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?