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When Your Friends Have Cancer, Too

Given today’s scary statistics that 1 in 2 of us are expected to get cancer at some point in our lifetime, it comes as no surprise that we are all probably likely to know someone that has or has had cancer.1

But what about when one of your friends or family members has cancer at the same time as you? That, believe me, is a whole different ball game. Before my diagnosis, I had lost a number of close friends and family members to cancer. Some only seemed to suffer from the disease for a short time, while others endured lots of treatment and surgeries.

I never expected to be part of this “gang”

So, when I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, it was a “shock” but also a relief to have finally found out what was wrong with me.

Not knowing what to say to someone who has cancer

Prior to my own diagnosis, I never really knew what to say to my friends or family who had cancer. There were usually lots of sad faces, tears, the “why you,” or the comments like “you can fight this,” “stay strong,” or, “I had a friend who had the same.” I came to learn that, for me, all the above were a “negative.”

Meeting up with my “cancer buddies”

It was a couple of weeks after my diagnosis that I plucked up the courage to go and visit one of my work friends. She had bowel cancer. I don’t know why I was hesitant; I think I felt like I would be burdening her. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I arrived armed with a box of assorted cakes. She was waiting for me at the door with a big, smiley face. I didn’t expect that: I believed that she would be sad. Everyone else had been sad for me. A great afternoon was had, laughing over old times, cursing cancer with every swear word we could muster. She made me feel “normal” again, if that’s the right word. There were no pitiful looks, no embarrassing silences. Just a normal afternoon. An afternoon that, despite everything, we fully enjoyed. We decided that we should arrange to meet up on a regular basis. We would also be inviting one of our other friends; she had breast cancer.

Ongoing support

We met up a couple of weeks later. There were now three of us in our little “cancer circle”. We not only had our cancers in common, but we were all also wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. We were also all quite young – they were in their forties, and me, in my early fifties. We all had a high-grade, aggressive cancer. I found my little cancer circle to be very therapeutic. We could speak to each other about anything, without the fear of upsetting our families.

Creating a safe space

It became our “safe time,” a time when we each updated the others on our treatment and prognosis. When we could speak openly and honestly about our pain and fears. But there was no pity here, as we were all in the same boat. Just honest, practical support and advice – oh, and cakes! We continued to meet every couple of weeks, and I can’t tell you how invaluable this time was. Not just for me, but for all of us. So, if you have a friend or family member that has been diagnosed with cancer, reach out. The support, encouragement, practical advice and love that you all can share is priceless.

In memory of my dear friends.

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

  1. Whiteman, H. '1 in 2 people will develop cancer in their lifetime.' Medical News Today. Published February 4, 2015. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288916.php.

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