Struggling to relate?
When the people close to you find out you have cancer, they’ll probably feel a lot of the same things you did. They might be worried, or upset, or angry, or shocked. They might not know how to respond, so they end up acting weird – when you’d really like them to just be normal. Suddenly relationships that have been totally natural can feel strange and strained. But keeping friends and family close is important – and being honest and open can really help.
Your friends might be amazing – saying all the right things, doing all the right things, generally being awesome.
But life isn’t always like that. People get awkward. They don’t know what to say. They worry about saying the wrong thing.
You might find it frustrating, especially if you’re feeling crappy and crabby because of your treatment. But often all it needs is for you to be straight with people and let them know they don’t need to walk on eggshells.
It can help to:
- Ask people to keep calling and texting
- Explain you sometimes might take a while to reply
- Make sure you contact them too
- Let your friends know what they can do to help
- Explain it’s OK for people to ask questions.
Sometimes friendships can drift apart, but your friends can also be a real help. Doing things you normally do is important. And it’s always good to have someone you can moan to when people are doing your head in …
If you get cancer as a teenager or in your early twenties, you might suddenly find yourself spending a lot more time with your parents – just when you were looking forward to spending a lot less time with them. And that can be tough for everyone.
You might feel frustrated or smothered or embarrassed or worried about making your parents worry. They might feel shocked or scared or distracted or confused or worried about making you worry. That’s a lot of emotional baggage you’re all carrying around – especially if you find it hard to communicate with each other at the best of times.
But keeping those emotions hidden doesn’t tend to help. Bottle things up and you usually end up feeling lonely or ready to explode. Or both.
So maybe try to talk to your parents calmly about what you’d like from them. You might ask:
- To go to appointments by yourself (or with them)
- To be involved in decisions about your treatment
- To keep doing the things you’ve always enjoyed doing
- To be left alone when you need space.
It’s not always an easy conversation, but your parents will probably appreciate it too. You’re all trying to figure your way through this, and talking about it honestly usually helps.
Brothers and sisters
You might find your brothers and sisters suddenly get really overprotective – so you end up with three (or four or five) parents, instead of two. You might find they do the opposite – ignoring you or not wanting to visit you in hospital.
But whatever happens, it’s worth remembering that their emotions will be all over the place too – and if they’re acting weirdly, that’s probably the reason. They might be:
- Scared – No matter how tough they pretend to be, they’ll be worried about you.
- Angry – They might feel left out or annoyed because they have to do more chores (and they might be angry at themselves for feeling like that).
- Jealous – It probably sounds weird to you, but you’re getting a lot of attention – and they may not be.
- Guilty – When they’re out having fun, don’t be surprised if they’re feeling bad because you can’t do the same.
- Lonely – They might be missing you. Or their friends might be drifting away because they don’t know how to react.
It can be a struggle, but it is worth trying to keep in mind how people might be feeling. Talking honestly about what you’re going through is a good idea too, and you can always text or email if you find it hard to open up in person.
And try to let your brothers and sisters know when they’re helping you out – it’ll make them feel good and give them a better idea of what you’d like them to do.
Dealing with boyfriends and girlfriends can be a minefield at the best of times. Throw cancer into the mix and things often get even more complicated.
It can bring you together, helping you realise just how much you mean to each other. But it can also push you apart, as you struggle to communicate like you used to about what you’re feeling and what’s going on. It throws up a whole load of new situations, too – like how you respond if one of you is feeling glass-half-full when the other one is feeling glass-half-empty. It’s not easy.
Whatever happens, remember you’re both reacting to a really tough situation – and you’re both probably feeling a lot of the same emotions. It’s never easy, but sharing what you’re going through – and trying not to criticise or blame each other – can stop you drifting apart.
You might feel like you’re a burden or like your partner didn’t sign up to this. Your partner might really want to support you but not know how. Stuff like that doesn’t come out easily unless you talk about it.
So while it can be hard – and exhausting – try to be honest. Do normal things together when you can, too. Talk about all the stupid stuff you’ve always talked about. And remember that cancer is one big curveball – and that everyone is usually better off if you let each other know what’s really going on inside.