Friday, February 25, 2011

We All Have Stuff

I'm starting this post without knowing exactly where it's going.  I would like to rant, but my feelings are too hurt to let anger win out.  I'd like to revel in the kindness of friends, but I can't right now without questioning my own participation.

Does cancer give us a free pass to be a lousy friend?  Are we allowed to be so absorbed in our cancer crap that it's acceptable to drop the friendship ball?

I was forced to confront these questions in the dairy aisle of the A&P yesterday morning as I was being told by a former friend that our friendship had become one-sided, that I wasn't reciprocating.  That I hadn't even sent her a Christmas card or ever offered to watch her kids, after she was "so there" for me.

"Are you kidding me?"

While it killed me to do it, I reminded her of my situation, you know, the cancer?  The surgeries... THE CANCER.  She informed me that everyone has stuff to deal with.

That stopped me.  Yes, we all have stuff.  That's very true and by no means would I make light of someone's troubles.  Believe me, I understand that.

But, does your stuff include being told you have the same disease that killed your mother and aunt?  Does it include having your breasts cut off on the small chance it will increase your odds of seeing your children grow up?  Does it include endless humiliating doctor appointments like expander fill-ups and painful blood draws?  Does it include constant pain from expanders and then a reconstruction surgery that didn't go quite right, only to be "revised" months later? All while taking care of two small boys, one giant dog and a hard-working husband.

Oh wait, there I go playing that cancer card again.

I need to stop making these excuses to her.  I apologize for not letting her know in advance I was too overwhelmed by everything while trying to make a nice holiday for my kids to send out Christmas cards to ANYBODY.  Nothing personal.  Sorry I didn't spell out in an email that I needed alone time to figure out how to deal with my life.  I'm sorry I couldn't babysit your kids, but I could barely manage my own.

I'm sorry you feel it became all about me.  I wish to God it hadn't.

But, more than that I wish I could stop feeling guilty that on some level, she may be right.  Did I become too selfish?  Did I toss her aside?  Does cancer give us that right?  The right to become a friend that takes without giving back?

I want to believe it does, because although I know everybody has "stuff"... it's not this stuff and whether you want to hear it or not, cancer is different.  And I need to believe it's okay to say that.

A true friend would never keep score.  A true friend would never mind if you needed a break from playdates or took too long to respond to an email and a true friend would certainly never sting me with the words, "The surgery had been months ago."  As if it were a bad haircut... as if it goes away.

It's been more than 24 hours and I still can't shake it.  I met and ranted to a real friend over tea this morning and she was as stunned as I was and confirmed I wasn't a terrible friend.  I liked that she wanted to run into this person in order to knock her down.  Thanks, T.

I'm trying hard to put it behind me.  At first I felt really alone with it, then I remembered something else I have among all my stuff... my Breast Cancer Posse.  The tweets and facebook comments I've received have made me smile, laugh and slowly push this ugly scene to the far side of my brain and I thank you all for that and letting me rant.

Now, I ask you, does cancer give us the right to ignore our friends?


  1. Wow, I guess I always thought of friendship like a marriage: both DON'T always give 100%; sometimes one is only capable of giving 30% and the other takes care of the remaining 70%. I never have kept score in my marriage, and never thought I had to with "friends." Now, some people claim they have tons of "friends" when in reality they have tons of "acquaintances." In my little nugget of a head, a true "friend" does not keep score.
    I just would like five minutes alone with your "acquaintance."
    :-) Lisa

  2. We're not IGNORING. We're just taking time out to deal with this little thing called cancer. If friends don't get that then they are not true friends to begin with. Tell me where she lives and I'll set my little blog mascot on her. He hates this kind of thing! P.S. GREAT RANT - you make me very proud ;)

  3. On one hand I think she was very self-centered....on the other hand, maybe you should have asked her what was going on in her life. Maybe she needed someone to talk to. IDK. Just a thought.
    Another cancer survivor

