Sometimes I find it hard when I read stories of how much support some people with cancer are receiving from family and friends and others. I read of people who have people really putting themselves out to spend time with them, do housework, come to chemo and appointments with them, deliver meals and so forth.
I feel I'm probably more in the average person's situation and what the cancer council has described happens with friendship ie some of those you expected to be supportive are, some you expect not to be or not to put themselves out don't and others surprise you ie those unexpected are supportive and those expected aren't.
Before I share any feelings I do want to pay appreciation to those who have been supportive, made the effort to visit me in hospital or travelled a fair distance to visit after hospital (so we could spend better quality time at my house/out locally) and so forth and those who keep up regular face to face, phone or email contact. I also want to point out that I do have some friends who I meet regularly with either at half way points or visit each other. And I have met a couple of friends through cancer treatment or support groups. I feel it's important to be mindful of this as we can have a tendency to take our feelings out about those who we feel haven't treated us well on those who have because it's easier to but makes it hard on those who have been there for us.
For me prior to diagnosis in the past few years a lot of friends we used to have living in our area and within say a 10 km radius (ie within 30 mins drive) have moved further away due to various reasons and we've been unable to meet many new local (meaning within 10 km radius) people to replace those friends that we don't see as often. Especially as with some if we want to see them need to travel long distances to those friends convenience (may not be mine ie needing to take time off work rather than on a weekend or non working day) for what could be a short visit rather than meeting at half way points. Thus of course the answer was to meet locals where it's convenient and easy to meet up.
However being my in 40's I've kept coming up against busy lives with no time to admit new friends and so people I've met locally it's become difficult to make common time arrangements (well it's required the level of negotiation skills usually required with middle east relations and with the same success - low) inspite of me suggesting a couple of times/dates, advising good times for me (weekends, days off and evenings) and then saying OK you tell me what suits you so friendships haven't developed. I even sought help through a psychologist but there was little I was doing wrong.
Anyhow now have been diagnosed and thus don't want to have to go to middle east style negotiations or organisational skills to meet up with friends and just want to keep it simple ie when where ok lock in arrangement done style.
A while ago I had met another cancer patient in the waiting room, we seemed to click and chat easily, we were having treatment the same day so I said how good it would be to have someone to sit next to in chemo, we swapped lots of emails then after that person shared some feelings whilst saying she felt bad about doing so as she didn't usually she couldn't cope with hearing about anyone else's so I dealt with that by saying not to feel embarassed as it's needed in this situation and she won't naturally be talking about feelings all the time when we meet up, we'd be talking about lots of non feeling things too and later on kept my side of the chat light. Anyhow after that her chemo day changed but she didn't tell me so I suggested we meet up for a cuppa but she said suddenly she'd become very busy and would get back to me and then I would only hear if something had happened to her so I let it go but hurtful. However on the very positive I've met other cancer patients since where great friendships have developed.
The other issue is that I don't feel I could ask for help other than how about we make it easy to make arrangements and spend time together with you also being prepared to fit around my work let alone talk honestly about my feelings about cancer, I feel I have to make it easy for everyone. I work (my partner has a financially high maintenance family) we do our own cleaning, shopping, cooking. His family don't make much effort to visit let alone help out and the interstate members rarely call although we do really appreciate that they came down whilst I had surgery and stayed for a few days afterwards. And there's also disapointment with those few that I have really put myself out for in the past but haven't reciprocated (ie one friend I'd travel $50 worth of petrol to visit several times a year who doesn't work and gets free travel a couple of times a year but has made no effort to visit even though it would be for purely social/relaxation reasons not to do anything like clean or help out)
With my family my mother had many brothers and sisters and each unit is down to it's great grandchildren so are really their own family units so I have no contact and cousins are not interested in cousin relationships they just want their own siblings and offspring. None even know of my diagnosis.
Again it means making new local friends and breaking down the too busy for new friends barrier I come up against.
Anyhow I do know and keep reminding myself that there are many of us worse off and focus on the positives, for example, I've been well enough to keep working and taking care of daily living. But really just wanted to share my feelings and have others input.
I really can relate to how difficult it is to forge new friendships when people are so busy. And yes there are the ones that go out of their way for you and others who say they will but don't. It is difficult to explain to people how it feels, because they have a life. I often refrain from asking because I do not want to impose on people and hate appearing to be needy. I know I need to get over that one!!! I wish I had a job I could go to, it would help pass the time, unfortunately I had to give up work as it was too much for me. I will see what the community houses have to offer and what I can afford to do, and maybe find some new friendships there.
I know what you mean by not wanting to ask due to not wanting to impose on people, especially when we've just heard how busy and stressed that person is. When I had the counselling I found that I had stopped initiating things because I felt I was "imposing" simply by suggesting a meet up due to busyness and was encouraged to start initiating things which would also help test if that person was interested in making a new friend. The counsellor also encouraged me to say "I'd like to suggest we get together to do X but I get the impression you are very busy so haven't done so, is that the case" But it is quite challenging and exposes one to knockbacks.
Sorry to hear you had to give up work as it does add a structure to ones life. I also hope that you find some new friendships as well.
I can understand your craving for friendship, or even just an ear to hear. I was the same after I left hospital. Try not to take it personally re the other cancer patient not being able to be friendly right now. I too, had a similar experience. I was friendly with a young woman who'd been treated for breast cancer. We both had children and I thought it would be nice to catch up now and then, but she didn't feel the same. Sometimes it's hard to cope with your own cancer, let alone someone elses too. I found the one thing that helped me was my penfriends. Not only did I have the chance to write everything down, but they were objective when need be, and other times just a friendly letter. Would this be of interest to you?
I really feel for you and hope that you're able to meet some new friends soon. It can be difficult. Good luck and all the best.
Joyhoney that was a shame that you had a similiar experience with the young BC patient who you seemed to connect with. Glad to see that your penfriends were of help to you. I keep up email contact with someone I met on line in the UK, it's great.
I did feel that the issue was also needing to initiate something outside of chemo too soon rather than have it just develop as before the day was changed we would have had 6 chemo sessions together so no rush (seeing that we weren't always going to discuss feelings, more comfortable about doing so). From the same conversation I think it was also not wanting to become involved with another cancer patient, but again no ongoing contact to explain my prognosis, BC patients can last several years even with metastic cancer and for me being a very recent diagnosis with my first and only treatment round, I have no reoccurence (hopefully never will)
Anyhow on the positive side it was a chance for me to apply what I'd learnt as this counsellor said be like a scientist and gather the evidence then test it out, ie the invitation, before making asumptions and a conclusion, possibly not interested. And I left the door open by suggesting to get back to me when free to meet up.
Simply discussing the friendship topic has been helpful already and feeling more hopeful.
Take care Deejjay
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.