Before I get started for today I should probably add a disclaimer stating that this post is about my friends that I know in person, most of whom I grew up with and have known for over twenty (20) years. I should also point out that I have struggled to make new friends since I finished my Masters degree in 2008, mostly due to my being frequently unemployed and also having terribly low self-esteem.
Over the past few years my friends have mostly forgotten about me. Years ago, I realized that I was always responsible for organizing everything. I called everyone, I scheduled everything, I did all the work. One day I decided that I would engage in a little experiment and stop working so hard, hoping that my friends would call and make plans with me instead. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in my favour.
There are a lot of complicated reasons for why my friends drifted away from me. Many got married and had children and their lives became busier; some moved away; some just didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. It probably didn’t help that I was single by choice and often unemployed. This made me difficult to fit in at couple-focused social gatherings, often quite depressing, and sometimes a threat to insecure spouses and partners. It was also, I think, hard for some of my friends who were interested in marriage in children to understand why I wasn’t particularly interested in those things and perhaps they felt like we didn’t have much in common.
This situation has changed drastically since my cancer diagnosis.
Recently, I’ve received a glut of messages and support from friends I had hardly heard from at all over the past five (5) to ten (10) years. In many cases, the support and contact has been kind words and responses to my posts on social media. This has been lovely. It’s low-impact, I don’t have to talk to everyone personally, and I can be buoyed by the knowledge that there are a bunch of folks out there rooting for me and hoping that I will recover well. This has helped me stay positive.
Even better are the work and school acquaintances who have come forward to me with their stories of surviving cancer. The advice that they have offered me about living with cancer, such as managing the side effects of chemotherapy, has been incredibly helpful to me and I am terribly grateful that they reached out to share their wisdom.
I have also had some wonderful contact with friends I drifted from mutually due to distance. After some heartening messages, it is my hope that I’ll be able to see some of those people when they next visit home.
While all of this is wonderful and I am grateful to all of the people who have reached out to me over the past two months, I do (reluctantly) have mixed feelings about some of it. First, as someone who is accustomed to not being particularly high on people’s priority lists and to not having much social interaction, it can be a bit exhausting to respond to everyone. This is especially true with some friends who have a tendency to be a bit overbearing and like me to operate on their pace and terms. Being sick and run down doesn’t help with this either.
Second, and I don’t like admitting this, I do feel some resentment toward a few of my old friends. It is frustrating to think that it took something so extreme to finally garner their attention, to move me up on their priority lists, and to be considered worthy of their time and attention. The fact that I feel this way is troubling to me, but I think that after everything, it’s not entirely unnatural. I hope that I will be able to get over this and, in time, repair some of those relationships.
Overall, I have been a bit overwhelmed by the support that everyone I know has offered me — in a good way. Most of it has been tremendously helpful and all has been appreciated. I start chemotherapy on Friday (December 22) and I will need all the strength I can get — both from within myself and from those who are rooting for me.