friendship demands. Give me a call or e-mail me once in awhile.

Same thing with a couple of other girlfriends who dropped in right after the surgery and then disappeared. Do people think cancer is like healing from a hysterectomy? 6 weeks and then all is well? Here’s your hot dish.  What the hell? Cancer recovery, if you have what I had, is a 6 month to 1 year healing process. Long time friends just gone. Was it something I said?

Another friend had gone through her own stupid cancer. I remember it well. I was there for a lot of it. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, she could not be there for mine. She made a few attempts but they had nothing to do with my cancer and everything to do with her cancer. At first I was pretty forgiving. It must be hard to have to revisit cancer after you’ve been in the pit of it. But then I decided that that was just bullshit. Selfish bullshit. And once I got over feeling bad for her inability to give to me, I saw the friendship for what it was and what it wasn’t. It wasn’t for me.

If any of my friends (god forbid) were to get the stupid cancer, last thing I would do would be to leave them alone. I’d put my jockstrap and cup on and battle with them.

And there you have it. The cancer put a spotlight on friendships. A few were withering and finally died.

Fortunately for me, the extrovert, many of my friendships became amazingly stronger. I look at the closer bond I have now with my sister, my brother and my little sister-in-law. And even with my nieces. They couldn’t have been kinder. Let’s not talk about my mother and how the stupid cancer effected our relationship. That’s mostly science fiction, my friends.

CiNDy (who isn’t reading this entry because she is now hooked on satellite t.v.) has been my friend for over 30 years for a reason. And this cancer proved that  there’s a reason we’ve been friends for so long.

Floweer is incredible. Always treating me like I’m Kathy, who just got screwed over with the cancer, but Kathy, first.

There are many many many more friends who helped me through, are helping me through, this nightmare. These nightmares. If only our family was dealing with just the stupid cancer. And for all of those friends, I am forever thankful. I will have their backs if ever they need their backside covered.

And that’s that.

Well, that’ll be that after I go through my facebook account and officially unfriend a few people.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2010 9:14 am

    Preach it, sister. I never had a lot of friends to begin with, because I’m not into that like you are, but yeah. Constantly shocked by how people reacted. Some folks I thought would be great and they sucked and some folks I thought didn’t even care about me were great. I do give some people a break, because they are obviously shallow and emotionally immature and it’s nice to have a sorting device like cancer to draw that out.

  2. August 18, 2010 9:34 am

    And you wonder why I didn’t write about it till it was over!

    Some people just aren’t very good at support, and I won’t even try to figure out why. I just felt blessed with the friends and family I have and appreciated all the circumstances that didn’t make it worse. (I did not have small children, I had a flexible job, I knew I wasn’t gonna die…)

    You’ve already realized that your real friends were there before, during and after. It’s a little disappointing that some people you trusted are not as good friends as you are, but I know you’ll move past that. They are not worth beating yourself up about.

  3. August 18, 2010 10:04 am

    I thought I had a really true friend. We were so alike, shared so many of the same things. Then came the breast cancer. She doesn’t even email anymore. It really hurts. I didn’t know that losing friends would be a part of gaining cancer. That sucks!

  4. Suzi permalink
    August 18, 2010 12:24 pm

    These are the same people who say “hospitals smell funny, so I don’t go” when it’s their turn to provide support for a family member or close friend. Hey, it smells funny to all of us….especially the patient who’s stuck in there. Grow up and do the right thing!

  5. August 18, 2010 12:24 pm

    This is not limited to cancer. Any major illness will do. The same thing happened to me when I had the brain tumor out. In a very short time, I came to know who my real friends were, and who, for whatever their reasons, cut off contact with me. It was very eye-opening.

  6. August 18, 2010 1:05 pm

    Cancer as a sorting aid for separating the wheat from the chaff. Whodathunk.
    When my mother was dying, her own mother was more concerned about leaving her cat than supporting her daughter. “She’s never liked to be around sick people,” I was told.
    Fuck that and what you like or don’t like. What about putting someone else first, for a change?
    Yeah, it’s hard to visit hospitals and nursing homes, people, but put on your big-girl pants and go see if your presence can make a difference.
    We are often weak and selfish, and I guess we can’t help it, but damn … it’s true that in times of crisis we find out who our friends really are and what they’re made of.

  7. August 18, 2010 3:26 pm

    I’ve never personally dealt with anything as major as cancer, but I guess I was always the stupid romantic who thought that a crisis would bring one’s friends closer. It’s sad to see that it doesn’t. I’m not the greatest of friends to some folks, but I do try. And if one of my friends had a crisis to deal with, you better believe I’d be right there trying to shoulder some of it for them — funny hospital smells be damned.

  8. Su Chick permalink
    August 18, 2010 7:09 pm


  9. August 18, 2010 8:56 pm

    The friends who stop in at the beginning and then disappear are like those people who go to viewings as soon as the door opens. The “get it over with” and then go out to dinner with the husband.
    You almost want to tell them not to bother.

  10. August 19, 2010 10:17 am

    Well said, Kathy. I’m sorry you lost so many friends when you needed them most. This phenomenon spreads to divorce and any other event that does not include “going out to have fun.” A.K.A. fair weather friends.

  11. August 20, 2010 8:41 am

    wow, how painful and what pains. Let me remind you my grandmother got BC in her mid50s and died. At NEARLY 100. She had the mast. and everything. She finally decided to stop driving at 95 b/c there were “too many old people on the roads.” (I don’t think she meant herself…). If she’d had BC now she’d probably live to be 150. Still beating her cronies at bridge….

  12. September 6, 2010 10:34 pm

    I can’t imagine going through it. I mean, the closest I can even try to empathize was hen I came out and lost friends because of it. But cancer sucks more. At least I got to feel free from coming out Cancer just fucking sucks.

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