Can I handle the emotional hit associated with losing more friends?

Back on July 6, 2014 — the day before I started chemotherapy – I wrote about my fears with getting to know others who might one day die from breast cancer.

To join a cancer community means to admit that I have cancer – but there is more to it than that – it is the fear of joining a community and then losing people in that community. I’m OK with admitting I have cancer, but I’m not OK with admitting that it is something that might one day kill me. I’m afraid that if I develop solid friendships with others who have cancer, that I’ll lose them. I don’t want to have to deal with the death of a good friend – and so, I hesitate. I hesitate to reach out too much to others who are also going through this experience – not because I don’t want to meet these people or get to know them – just that I don’t want to get to know them and then lose them.

Joining the cancer blogosphere, July 6, 2014

This is weighing on me today. Since that time I have made many good friends within the breast cancer community. In the last year, I also lost a couple of those friends. Their loss was hard. It was hard to watch them go from energetic powerful women, whom I hiked with regularly – to someone who is struggling to take a breath or a step. But I am glad for the time I did have with them. They showed me how to live.

After the loss of the last year, I find myself hesitant again. Can I handle the emotional hit associated with losing more friends? And yet, I don’t have a choice. I have made many friends who share being diagnosed as young women (under 45). Statistically, we cannot all survive this disease. It will happen again. We will have others within my community of friends who will be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer .. and one day, we will lose them too.

As I reach out to friends who are going through the scary process of biopsies of suspicious lumps, I am scared for them. I am scared that they will hear that the cancer is back – or that is has spread – that they will have to go through treatment again, or treatment for the rest of their shortened lives. I cannot help but hesitate and ask myself – do I want to through this again? Do I want to become closer to those who I know I will lose? But I cannot step away. I need to provide support – whatever little support that may be – often it is just thoughts. I short text or email saying “I am thinking of you today”, so they know that they are not alone — but also that I see you – I am a witness to your struggles.

I think back to a recent memorial service that I attended. I heard so many great stories of the power that was the person going through metastatic breast cancer, and loving her kids and family. I heard stories of her strength. But I felt like they only saw one side of her. I also saw a different side. I saw not just her strength but her struggles. I held a space where she could take away the shield she put up to help those around her — a space where she could cry and express her frustrations over what the disease was doing to her. It is a particular hug in my kitchen that I remember the most. I remember the smiles while hiking, but also the tears while letting down the barriers that she put up to protect those around her. I hold that memory close.

So I ask myself, can I go through this again? and then I ask myself, how can I not?

Feature image by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

  • Becky


  • This is such a difficult question – one I have also asked myself. I recently stepped away from a support group for that very reason. I had already made friends and lost some of them, and then a whole bunch of new people joined and had all the same challenges that we did in the beginning – and I thought “I can’t do this any more.”
    Thank you for opening my eyes. We will inevitably lose friends – whether or not through cancer. In the meantime, why not enjoy their friendship.

    • that and they lose friends … when someone is diagnosed with METS (even with Breast cancer) there are those in their/our circles that just cannot handle it … I don’t want to be that person. I want to be someone who can be there – but I also need to balance that with self-compassion, and self-care. I cannot be there for anyone if I cannot be there for myself.

  • Absolutely – self care has to come first. It sounds like your group included both primary and mets diagnoses, which is tough, as the challenges can be quite different. Our group is only for mets – and that’s tough enough. Sending best wishes to you Becky.

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