Let’s Talk About You

Some times cancer survivors and those in treatment want to forget the unpleasant reality of pokes, prods, chemo drips and nauseating side effects.  We want to forget we are in treatment and instead we want to hear about your normal life, even if it is derailed by a cancer diagnosis, or bad news you think we cannot handle.

By Amy Rauch Neilson

Last week, one of my lifelong best friends called. We chatted about the usual stuff – the kids, the weather, our summer plans. She, of course, also asked me how I’m feeling, how I’m managing my chemotherapy treatments and schedule. Then there was a pause and she said, “I have something to tell you, but I’m not sure if I should.”

I was a bit nervous but still, whatever it was, I wanted to know.

“Yes, of course tell me,” I said. “Please.”

She told me her Dad had been recently diagnosed with cancer and would soon be starting treatment. She’d known for about two weeks, but hadn’t known if she should tell me.

Under ordinary circumstances – as in prior to my recent breast cancer diagnosis – she would have called me right away. But that I was in the midst of fighting my own battle with this disease had called it into question. She’d even discussed it with her sister, whom I also know well: When should they tell me? I’ve been close to my friend and her family since we met in Kindergarten – 30-some years ago.

I can understand the hesitation, the love and concern, the thought that she didn’t want to add anything more to my already very full plate. But not only do I get tired of talking about me, my diagnosis, my treatments, quite honestly, I want to hear about my friends’ lives, what they’re facing, their challenges as well as their joys. It helps me to feel “normal” at a time when my life is anything but.

Several times since my January diagnosis, friends have kept a lid on something big going on in their lives, be it marital troubles, problems at work, a concern about a child. They’re coming from the right place, with the best of intentions.

But it’s important for them to know that I want to know. I want to be “kept in the loop.” I care deeply.

Friendship is a two-way street, even when one of you is facing a life crisis like a cancer diagnosis. Especially then.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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