A cancer diagnosis is a litmus test for relationships, and everyone experiences surprises. We generally assume that our friends will be supportive in a crisis, but after cancer, we learn this may or may not be true. Meanwhile, people we barely know become faithful and important friends. The impact of cancer on friendships can be shocking.
Think carefully about how and with whom you want to spend your time and energy. Some friends can quietly keep you company during a therapy/treatment while others may be better suited to bringing you a coffee and a chocolate croissant every Tuesday morning. Someone else may be your go-to friend for a night at the movies when you want to have fun.
Be open to new friends. No one “gets it” quite like another cancer patient. Talk to people in the waiting room or the infusion area. Consider joining a support group. Keep in mind: Your cancer buddies may become some of your dearest friends.
Everyone is afraid of cancer, and some people just can’t manage their own fears in order to support you. It is very upsetting when a dear friend never calls after learning of your diagnosis. It is terrible when an old friend suddenly stops your regular routines. You don’t have to forgive these behaviours, but it is helpful to understand them and remind yourself that your friends’ absences are about them, not you. It is your decision whether a friendship is important enough to save.
If you’re part of a group, family or a similar organization, your group might want to consider taking turns helping out so that the support is spread out. Offer to help more than once — but not too frequently. Ask again in a week or two.
Most importantly, keep the person in mind throughout it all. Think about his or her personality and comfort level, likes and dislikes, and needs.
It’s about helping without overwhelming. People can do really amazing things that touch the lives of patients.”