Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Supporting Your Friends Through Your Cancer

Say what? You know that line 'don't my your problems, my problems'? This is clearly the case here. Yes, sometimes your friends want emotional support because of your illness.

One of my closest friends mostly vanished from my life during my treatment. Yes she has a very busy schedule and she had a small child at that time. Her mother was also very ill. But I missed her emotional support during that time.
Currently and in the past, we would talk at least once a week and get together once a month. But during that treatment time period, I didn't talk to her for months. I had other friends but I missed her. Later one of our mutual friends told me she had a very hard time dealing with my diagnosis. So maybe it was better we did not talk as often.

I am not blaming her at all. I had enough going on dealing with my diagnosis and treatment that I couldn't have coped with anything else. Today's 'Ask Amy' column rang a bell for me:

"Dear Amy: I’ve recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and have focused my emotional bandwidth on my family, my health and curing my cancer. I have a huge support system that includes family and friends. One of my close friends is having trouble coming to terms with my diagnosis, as well as my not taking her up on her offers of help (yet).

"This friend called a few nights ago sobbing and looking to me to help her feel better about my diagnosis and my long-term prospects. My diagnosis isn’t as good as it could be, but it’s also not as bad as it could be. I did my best to help her understand, and then changed the subject.

I’d really rather not be calming down my friends when inside I’m losing my mind with the slow pace of health care and juggling my appointments and treatments.

Is there a gentle and polite way to explain the “grief circles” to her that’s nonconfrontational? I could really use some help, as I have months and months of work concentrating on my health ahead. I’d like to kindly and gently explain to my friend that I cannot be the person making her feel better about my illness.
Your suggestions?  —Not Dead in California

"Dear Not Dead: “Grief circles,” otherwise known as “ring theory” conceptualizes the important idea that, when dealing with tough or tragic times, it is important for the person at the center of the circle (that’s you) to preserve her strength by only dealing with the person most intimately involved in her care — this might be a spouse, family member, or friend. Other relationships arrange outward in concentric rings. This is called the “kvetching order.” 

The person at the center of the ring (you) can say anything (complain, cry, howl at the moon) to those in outer rings, but those in outer rings should limit their own needs, fears, and statements and focus only on being helpful. No unsolicited advice, no raging at the injustice of it all, no demands for comfort or constant updates. 

Honestly, this seems so logical that it should not need to be spelled out, but understand that ring theory is mainly for you — to give you permission to react the way you want to during a time when you need to preserve your strength (and “emotional bandwidth”). In short, you are not supposed to be worrying about how to be gentle and polite, comforting your friend through your crisis.

You could say, “I understand that this is hard for you, but I can’t help you through this. I’ve got too much on my plate. I hope you understand.” Encourage her to contact someone else in an outer ring when she is upset."

I can honestly understand that some people fall apart when people they care about get a nasty medical diagnosis. I think that is what happened with my friend. Our diminished communication was her way of coping. We are now closer friends than ever.

No comments:

I Started a New Blog

I started this blog when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Blogging really helped me cope with my cancer and its treatment. Howe...