A survivor in one of my groups had posted one of the statements below, the remarks were astounding. I had my past now dead and buried, however; we have sadly found we have to keep revisiting it. We do so not to revisit the hurt but to draw from it the words to help the ones who came after us every single day.
After the first post, they just kept coming in, one after another. In a smaller group of about 200, the question was asked, did you loose family or friends with the diagnosis of breast cancer. The results of that poll, an astounding 98% of the 200 reported full-scale significant losses of both family and friends. Numbers appear to be the same in another group of over 7,900 only one was able to answer, no.
Why does this happen? It is all the drugs, treatments, and surgeries that cause an issue, or is it more straightforward? Is it that what people think cancer care is and what it is, are not the same? Many believe when the initial treatment is over so is the issue. All patients stay in oncology care at least every six months for no less than five years. Treatments including medications that affect memory, balance, hormone imbalance, eating, walking, mood, emotions, working, or even simply driving a car. “We” become burdensome to some, the never ending changes are “too much” for those without cancer, and yet worse, they act as if they can catch cancer from you, even after the cancer is “no evidence detected.”
What you will read is a small portion of the answers given by patients. All women, all breast cancer, various types, and stages. The ages are as varied as twentysomething to seventy. The stories alike, perhaps the lack of social contact now replace by media is partial to blame. However, even those that had it before Facebook or persistent connections to people reported the same large losses.
The question did you loose family or friends after being diagnosed?
” People who I totally thought I could depend on practically vanish. I’m learning quickly that although I have people around me, I’m on my own.”
“What I find difficult the feeling I’m being judged.”
“Yes but I know I’m not only on.”
“I don’t know what it is, but my three grown children and I have always been close, but when I got cancer, they stopped coming around or even calling for Months and months. My Doctors and Therapist treat me better.”
“I can’t count on xxx to take me to chemo unless I’m at the top of my game.”
“I was diagnosed with cancer, and my family hasn’t bothered with me. It hurts bad and the same with my friends.”
“My boss, backed away from me as if I was contagious.”
” We meet hard times on this journey. Sometimes it is a solid wall.”
“My oldest when I had a breakdown blamed me told me she couldn’t see me till I’m on some medicine and I was toxic. She can not have toxic people in her life. I never had breakdowns before and her to turn her back?”
“It’s been the loneliest time. I keep showing up and hoping.”
“I think you find people just can’t deal with it.”
"Once I was diagnosed I learned who my true friends are. There may be some people you never thought of as friends who will be by your side."
"The ones I thought would be there left, the ones I never thought would be; filled the voids. There is nothing that heals the pain but time and a fading memory."
"I am a disabled nurse, took care of others for 30 years and now caring for myself. You sure find out who your "friends" are…."
" I found it very surprising who gave me the support I needed and who wasn't.I had one "friend" that told me I didn't appreciate how difficult my breast cancer was on her because I couldn't go out shopping or play as much."
"I had someone to lean on..my kids are in total denial of my breast cancer. I depend on God to fill my emptiest moments. It's tough.."
"So sad…. breast cancer takes more than just our boobs…. so many just don't get it."
There is something about cancer that for some turns into a no go, in that a lot of heartbreak comes. Survivors and Thrivers move on to each other, and it is in sharing we find our sanity. Sharing allows us to hear, “me too” and to know we are not alone or different from another cancer patient. The love and warmth there don’t take the place of the loss it directly helps a bit to ease the pain. We need a social change of empathy, just turn on the TV it’s not just “cancer” of the body anymore.
Think before you act if you are in a cancer patient's life, you affect them far more than you know. Perhaps, if that becomes the norm, we will find a way to make the majority the "good" stories. It has to start somewhere, will you?
Dedicated to Rhonda, your strength and inspiration is contagious, don’t ever change