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Failing Friendships 
Started by lindseymarie
26 Apr 2014, 8:26 AM

Hi, I'm Lindsey. I've been a caregiver for my fiance' for the last six months now. He had testicular cancer that metastasized into his lungs, brain and spine five years ago and just in November it decided to come back. 
While I've been finding the emotional toll of being a caregiver very hard, what I've found the hardest is a lack of support from my friends. I thought I had very close friends and expected people to connect, call and see how I've been dealing, how Jon is doing but I find they just aren't. Maybe it's my age, I'm in my mid twenties and I don't think any of them have ever gone through something like this but I just expected more. It feels like Jon got sick and we stopped existing.I'm ready to just let all these friendships go but I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing. I'm just so hurt that I wasted so much time and emotional energy on these people.  
Has anyone else ever experiened this?
Lindsey 
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Reply by KathCull_admin
26 Apr 2014, 1:50 PM

Hi Lindsey,
Welcome to the forum. I am sorry to hear that both you and Jon are experiencing so much at such a young age.

Sadly your experience with friends is not uncommon. Others have told me that when faced with serious illness, such as Jon's, they have been surprised when the very people they expected to support them disappeared. It might be they don't know what to say or do; reminds them of a previous painful experience; don't have the maturity to understand how important their friendship and support is but the reason doesn't matter - it hurts.

People have also talked about the surprise they felt when unexpected people stepped in and made a real difference in their lives.

There are others in our community who will know first hand how you feel and I am sure can offer support and ideas.  

Are you and Jon managing on your own or do you have other family who support you?  
I am so glad you found us, please write again when you can.
Katherine
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Reply by marstin
26 Apr 2014, 3:46 PM

Hi Lindsey,

This is one of the toughest issues that many of us have found as we care for a loved one. It makes dealing with illness so much harder when our friends seem to abandon us. I'm not sure what scares them off, whether it's that they fear it's contagious, whether it makes them realize that any one of us could face this challenge or they are just uncomfortable with what is happening. I'm really not sure. What I do know is how painful it is to be deserted by those we thought we could depend on. For some I think it's that they expect you to reach out to them and don't understand that you are struggling so much that it's almost impossible to do that. Some people are just not capable of supporting you for their own reasons.

This whole process changes you so much. We lost my partner nearly a year and a half ago to bladder cancer and I still have to shake my head when I think of the friendships that I lost along the way. I have two daughters in their early 20's and have watched how they have dealt with hearing the diagnosis of cancer and the caretaking involved plus losing their dad. As one of my daughters so wisely said to me one day ' It's easier to be around people who didn't know you before this happened. They don't have the same expectations as people you've known all of your life. They expect you to be the same person you were when in fact, you will never be that person again'. It's life altering.

The experiences we had were very painful. Very few of the people we thought we could lean on actually were there for us. We actually found that strangers were more compassionate than most people close to us. It was a huge learning process. We also found that some people were only making us feel worse and we had to stay away from them. We tend to call them 'toxic people'. Some we have been able to allow back into our lives in small ways but many we have not been able to reconnect with. Still though there are the ones that we never expected to be there who have stepped up and been extremely supportive and kind. It's almost like you have to sort through the friendships and find the gems who are able to give you what you need.

You have come to a great place to share your load. Although none of us ever wanted to have this experience, we at least can understand and bring support to you. This forum brings together a group of strangers who are comforting and kind because we understand how frightening and lonely this all can be. I hope you tell us more about yourself and know that we will try our best to help you through this.

Hugs,
Tracie
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Reply by Brayden
26 Apr 2014, 5:52 PM

Dear Lindseymarie,
I have experienced many people in your situation. I give grief support as a volunteer with an organization in my city. Currently I meet with a gentleman that can get so distraut because his own children do not even support him in his grief like I do. Unfortunately, I have experienced others that get so bitter because their old friends have not been in tough and seem not to care. I know it is a hard pill to swallow but I always suggest to do your best at taking the high road and in time things may work out. Often they do. I know that it should not be up to you to take the action but that too often is the reality. It may be an oportunity for you to help them understand what grieving is all about. Thanks so much for sharing and please come back.
Brayden
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Reply by JennJilks
27 Apr 2014, 12:43 PM

I have been in your shoes, Lindsay. People are often unsure what they can do. I know that my hospice clients often sleep at unexpected hours, and that I would grab a nap when I could.
If you need help, it is often true that you must ask for it. Make yourself a list of things people could help with: respite for 2 hours a week, a hot meal, to check in with you at a regular time, to bring you lunch once a week. You can be specific and this will give them something that will make a difference. 
My late mother's friends all had their own friends to care for, and were angry that she needed so much help. This is why I moved to provide care for her.
It is a tough road. I know.
There are many local hospices who provide volunteers. Their intake coordinator will help you determine your needs. So many fear death and dying, know that they may be unable to cope. For some it brings up their own pain and suffering or fear of their own mortality.
Take care of yourself. 
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Reply by grammakim04
27 Apr 2014, 6:04 PM

Hi Lindsay,
Welcome to the Forum,
I've been caring for my terminally ill husband for 2 years now.  I'm 52 yrs old and can completely understand what you are talking about.
I go to a Church of 400 people..attended for 18 yrs...lived in the same house for 19 yrs etc etc...yet our phone hardly ever rings.  My husband comes from a huge family...11 brother & sisters, all married with their families.

