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Last updated: November 2021

Somewhere along with my life, I seemed to mess up a fair share of friendships. So, I will try not to reiterate that old line telling you to screw all the people who don't show up for you exactly how you want them to during your cancer journey.

Instead, remember that your friends have their own lives to live. As a cancer patient, I admit that I sometimes act like I am the center of the universe. When I do, I can only imagine how off-putting that could be.

Cancer friends

Cancer is going to be the biggest challenge we will ever know. We will need anyone who will show up for us during our good times, our bad times, and our ugly times, especially our ugly times. So, when new people pop up, I recommend you give them a solid chance.

Friends come in so many shapes and sizes. Not all will drop everything for you because you have cancer, but they get an A for effort when they show up. Here are some friends that showed up in my life right about the time my cancer did. I am sure you know these people too.

Old timers

My favorite is the old friend you haven't talked to in years because you had a falling out. Suddenly, they pop up and want to rekindle the friendship you once had since they heard you are sick. First, ask yourself how much of your life do you want to spend fighting versus loving.

If all you want to do is fight with that person, then maybe you should move on. On the other hand, you may have something extraordinary if you can get over your grudges and remember the good times. Having someone who remembers you before life made you its punching bag is priceless.

Support group buddies

There are those you meet in groups. At support groups, you can often make unique, instant bonds because they understand what you are going through and give you advice for your future. Although these friendships often seem to be based solely on cancer, you have in common instead of anything else.

Random acquaintance friends

Then there are people from out of nowhere, like the random Facebook connection or a friend of a friend that wants to help. I made a great friend that way during my first round of treatment. But I also had a stalker for several years that I ended up having to go to the police over. Be careful about these people, make sure you know who they are, and follow online dating etiquette.

One-sided friends

Once you get into treatment, these soul-sucking relationships become harder and harder to maintain. But letting go of them is also tricky because you obviously care about your friend, or you wouldn't have put so much effort into them in the first place. Unfortunately, this person is the most likely to disappear when things get overly complicated.

Depending on circumstances and how much you care about them, you can leave a space open for them to come back if they show signs that they are willing to change. However, I wouldn't hold my breath.

MBC patient

As a metastatic cancer patient, I sometimes forget that my healthy friends may have a different perspective on how valuable people are. They do not sit around thinking about how friends can slip through their fingers like water into the ocean. Nor do they think about the ticking clock counting down the number of days left for an adventure like, well, like I do.

That is until we, or cancer patients, come around. I have found that just having a conversation with us can launch someone into their own existential crisis. When this happens to you, try to remember that this is about them, not you. They are afraid of their own fragility or scared of losing you. We all have this kind of friend or many of them. It really sucks. But how often have we not handled things well in the last few weeks, months, years?

There have definitely been days when I was not the best to be around, and I have needed my friend's forgiveness too. No matter what, cherish the friendships that you have. Cultivate new friendships when you can. And try to stay open to the lost friends when they are ready to come back.

Friendships can bring so much joy and happiness through these difficult times. But, of course, you don't want to forget your old friends in all of this and remember to make time with them extra special.

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on September 6, 2023, Vicki Thompson passed away. Vicki's advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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