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How My Cancer Diagnosis Led to a Loss of Friends

I never thought I'd lose friends when I was diagnosed with cancer.

I never thought I'd lose friends when I was diagnosed with cancer.

Learning Big Lessons Through Pain

I have tried to write this story for the last five years, but I just wasn't ready. It is still difficult to talk about, but I feel I've come to a point in my journey where I need to get it off my chest. I believe putting off writing about this experience means admitting what I tried to ignore for years. It also brings back so many different feelings. Feelings of pain, loss, sadness, abandonment, shame, low self-esteem, and many other emotions.

My story of lung cancer was difficult enough, but little did I know that with illness can come the loss of friends. I say "friends," of course, tongue and cheek—because this experience taught me that the people who walked away from me were never truly my friends.

I know details don't really matter, but at the time this happened, they consumed me. I went over and over them to try to make sense of it all. The three friends who abandoned me were all women I hung out with the last several years of my life. Two of the three resided in my apartment complex. Two of them were long-time friends I considered deep soul mates, friends I could trust to share my deepest secrets with. We had our ups and downs through the years, but I truly believed they loved and cared about me.

I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004—although I never smoked—and I was really terrified. I knew I had God, great family and friends, and all the support in the world. I never imagined losing friends, let alone the friends that I considered to be my best friends. Yes, cancer is a life-threatening illness, but the abandonment of dear friends was devastating.

I was in the biggest fight of my life. Every day for the next several months was a whirlwind of doctor appointments, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. In the craziness of these days, I wasn't noticing what was missing. It was those people I thought were my dear friends. I figured it out in the following ways. . . .

Posing with family in 2004 during my fundraiser

Posing with family in 2004 during my fundraiser

The First Friend to Abandon Me

I remember being on the computer to help organize the fundraiser my dear family was planning for me. I went into my email box and noticed a message from one of my good friends. Sorry to be graphic, but I was going from the computer to the bathroom, as I couldn't keep much down anymore from the aggressive chemo they were giving me. I felt excited to check out an email from the friend that seemed missing from my life.

This is what it read: "Linda, how dare your family have a fundraiser for you. I was there when you got the letter in the mail that put you on Medical Assistance for your illness. You do not deserve a fundraiser and it is wrong that your family give you a fund raiser."

The rampage on the email continued, but I think you get the point. She ended the email, however, by telling me she would be calling later to talk to me and that she would not participate in this deception. Between running to the bathroom to be sick from chemo and lying in bed, crying from the pain of abandonment, I wanted to die. I called my twin sister at work and told her about the email from my so-called friend. Knowing how sick I was and now hearing me so upset about this, she came right home and took care of the situation. When the so-called friend called, Laura was ready to deal with the craziness. You can imagine how the conversation went, dealing with a twin sister that is hurt for her spurned twin sister. What I will say is she told her never to call again and that we want nothing to do with her. My so-called friend told Laura, "How dare you have a fundraiser for her. You will be sending her to jail for fraud, and she's very sick because of the cancer and chemo and won't do well there."

The Second Friend to Abandon Me

The second friend showed her colors when my loving twin sister booked a limo for our birthday. Our birthday fell only two months after I finished Chemo and Radiation. I was told by my oncologist that my odds of survival were poor, about 20-25% within the first five years. This made our birthday even more important to us. We are so very close, and the thought of us leaving each other was horrifying.

Long story short, after this friend received the email about the birthday celebration, she wrote back and said that she, just like the other friend, "could not participate in this." I believe she was put off about us spending money that may have come from the fund-raiser. These women were obviously in cahoots and working each other up about the love and support I was receiving during this time. Who cares if I did choose to use some of the fundraiser money to celebrate my life—I know, who thinks like this? Funny thing is, Laura paid for it, which was always the plan. By the way, it was a birthday celebration I will never forget. Not knowing if I would make five years, I was in every moment and surrounded by unconditional love of true friends and family.

The Third Friend to Abandon Me

The last person in this sad tale wasn't as painful for me. We were more superficial friends living in the same apartment complex who went out on the town once in a while. We didn't have a deep connection like I thought I had with the other two women. I'm not saying it didn't hurt me, but it was much easier to deal with because we didn't have the depth and history. Her way of blowing me off was sending an email. Among other things, she told me I should give the money from the fundraiser back to the cancer society. I called her back, but she didn't answer. I did find the strength to leave her a message about how disappointing I found her message to be.

