Tuesday, May 8, 2018

After Cancer Coping With The Instant Cancer Bond

So after you get diagnosed with cancer, it seems like everyone you know has cancer because:

You have met a lot of other people going through cancer treatment while hanging out at chemo, in support groups, your oncologist's waiting room, etc. That part is kind of nice. You find out you aren't alone in this cancer business. You have an instant bond with new friends.

Then you start hearing about all these other people who are diagnosed with cancer. You feel like you are supposed to be their friend too - because of that cancer bond thing again. Your cancer friends tell you about everyone they know when they are diagnosed with cancer because they have cancer and you have cancer so you can talk cancer all the time. And then it explodes, you meet and hear about more and more people with cancer and this cancer bond obligation doesn't quit. If someone you know  knows someone else with cancer, they expect you to become new best friends because you have that cancer bond so you must be alike.

If let unleashed, you will become swallowed by guilt that you are supposed to be friends with cancer people everywhere. But you have to learn to control the guilt so it doesn't swallow you.

I remember in college, I had thyroid cancer between my freshman and sophomore years. It was sort of an open secret - one some levels a lot of people knew I had cancer but no one talked about it. Back then cancer was evil and you were guaranteed to die soon.

Early in my junior year (I think), a male student I knew showed up at a party with another male student who I knew but not very well - who was now in a wheelchair dying from a brain cancer. It was a small school but we didn't have much in common. But now wait, we both had cancer so we could bond. How awesome! Not really. I felt it would be rude to excuse myself too soon because no one else wanted to talk to the guy in the wheelchair. But I also felt very much put on the spot because this instant cancer bond was there.

Finally I think I excused myself to get another beer or something. But I had felt trapped. Our mutual friend had trapped us together hoping to improve his dying friend's life by taking him to a party.

It was just awful. I felt guilt but there was nothing I could do. I did not want to talk to this guy anymore than he wanted to talk to me, we were not ready to compare cancer notes.

Another part of cancer coping is learning to manage that instant cancer bond. You can't let it suck you in so you get attached to every person in the world who has cancer (through that six degrees of separation thing) and bear their emotional burden of cancer. The guilt is killer.

While its nice to meet people with cancer and talk to them, you can't let it take over your life.


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Anna said...

Nice post.

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