Cancer Friends ‘Get’ Each Other

August 13, 2020

Friends with cancer, even years down the road, understand your ongoing cancer anxieties without needing reminders or a refresher course. We get it.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson once wrote “'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” which, in my opinion, is mostly true. It may sometimes work better in theory than in life, but it is mutually important, helpful, and supportive to make friends with cancer.

I have said this hundreds of times: Do not do cancer alone. Yes, as with anything, there are positives and negatives. I completely believe the good things that come with bonding with friends with cancer outweigh the bad things. Cancer has a mental and emotional impact, as well as a physical one. And, we need each other.

Friends with cancer “get” what you're saying when you talk about your experiences, feelings, worries and more. While family and friends care about you, it can sometimes be tiring to have to explain and educate them about your cancer (that will be a whole different article discussion). Friends with cancer, even years down the road, understand your ongoing cancer anxieties without needing reminders or a refresher course. We get it.

When it comes to “cancer friends”, it helps to keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Remember that you will never quite be able to compare “apples” to “apples” when it comes to cancer decisions and situations. Even when you seem to share the “exact” same kind of cancer, you probably do not have the same exact genetics, age, or medical history!
  • Try not to play doctor. Your thoughts and opinions are just that, thoughts and opinions. Telling someone what they “should” or “need to” do is not kind or helpful, so be supportive.
  • Share educational resources and help each other formulate the best questions to bring to medical appointments.
  • Share emotional coping tools. Learn what helps each other. Distractions? Walks? Hobbies? If you have any in common, those are activities to enjoy together.
  • Above all, listen. We get it, cancer creates all sorts of worries and fears, but we have one mouth and two ears for a reason. So, listen (you will get your turn to speak).

Finally, recognize you could lose each other's friendship at some point. Remember, this is cancer and not pink sparkly glitter, rainbows and puppies. But, on a much less dramatic note, you could each simply go back to your own regularly scheduled lives after active cancer treatment ends.

In my case, I have a dear fellow breast cancer friend who was several years out from treatment at the time of my diagnosis and now we remain friends 10 years after my treatment ended! When we get together, we discuss many things but not always cancer. I also had another breast cancer friend, we were basically a support group of two, who I went through active treatment with, and over the years we have gone our separate ways. Though honestly, if either of us reached out, I feel like the other person would be there in a flash.

The bonds that come with a cancer friendship can trump many other connections. It might be because there have been some shared raw and honest moments through cancer treatment. Together, we will get through cancer. I send cyber hugs (hopefully that is still a 'thing') to all of you!


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