I have also been very hurt feeling abandoned by so many.  I do have a wonderful Pastor who helps me and explains that when someone becomes terminally sick it makes people face their own pending death and it scares them and they tend to turn away.

It doesn't help us who are caring for our loved ones who need the support of our friends and family, but I guess that is what happens.

I know personally, I have been deeply hurt by family & people who I considered close friends who have not contacted us since Chuck become sick.  They have not called, visited etc.

So, I have choosed to put my focus on caring for Chuck, my kids and my grandkids...treasure each day, laugh about the good times and do the best I can.

You might consider finding a caregiver support group in your area, you may meet some people in your area going thru the same things as yourself.  Ours meets once a month and in our group, there are all ages.

Please remember to take care of yourself

Kim
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Reply by GirlWithTheBlackBeret
28 Apr 2014, 3:12 AM

Hi Lindsey,
 

Reading your post brought back memories for me. I was a caregiver for my Mom who had terminal cancer a few years back. I remember some friends going MIA on me because they didn’t want to deal with what I was dealing with.
 

Last week, I read a blog post by the late Reuters health reporter, Debra Sherman. She lived with stage 4 lung cancer before passing away last week. In January she wrote a post about how cancer wrecks your health and some friendships. She talked about how her friends could be classed into different stages. The stage 1 friends are the ones who have your back and the stage 4 being the lousy ones who don’t call.
 

Check out Debra’s post at:

http://blogs.reuters.com/cancer-in-context/2014/01/22/cancer-wrecks-your-body-even-some-friendships/
 

Thinking of you,

GWTBB

 
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Reply by grammakim04
28 Apr 2014, 3:28 AM

Very good article, thank you for posting it.
Kim
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Reply by EastCoastPEI
28 Apr 2014, 12:26 PM

reading everyone's posts it's obvious it's quite common...   yes I do think that a lot of people just don't know what to say or don't feel like they can do anything, but also bluntly to the point, some people just end up not really being real friends... ( I'm not saying this is the case but it could be the case with some.. ) ... 

In the first case, those that don't know what to say, yeah it could be that they're unexperienced but also it could be too close to home.  I've lost both my parents to short-lived cancers 14 years apart .. I've been through it... and yet sometimes when I see someone else going through it I've gotten tongue tied and feel paralyzed ... like I wish I could do something or say the right thing... then I feel there IS no right thing to say and then it gets too late and I end up saying nothing.  It's sad.  

One thing I may suggest... is find one of your true friends ... and talk with them and say "I don't have the energy, or don't feel comfortable reaching out to this group of people who seem to be ignoring us... could you do me a favour?  talk to them... tell him what we're going through ... see if maybe they just don't know what to say, or see if they want to help but just don't know what to do... " ... 

sometimes a buffer for communication is just the thing to ease the situation...  
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Reply by lindseymarie
01 May 2014, 7:07 PM

Thank you to everyone who has responded. While I don't want to seem like the 'misery loves company' lady, it's comforting to know that other people have experienced what I'm going through.
I never thought about the idea that people may not want to simply look at death or have to rationalize it. My older brother died of osteosarcoma when I was 8 and from an early age death was something I knew that we would all have to deal with at some time or another. I suppose this has made me a bit less empathetic than I probably should be. 
I suppose I was so upset, and still am to a degree, because I invest a lot of emotion and love into my relationships and expected a flood of love and strength, which I never felt I received.  
Luckily I have my mother and brother Kyle who have been here for me.  They've gone through caring and losing my brother Guy to cancer and know what I'm going through. It's only that it can get so painful for them, this cancer scare brings up a lot of old feelings of loss for them and I don't want to over burden them. Whenever I talk about a proceedure or a type of chemo that Jon is on, my mom can always relate and brings up the types of chemo Guy received and how he reacted. I've actually learned so much of what my mother went through simply in her sympathizing with me. I know it's so painful for her though and it has made me stop short of telling her a lot of things, I can't handle her crying on the phone thinking of my brother, it's too much for me some days. 
I am going to look into counseling when Jon and I go back for his last round of chemo next week. One more month and apparently he should be done.  
So thank you all again for the support, it was so lovely to read all of your responses and comforting to know I'm not alone.   
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