  4. Glad you could get this out on your blog, it is one of the great things about blogging for me, a great place to vent.
    I 'lost' many 'friends' after my cancer diagnosis. Most of them of course were never really friends, which I found out the hard way.
    This 'friend' who laid into you obviously has no idea what she is talking about. I mean, I do agree with the above comment a bit, like who knows what is going on in her life, but on that same note, if she really has something major going on I would think that would make her MORE understanding, not less.
    I like to think I have a new compassion for many people because I do believe we all have stuff to deal with. So I believe in giving slack but this 'friend' of yours doesn't seem to have that same belief.
    I agree with Anna that we are nit 'ignoring' our friends. We are just trying to get our shit together, trying to deal with the 'new normal'.
    I have found that since my diagnosis I am a bit more selfish- but in a good way. I was always last on my list of 'to-do's' but not anymore. Now my family and friends and I all rank high on the list, and some days are all about me. Other days are more about friends or my husband or my daughter. And whenever possible I try to mix things up so even when it is about my friend it can be about me too...makes it a win-win situation.
    Hug your boys, pat your dog, kiss your hubby, one of these things usually works for me:)

  5. Lisa, I never thought I'd have to keep score with friends either and I still believe we shouldn't have to. Thank you for wanting to set her straight. I'd pay to see that.

    Anna, thanks for wanting to send your furry friend out on my behalf. I'd pay to see that, too and thank you for the biggest compliment I could get from the Rant Queen. It means a lot. It just sucks we have to rant about such things.

    Denise, yeah, this is my dilemma. Maybe part of it was my fault. Just how much of a free pass do we get? It's a fine line. Thanks for writing.

    Debbie, I can't get past her keeping score, bringing up ways she helped me. What kind of friend does that? I wish she had told me what was bothering her instead of just dumping me, like high school, but everyone here is right, she wasn't "really" my friend. I like to think I'm more compassionate, as well, since I totally get that people have their own problems. That's also why her words were so hurtful. Anyway, trying to more on. I'm so happy I have this blogging world to turn to and of course, our posse. I will do all three of those things you suggested.

  6. You had cancer.

    Your friend needs to grow up. Some day she just might understand but I wouldn't bet on it.

    Instead of expressing her true fears - that you'd abandoned her, that she was lonely, or scared of your illness - she did the immature and selfish thing: last out.

    Friends don't keep score. They travel the river together, through the rapids and refreshing pools. But keeping score during times of illness and stress? No. That isn't friendship.

    Hugs to you,

  7. Stacey,
    Anyone who gets miffed because you didn't send a Christmas card or offer to babysit after "all she's done for you" is an asshat. This is narcissism, pure and simple, or what I call the "All About Me's." I didn't have anyone tell me I was a bad friend but I had a couple of peripheral people/acquaintances who were hurt I didn't tell them about it. Because after all, it's all about them and their feelings. Meh!

  8. Hi Jody, you may be right about her feeling abandoned, but I'm tired of trying to find the ways I screwed this up. I'm not going to do it anymore. You're right, friends do not keep score. Thanks for the support here.

    Jackie, thanks. I still can't believe she turned into a "what have you done for me lately" kind of girl. I have a hard time believing a friend would do that. I know I wouldn't. Thanks for being there.

  9. Stacey, I know I'm supposed to be on vacation, but this "friend" of yours really irritated me, so I'm taking time to comment! I agree, true friends do not keep score and you have had way more than your fair share to deal with, as well as maintaining things on the home front for two small children and a husband. I have seen a few friends fall by the wayside since my diagnosis, and I really don't worry about it, I have bigger worries, as do you. Do not feel guilty. Maybe later on she'll realize her errors and you can make ammends, but I doubt it. Some people think it's always about them, even if you're the one dealing with cancer. If she was dealing with issues of her own, I'm sure she would have told you! "Those types" usually do. And by the way, I sent out no Christmas cards this year either and it felt soooo good. Finally, I agree with Anna, great rant! We are all allowed at least a few!!

  10. Hi Nancy, thanks for checking in from your vacation. See, that's something a friend does, now just don't hold it against me... just kidding. I truly do appreciate you taking the time and I agree with all you said. I don't think she'll ever believe she was wrong, she'd rather believe I did her wrong and I'm trying really hard to stop thinking about it. I'd much rather think about the women I've met through blogging. It's you guys that matter to me. You get it. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  11. Oh, Stacey, what a crappy thing to have to go through. I wonder what "stuff" she's going through right now? Here's my two cents ... she treated you like crap. She had no right to treat you the way she did. She has no idea what cancer is like. She sounds like a very selfish person. But maybe she felt a long time ago that cancer stole a friend away from her?

