Friendshifts: Navigating Changes In Your Relationships With Friends

Friendshifts: Navigating Changes In Your Relationships With Friends

Speaker: Deb Leipzig, Close Friend of a Woman Living With Advanced Cancer

You may have noticed that since you were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, there have been shifts in your friendships. Some friendships strengthened, other friendships weakened, and you may have even developed new friendships.  Deb Leipzig has a close friend living with advanced cancer and shared her insights and perspectives in order to help you develop strategies in improving communication, determining what roles your want your friends to play on your journey, and finding fulfilment in these relationships.

  • Not all friendships are one-size fits all. Determine the strengths of each friend and share your needs wisely.
  • Respect that this is unchartered territory for you and your friends.
  • Don’t feel pressure to have to give a medically detailed update to your friends – most of them are not oncologists specializing in metastatic breast cancer. This reduces the opportunity for them to offer unsolicited medical advice.
  • Try to communicate clearly what your logistical and emotional needs are. The more your friend understands your experience, the better she is able to help.
  • Most of you do not want to be a cancer patient full-time. Give back to the friendship in a way that is comfortable for you. Show an interest in your friend’s life.
    • This allows for cancer-free zones in your life.
    • It reduces the phenomenon of “Giver Burnout” and keeps both of you invested in the friendship.
  • It’s okay to share updates via mass email. Several women have sent out variations of this email:

Subject: Not another chain letter

I consider all of you friends and would like you to hear the following news from me, a reliable source who knows the facts, rather than relying on hearsay. I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, meaning that the cancer is in places other than my breasts and is not curable, but is treatable.

I know this community and its remarkable reputation for helping those in need.  If you would like to reach out to assist my family and me, the following are ways and things that you can do to help and things that I would appreciate that you not do.

Things that I would appreciate today:

  • Think of me in your prayers – my Hebrew name is ______________.
  • Send me a quick email letting me know that you are thinking of me.
  • Follow my lead.

Things I will appreciate in the future (timing TBA), but do not require now, as I hope to be self-sufficient for a while:

  • Going to the dry cleaners.
  • Picking up things at the supermarket.
  • Help with carpool commitments.

Things that I would appreciate NOT be done:

  • Please do not ask me how I am doing if you see me in public.  If I got myself together to be in the public domain, please let me enjoy forgetting about my illness for a while.
  • If I tell you “no, thank you” please do not take it personally, but I really do mean “no, thank you” for that particular time – I assure you that I will call upon you at some time in the future when I do need your help, whether it be to run an errand, make food, etc.
  • Please do not use my children as a conduit to inquire about my health or ask them how they are doing.  We are all coping as well as can be expected.
  • Please don’t offer advice unless I ask for it. You don’t have to feel pressure to problem-solve. Sometimes being a good listener is all I will need.

I hope you understand that it will be impossible for me to answer each email I receive.  I will try to send out a group email with frequent updates. I am sure this is not what you expected when you opened this email.  Thank you in advance for your love, concern, and respect for our method of dealing with this very difficult situation.

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