Two best friends have their arms around each other, but one disappears while the other looks sad

Cancer Ghosting: Navigating the Loss of Relationships

Last updated: May 2023

It's a topic that isn't often talked about, but it's something that many cancer patients experience: Cancer Ghosting. This is when friends, family, or loved ones become distant or cut off contact due to your cancer diagnosis. It can be a very isolating and lonely experience, and it's often hard to know what to do about it.

I never thought that I would be the victim of cancer ghosting, but I have been. Needless to say, it ticked me off.

I have this friend, let's call her Sarah. We went on vacations together, talked on the phone every day, and supported each other through every up and down.

But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sarah didn't know what to do. She wanted to be there for me, but she was afraid. She didn't know how to handle the situation, and she didn't want to say or do the wrong thing.

After being diagnosed

At first, she was there to lend moral support. She went to one of my chemotherapy appointments, cooked a few meals, and tried to make me laugh. But as time went on, she started to pull away.

She stopped returning my calls and texts, and she stopped visiting me. She couldn't bear to see her bestie so sick, and she didn't know how to handle her own feelings of fear and sadness.

I didn't understand what was happening. I thought she was just busy with work or other commitments. But as my treatment continued, I felt more and more alone. I couldn't believe that one of my best friends had abandoned me when I needed her the most. I felt like the bestie girl code had been broken, and it ticked me off.

Sarah knew what she was doing was wrong, but she didn't know how to fix it. She didn't know how to face me and apologize for ghosting me.

This or That

Did you experience the loss of any relationships (friends, family or romantic partners) after your MBC diagnosis?

Finally reaching out

It wasn't until months later that she finally reached out. She wrote me a letter, pouring out all of her feelings of guilt and regret. She apologized for ghosting me and explained how scared she had been.

To my own surprise, I forgave her. I understood that cancer can be scary for everyone involved, and I was just happy to have my friend back. Our friendship has since grown stronger, and we now share a bond that can only come from overcoming such a difficult experience together.

But I have warned her that if she ever ghosts me again she'd better remain Casper the friendly ghost because there's no coming back. I don't have the mental bandwidth for repeat offenders.

It's not a reflection of the person with cancer

While cancer ghosting can be hurtful, it is important to remember that it is not necessarily a reflection of the person with cancer. Rather, it is a reflection of the other person's fears and emotions surrounding cancer. It is important for those going through cancer to seek out support from others who are willing and able to be there for them during their treatment journey.

And to not allow others' fear of what's happening to you to tarnish what once was a happy, healthy relationship. In my unpopular opinion, ghosting is one of the highest forms of disrespect. It says that you're not even worth a conversation--I'm just going to disappear like I was never in your life. This type of behavior is never okay.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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