    My suggestion is to treat her like nothing happened the next time you see her, and to be just as friendly as you usually are. I was really mad at a friend last summer after she gave me the silent treatment, and I ranted on my blog. After I got it out of my system, I just acted like nothing had happened, and she acted like nothing had happened, and we stayed friends. I wouldn't call us best friends, but I'd rather have friends than enemies.

    If your friend still treats you like crap, then you know she's not worth it, and you can drop her completely. I guess what I'm saying is to give her a second chance. Everybody has bad days!

    I've had several bad days after I had cancer, and I yelled at my friends once...but they forgave me and stuck by me. Giving second chances is also what friendship is about. I really hope I'm not coming across as too preachy...and that you'll still be my friend! :)

  12. i'm joining the amen corner here.

    i am sometimes *stunned* at the things people will equate with cancer. i had a 'friend' equate the troubles she was having selling her home with my treatment. 'we all have stuff going on. you have your cancer, i'm stuck with this house.'


    i think it's why a lot of us blog. i think it's why a lot of us are ticked off at the pinkification of breast cancer, the comforting illusion that it's a treatable, even 'attractive' disease.

    no, this is different. this is not your troubles with your mother. this is not the heartache over your rebellious teen. this is not that immovable house in a bad market.

    this, friend, is cancer. and it really sucks. and you should not keep score.

    and if you don't get that, we may not stay friends.

  13. Stacey, I faced a similar situation leading up to my mom's death. Those kinds of people are definitely not meant to be in our lives. I think the most frustrating thing is trying to figure out how someone could be so naive and hurtful. And the things that woman said are just ridiculous. We are better off without them and their score keeping!

  14. Hi Ginny, she and I haven't been friends in well over a year. She stopped emailing, calling and didn't respond to the several attempts I made at catching up. She dropped me like it was high school. Just nothing, until the other day when I saw her in the store. I think she would have walked right past me, too, if I didn't stop her. We'll never be friends again, that's for sure. Blogging about it has helped give me a better perspective about the whole thing. Definitely time to move on.

    Lani, thanks for writing. You so get it, yeah, to her since I wasn't laid up in bed with an IV drip, I must be able to babysit and should stop complaining. It still gets to me, but I'm trying to move on. I agree with you about blogging. Where else are we going to share this nonsense? I'm sorry you had a run in with someone like my former friend. They need to be leashed and kept away. Oops, that was mean.

    Hi Sami, I was always a big believer in staying away from those that suck the life out of us. There's no point in hanging on to those kind of friends. I'm glad you realize some people have no place in our lives. Life is just too damn short afterall, for that kind of negative crap.

  15. Stacey - I completely understand this post. I've experienced similar treatment, the eye-rolling, and 'oh it's not still that is it?' comments... people just don't get it. And you feel like saying, LISTEN - it IS a big deal.

    I've tried to view it in my life as a 'sorting hat' - sorts out people who come to your new life and those who don't. In my experience, most don't. Still really upsetting and hurtful when it happens though. A great rant, you expressed this perfectly.

  16. I read this while we were on vacation and was boiling mad but thought I would let it settle before I commented. Just got back and reread and am STILL boiling mad. First of all, she's more toxic in your life than cancer, as far as I'm concerned. You need to rid yourself of any negative energy around you, Stacey, so I'm glad to hear you've distanced yourself from her anyway. I have always been a "live and let live" friend (and relative) :-) and am trying hard to surround myself with similar people these days after realizing that certain "friends" were sucking the life out of me. I wish you could have told her off--but am glad you vented here and will be glad to listen if you need further venting.

  17. Hi Sarah, thanks for taking the time to comment here. It's so sad that some people have to see it as some kind of contest, who gets more attention, when they should just be thankful they're not the ones with cancer and just be there for us, however we may need them. But, you're right. Some people continue on with us, and some get left behind in the sorting. We have enough to deal with to let someone else's issues drag us down.

    Hi Wen, welcome back. I'm a huge believer in "live and let live," but apparently this person saw that as a personal insult. I'm so done. Thanks for your support, as always.

  18. It sounds like you've given her fourth, fifth and sixth chances! You're right, she's not a true friend; time to move on with no regrets!