Why a Cancer Diagnosis Might Lead to a Loss of Friends
Cancer Diagnosis & Loss of Friends
Learning Big Lessons through Pain
I have tried to write this story for the last five years, but I just wasn't ready. It is still difficult to talk about, but feel I've come to a point in my journey where I need to get it off my chest. I believe putting off writing about this experience means admitting what I tried to ignore for years. It also brings back so many different feelings. Feelings of pain, loss, sadness, abandonment, shame, low self-esteem, and many other emotions.
My story of lung cancer was difficult enough, but little did I know that with illness can come loss of friends. I say "friends," of course, tongue and cheek—because this experience taught me that the people who walked away from me were never truly my friends.
I know details don't really matter, but at the time this happened, they consumed me. I went over and over them to try to make sense of it all. The three friends who abandoned me were all women I hung out with the last several years of my life. Two of the three resided in my apartment complex. Two of them were long-time friends I considered deep soul mates; friends I could trust to share my deepest secrets with. We had our ups and downs through the years, but I truly believed they loved and cared about me.
I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004—although I never smoked—and I was really terrified. I knew I had God, great family and friends, and all the support in the world. I never questioned losing friends, let alone the friends that I considered to be my best friends. Yes, cancer is a life-threatening illness, but the abandonment of dear friends was devastating.
I was in the biggest fight of my life. Every day for the next several months was a whirl-wind of doctor appointments, surgery, chemo-therapy and radiation. In the craziness of these days, I wasn't noticing what was missing. It was those people I thought were my dear friends. I figured it out in the following ways...
Lung Cancer Journey
The First Friend to Abandon Me
I remember being on the computer to help organize the fundraiser my dear family was planning for me. I went into my email box and noticed a message from one of my good friends. Sorry to be graphic, but I was going from computer to the bathroom, as I couldn't keep much down anymore from the aggressive chemo they were giving me. I felt excited to check out an email from the friend that seemed missing from my life. This is what it read: "Linda, how dare your family have a fund raiser for you. I was there when you got the letter in the mail that put you on Medical Assistance for your illness. You do not deserve a fund raiser and it is wrong that your family give you a fund raiser." The rampage on the email continued, but I think you get the point. She ended the email however, by telling me she would be calling later to talk to me and that she would not participate in this deception. Between running to the bathroom to be sick from chemo and lying in bed, crying from the pain of abandonment, I wanted to die. I called my twin sister at work and told her about the email from my so-called friend. Knowing how sick I was, and now hearing me so upset about this, she came right home and took care of the situation. When so-called friend called, Laura was ready to deal with the craziness. You can imagine how the conversation went, dealing with a twin sister that is hurt for her spurned twin sister. What I will say, is she told her never to call again and that we want nothing to do with her. My so-called friend told Laura, "How dare you have a fundraiser for her. You will be sending her to jail for fraud, and she's very sick because of the cancer and chemo and won't do well there."
The Second Friend to Abandon Me
The second friend showed her colors when my loving twin sister booked a limo for our birthday. Our birthday fell only two months after I finished Chemo and Radiation. I was told by my oncologist that my odds of survival were poor, about 20-25% within the first five years. This made our birthday even more important to us. We are so very close, and the thought of us leaving each other was horrifying. Long story short, after this friend received the email about the birthday celebration, she wrote back and said that she, just like the other friend, "could not participate in this." I believe she was put off about us spending money that may have come from the fund-raiser.These women were obviously in cahoots and working each other up about the love and support I was receiving during this time. Who cares if I did choose to use some of the fundraiser money to celebrate my life-I know-Who thinks like this? Funny thing is, Laura paid for it which was always the plan. By the way, it was a birthday celebration I will never forget. Not knowing if I would make five years, I was in every moment, and surrounded by unconditional love of true friends and family.
The Third Friend to Abandon Me
The last person in this sad tale wasn't as painful for me. We were more superficial friends living in the same apartment complex who went out on the town once in a while. We didn't have a deep connection like I thought I had with the other two women. I'm not saying it didn't hurt me, but it was much easier to deal with because we didn't have the depth and history. Her way of blowing me off was sending an email. Among other things, she told me I should give the money from the fundraiser, back to the cancer society. I called her back but she didn't answer. I did find the strength to leave her a message about how disappointing I found her message to be.
A Diagnosis and Losing Friends Taught Me Many Lessons
I am not a victim! As a matter of fact, these three women taught me a very important life lesson I will never forget. I have always been a care-taker which stems from a very difficult childhood. I put up with a lot of crap from people in the past; these gals included. The diagnosis of cancer was a wake up call. God was telling me I needed to start loving myself. I needed to start thinking about me and not everyone else. I now surround myself with loving people who support and love me. Relationships should be 50-50 and respectful. Looking back on the friendships with these three women, I see how often I sacrificed myself because of my insecurities, to make them feel better about themselves and ignore the truth.
Life is a journey of learning from our good and bad experiences. The cancer diagnosis gave me new eyes in many ways. It's my second chance at living fully without blinders on. Pain and struggles can be our best teachers and I feel incredibly blessed. I forgive the women for how they behaved during this difficult time in my life, but will never forget.
Forgiving someone is easy, but being able to trust them again is a whole different story...
Abandoned because of Illness
Have you ever had friends or family abandon you because you were sick
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Linda Rogers