In trouble like this,
I need loyal friends.
We know that cancer threatens our health and our lives. But one reality that we may not have anticipated is that cancer can threaten our friendships. Not everyone can be supportive to us when cancer enters our lives. In fact, some friends may seem to disappear from our lives at the moment we seem to need them most.
The reasons some friends disappear are varied and complex. But it may be due in part to the fact that our cancer threatens their lives with emotional pain. They may be afraid they will lose us. They may be afraid of grief. They may be afraid they will not know what to say or to do to be helpful to us.
We need friends more than ever when cancer enters our lives. We need to do what we can to build solid relationships with people who are able to stick with us through our experiences with cancer. The pay off for building friendships at this time is that these relationships will take on a new depth and richness because of the emotional and spiritual intensity of what we are experiencing with cancer.
To develop supportive relationships there are several things we can do.
First, we can realize that the diagnosis of cancer will evoke a variety of strong feelings in our friends. This is a reality we can talk about together. We can tell our friends that we know they will have feelings about what we are going through, and that we would welcome them to talk about those feelings with us if they can.
Second, we can be honest about our own feelings and struggles. When we talk about what goes on inside of us it keeps people from having to guess about what we are thinking and feeling. And when we share our inner lives with people, it allows them to move closer to us emotionally.
Third, we can be specific about any needs we have that our friends can meet. And we can make it clear to them that they do not need to do anything or say anything to make us feel better. We can share with them that what we need most is their presence with us.
Finally, we can tell those friends who seem to be withdrawing, that we miss them. We can tell them that we realize that this is a very difficult experience we are going through and that they might have all kinds feelings about it. We can tell them that if they want to talk about it with us, it would be good. We need to do this realizing that they may be unable to be responsive at the time.
May your friendships deepen throughout your seasons of survival.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. What experience have you had with friends who have seemed to disappear since your diagnosis with cancer?
2. What experience have you had with friends who have been able to support you during this time?
3. Which of the suggestions listed for building friendships have you put into practice?
4. What was the result?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
Job made specific requests of his friends during his time of need. Read the following requests and discuss why each of these are important to a person living with cancer and to his or her family.
“Do not let my wild words surprise you.”
If my troubles and griefs were weighted on scales
they would weigh more than the sand of the sea.
My wild words should not surprise you.
“Be loyal to me, even if I have forsaken God.”
In trouble like this I need loyal friends
whether I’ve forsaken God or not.
But you, my friends, you deceive me like a stream
that goes dry when no rain comes.
You are like those streams to me;
you see my fate and are shocked.
Everything you say, I have heard before.
I understand it all. I know as much as you do.
I am not your inferior.
“Listen to me.”
Listen to what I am saying,
that is all the comfort I ask from you.
Give me a chance to speak.
“Pray for me.”
You have worn me out, God;
You have let my family be killed.
You have seized me. You are my enemy.
I am skin and bones,
and people take that as proof of my guilt.
I want someone to plead with God for me,
as a man pleads for his friends.
(Good News Bible)