Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who are these people?

Who are these people? The ones who were your friends (or even family members) and vaporize when they hear cancer or some other nasty medical diagnosis or traumatic event. We all have them and we all have probably been guilty of these behaviors.

- First we have the psuedo friends who say they will help you but never really step up.

- Then we have the former friends. I experienced this with an old friend who I reconnected with last year. We were emailing back and forth and trying to figure out when we could get together for lunch. At one point, I mentioned my blog to her and suddenly her calendar was full for the next few months. No, we still have not yet gotten together.

I know the article is full of fancy words and explanations but my theory on this is people are divided in to a few groups when they hear the bad medical story.

- Is it catching? They don't want to get it and are concerned they might get cancer if they visit a friend going through chemo. This may be an irrational fear from childhood where their mother never let them visit anyone who was sick. They may know that cancer or whatever isn't catching on a mature level but this childhood fear kicks in. A friend of mine who also had cancer is sure to cough in the direction of them when he sees them. I think that's great.

- Thank god it wasn't me! They become paralyzed by some form of guilt caused by their secret happiness it wasn't them.

- But then we have the (stupid) people who think they know exactly what you want/need and bring endless frozen casseroles and tell you non stop stories about their friends and family members who died as a result of what you have (in a very cheerful fashion).

- Then we have the ones who ignore it all and pretend its not happening. What? You can't go out for a day of shopping and lunch? It will be fun and we can try on a bunch of new clothes. Excuse me but I have no energy and no desire to look at my baldness in the mirror as I try on the clothes. Can I take a break if I need to throw up? Or, no I can't go shopping I have chemo that day - well can't you reschedule it?

Really what we want are the people we know and love to continue to keep treating us the same way with allowances for naps and doctor appointments. My brother, in his infinite brotherliness, at one point asked me if I had run out of body parts they could remove. This is exactly the kind of response I expect from him. I appreciated it in more ways than anyone can understand. My husband still wants me to do everything I can (but he insists on taking out the trash which I am happy to let him do) and is happy to help when I cant.


linda said...

I'm sending you a virtual casserole. One you don't need or want. Just so you can throw it against a wall or onto the ground so your cat can eat it.

Cynthia said...

Caroline - I missed this when you first posted it but am glad I found it now. This must be the universal truth for all of us. I could not understand why some people thought my cancer was the perfect opportunity for them to trot out the experiences of every blessed person they had ever known who had had (and usually perished from) cancer. I know it is nice to empathize, but can you run through the story in your head before you blurt it out just to make sure you are giving the cancer patient good or hopeful news? The saddest part, the people most likely to do this to me were the ones that talked to me the most - the ones who didn't disappear! (My mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law...good lord.) I hope I will remember this when I am on the other side of this relationship.

Thanks for giving a voice to this!

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