A Diagnosis and Losing Friends Taught Me Many Lessons

I am not a victim! As a matter of fact, these three women taught me a very important life lesson I will never forget. I have always been a caretaker, which stems from a very difficult childhood. I put up with a lot of crap from people in the past, these gals included. The diagnosis of cancer was a wake-up call. God was telling me I needed to start loving myself. I needed to start thinking about myself and not everyone else. I now surround myself with loving people who support and love me. Relationships should be 50-50 and respectful. Looking back on the friendships with these three women, I see how often I sacrificed myself—because of my insecurities—to make them feel better about themselves and ignore the truth.

Life is a journey of learning from our good and bad experiences. The cancer diagnosis gave me new eyes in many ways. It's my second chance at living fully without blinders on. Pain and struggles can be our best teachers, and I feel incredibly blessed. I forgive the women for how they behaved during this difficult time in my life, but I will never forget.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2010 Linda Rogers


Linda Rogers (author) from Minnesota on June 09, 2019:

Your kind, loving comment made my day. I am so sad & sorry about the loss of your son. I, like you, am comforted knowing the Lord is with me through thick & thin. Thank goodness we have our faith. BTW-I have great friends these days that I fully trust. It's a two way friendship that I look for these days. Hard to believe It's been 15 years since I was diagnosed. I am truly blessed.

Linda Todd from Charleston on June 09, 2019:

Linda, I am so sorry. I can feel the pain as you wrote this. I have had the betrayal of a friend, but not while I was sick. There were no excuses for this.

Adenocarcinoma took my son's life, it had metastasized to his brain. He was only 48. He decided with the doctor's advice there was not much that could be done. He was a smoker.

I deal with it daily, but I know that he is resting forever now. I pray for you and I am so glad that you are still present with us...God's grace is sufficient.

If people leave us when we are down...they were truly not there to begin with. Yes, forgiveness is important, but forgetting is harder. Remember that there is on who will never, ever, leave you...His name is Jesus. God Bless You!

Linda Rogers (author) from Minnesota on April 12, 2019:

Bless you RTalloni for your thoughtful & heartfelt comment. Although it was painful at the time, I learned so much about myself that has served me well. I was blessed to have my twin sister & true friends that helped me through the darkness. God knew I put up w/ too much from people because of my difficult childhood. This was my awakening that I needed to truly love myself which included better friends that truly loved me & gave back the love & loyalty I offered. Can't wait to look @ the book by Chris Brauns Thanks for the recommendation.

RTalloni on April 12, 2019:

Oh me, those kinds of blindsiding situations are so confusing and hurtful. The depth of the evolution of emotions involved is really hard to put into words. It does take a little time to think through them and start learning from them. So glad you shared your experience with loss of friends because it is helpful to people facing the same to see that you "went through".

Making assumptions about other's situations is always dangerous since they usually miss the truth. It's also unfair and malicious to share those assumptions with people who are not close to the situation. That "assumers" do not go directly to the person or the close family members to get the whole story tells that their motivations are ill-intentioned. For some reason they want to think the worst about the person(s) and spread their cruelty.

They may just be vicious gossips, feel guilty about something related to the situation, or may be believing someone who told them lies about the situation. This kind of behavior certainly isn't limited to illness related losses but it does seem extra cruel to do it to someone who is physically suffering. Focusing on all that you have to be thankful for and praying for the persecutors puts you in a better place.

I am thankful for your strong circle of support and that you have not let the behavior of these people be your main focus. Your closing comments/quote are important in this social climate of so-called unconditional forgiveness. A very useful book on the topic comes from Chris Brauns, "Unpacking Forgiveness".

Linda Rogers (author) from Minnesota on April 11, 2019:

Oh Eric, so sorry you've experienced this too. It's so sad to me that people act so bad as we are fighting for our life. The pettiness continues to baffle me till this day. We are blessed to be alive which is the best part. Blessings Eric.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on April 11, 2019: