Childhood Cancer vs. Friendship

**I believe this post goes for any medically fragile child or traumatic experience or tragedy anyone faces; however I can only speak from the childhood cancer perspective**

There are some things veteran childhood cancer families tell you at the beginning of your childhood cancer treatment that you take seriously.  Like “It will be hard”  “They will puke a lot”  “You will be tired” “Childhood Cancer Sucks” “This will change you” and so on.  But then there are the things you brush off.  The things like “Ask for help”  “Take breaks, you will need them”  “Childhood Cancer is hard on a marriage” and “You will lose friends and family over this”.

I thought  “What?  I’ll lose friends because my twins have cancer?  How can that even happen?  All of our friends have been so supportive.  More than supportive.  Without us even asking they’ve thrown fundraisers, made meals, watched babies, brought/sent care packages, checked in via facebook/email/phone/text.  Our friends have helped carry us through the hardest thing we’ve ever faced.  How would we lose them?”

But it’s true.  It happens.  I’ve spoken to, and become friends with, many other cancer moms.  I posed this question to them asking if they’ve lost friends (or family) during or after their child(ren) went through treatment and the response I got was an overwhelming YES.  Some friends just fall off the radar, and some friends tell you directly to your face that you’re no longer welcome.  A mom told me that she was told she brought an unwanted element to dinner conversation, so she was no longer welcome.  Talk about rubbing salt in a wound.

I get it, on one hand.  People don’t want to be reminded of something as terrible as childhood cancer.  They don’t want to be reminded that our children fought every day during treatment, that they were poked and prodded and filled with deadly chemicals.  They don’t like to think that there’s a possibility that our children could relapse, that our children, although in remission, still are at higher risk of death than their children.  That’s too hard for them to imagine.  They like to stay living in their bubble, and while I don’t blame them, that doesn’t give them the right to be a jerk.

I also understand that sometimes friends just no longer know what to say.  We, as cancer moms and families, grow after a devastating diagnosis and hellish treatment.  We change and sometimes we change so much that our “friends” can no longer relate to us.  They have gone on living their lives while we’ve dealt with an ugly monster to which, thankfully, they do not have the pleasure of knowing.  They don’t know what they should or shouldn’t say and so they just don’t say anything (For me, the answer is say whatever.  I love still talking to all my friends about everyday life, because I’m an everyday mom.  I still have the same complaints and struggles as everyone else).

Although this hasn’t happened to our family on a large level, it’s happened here and there.  People we used to talk to, we don’t so much anymore.  And that’s okay.  A fellow cancer mom put it beautifully when she stated that she believes she’s been given a gift.  The gift to be able to see who her true friends are in life and make new friends who truly get her.  These remaining relationships are the ones we now choose to put energy into.  What a beautiful way to look at it.  It is so true, too.  Throughout our journey I have really come to know people I thought were friends, are not.  I have also learned which friends are really there for us.  The ones who don’t expect anything in return for the kindness they’ve shown us because they already know that I could never say enough thank-yous to explain to them what they mean to us; the ones that check in weekly just to see how things are going; the ones that I haven’t seen in years due to living in different states, but will still drop everything to answer a distraught text message from me; the ones that were just acquaintances  but now stop whenever they see you to give you the biggest hug and let you know they think of you often; the ones I email at 2 am and get an immediate response; the ones I’ve known for 8 weeks, and the ones I’ve known for 18 years; the ones that are still here, even after all the dust has begun to settle; the ones that rode through the storm with us.   I have come to meet new families who have been through a similar struggle as ours and even though we’ve never met in person, we have become close friends.  I have met nurses and doctors that I know will be life-long friends.  Those are true friends.

I wish this wasn’t the case.  I wish that I was right when I arrogantly believed that I wouldn’t lose a single friend on our journey.  But, it happens.  After the pain and initial wave of disappointment in these people and in myself subsides, I know that I will be fine.  I know that we have been given a beautiful gift in disguise.  A gift that we are able to see the true colors of people, and see who is there for you in the end.

And not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m pretty sure the true friend squad I have is one of the best around.

I leave you with a quote a fellow cancer mom shared with me a long time ago which couldn’t ring more true:

True Friends Show Their Love In Times Of Trouble, Not Just In Times Of Happiness

XOXO,

Abby

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