Monday, November 05, 2012

The space between us

There's this poem I see often ...

What Cancer Cannot Do

Author: Unknown
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.
It's a lovely poem, meant to be uplifting and wonderful. It's a way of saying, look, I know cancer is like a punch in the face and disrupts your life in so many ways, and it sucks, but look! At least it can't do any of these things!! And it sweet. And lovely. The sentiment is wonderful. But in my experience, it's not actually that accurate. 
Now, it's hard for me to talk about this, mostly because people are wonderful and I never want anyone to come to this blog and thing Is she talking about me? Because, well, I'm not. And I think most of the distance I'm feeling is both from me and others. And I think it's mostly unintentional. And yet, it needs to be shared. 
The poem says cancer cannot kill friendship. Well, actually, it can. And it has. I've heard from others actual friendships just gone, in an instant. I have not had to go through that heartbreak yet (and don't be mistaken, it is heart breaking on both sides). But I do have a few relationships that are definitely frosty, that definitely have some space that wasn't there before, and that feel a little, well, awkward.
I don't think it's intentional ... I don't think anyone is sitting there thinking she's got cancer and so I can't be her friend anymore. But it's there. I'm guilty of it too. When I'm feeling depressed or overwhelmed, I have a habit of pulling away from people. So I totally get it. I also know that it was (and may still be) hard for people to be around me. It may bring back memories of watching someone else go through cancer. Someone, who was brave enough to be very honest with me, once told me it was difficult for her to talk to me because just weeks before she heard about my cancer, her grandfather passed away from a very aggressive cancer. She was not in the frame of mind to be around that again. I understood completely - in her shoes, it would have been equally difficult for me. 
Some of the distance didn't start until later. I don't know what started it. I can guess based on comments made (guesses at best as I have not asked for clarification, nor do I plan to). I can guess that my attitude about breast cancer and pink ribbons is a huge turn off to some people. I think that some people are expecting me to react like others they have known, and I don't. I think, in general, it's hard to see people suffering and so some people tend to pull back. Really, there are about a million and one reasons that space gets created. For all I know, it has nothing to do with cancer and the space was going to come eventually anyway. 
While I may not know what is the cause, I can feel it. And it's heartbreaking. Especially when I feel like I can't fix it. I can't patch this hole, at least not now. All I can do is hope that with time, the relationships will grow again. 
Because, with or without cancer, relationships certainly are ever-changing. Sometimes they grow, and sadly sometimes they shrink. 
Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all bad. Of course, during this time, some of my relationships have definitely grown closer. I have come to know some pretty wonderful people that I might not have met if it weren't for the cancer. I am very grateful for those people and those moments. But, my heart still aches for the relationships that have broken, even just a bit, during this time.


  1. This is really a lovely post. In the brief few weeks that I've been in this circumstance, I've had people rally around me in a way that is truly heartwarming and humbling. But there have been a few that I thought would draw close who have definitely stepped back. It's disheartening, and they may have their own good reasons. But I can't worry about it. Just going to focus on my own health, and whatever good I can find. I hope the relationships that cancer has strained or broken, for both of us, can heal in their own time.

  2. I know exactly what you're talking about. Yup.

    I think it's because people don't know what to say. A friendship with someone who's hurting takes more effort to keep up. many just don't want to make the commitment.

    It's lonely without those you used to relate to. You wonder if they miss you as much as you miss them.You wonder if they have replaced you with someone else. And, you just want someone to talk to.
    I can totally relate.
    Stupid cancer!

  3. Brandie,
    Thank you for writing about this. I have had sadly, what I considered quite good friendships fall away because of the cancer. it happens, it hurts. I've also met some pretty fantastic people, like you, that I probably wouldn't have otherwise met. When one leaves, one more takes the place
    Love and hugs!

  4. I think, for some, it's the change in habit required that makes them come up short. Like that time I hugged you - and you had to remind me not to hug too hard. I felt bad, for a while, that I might have hurt you. But then, I was grateful that you did speak up and let me know. Not everyone gets that chance. Not everyone gets close enough to be able to understand what the new rules are - how to relate - they don't know you aren't fragile - you're not broken - you just need some time to heal enough to get back to those big hugs. But you still like hugs nonetheless. xoxox


Seeing your comments makes me smile! Thank you so much =)