'A true friend is the best possession.' – Benjamin Franklin
Relationships and friendships can add a wonderful dimension to our lives. They allow us to share experiences as well as the highs and lows of our lives, they create connection and purpose. We may share a long history or shared interest and life values, we may holiday with them or only meet for the occasional coffee. Friendships can comfort us, motivate us and encourage us. A good friendship is reliable, trusting, open and honest. But the true test of a friendship is during the difficult times.
I have a variety of friendships spanning the last 40 years of my life. My friends have picked me up when I’m down and on occasions (and rightly so) told me when I was being an arse. While I was being treated for cancer my friends saw another side to me. I was far from my fun self, I was ill, moody and scared. I saw another side to them as well. Who stepped back, who stepped away, who stepped forward and stood by my side. Not all my friendships survived cancer and this is a letter to one that didn’t.
Firstly thank you for being my friend for over 25 years. Thank you for showing me a different and more relaxed way of being in the world. Thank you for being hysterically funny and thank you for all the crazy fun things we did as well as the slightly dangerous and dodgy ones too.
I forgave you when I split up with my boyfriend and he remained in our friendship group and I was excluded. I accepted that you loathed children and would never speak of mine, omitting them from Christmas cards and our late night conversation. I listened to your rants about people only to see you go out to dinner with them a few days later. But I couldn’t forgive you about how you behaved when I was diagnosed with cancer.
The first cancer diagnosis was a shock to us all. My shock made greater by fear of losing my life and the worry of what would happen to the 30 week old baby my belly contained. “Just get the baby out” you said with no understanding of the mother/baby bond or the choices I was going to have to make. I placed equal value on both of our lives, you didn’t.
We didn’t see so much of each other over the coming months and years because our lives became too diverse. We still caught up occasionally but I had withdrawn because you didn’t try or indeed want to understand what my life was like. I couldn’t be that crazy fun friend always up for an adventure because life was tough for me. You travelled and partied. I was depressed, tired and scared and you didn’t need or want that in your life.
We bumbled along for a few years until cancer two number arrived, just as unwelcome and just as frightening. You suggested that you would be “my fun friend” while I lost my hair and confidence once more. Nothing about having or being treated for cancer is fun. I didn’t actually need or want “a fun friend”, I needed someone to wait with me while cancer passed through. You wanted to be “a fun friend” so you didn’t have to engage with the carnage before you.
I guess I saw a side in you I hadn’t seen before, a side I may have avoided or glossed over. Once I’d seen that side it changed how I felt about you and I knew things could never be the same again. That side of you began grating and the gnawing away at me until I had to take action.
I’m sorry our friendship ended and I’m sorry how it ended but for me friendship is based on consistency, stability and loyalty not just during the good times. I thank you once again for the unforgettable times and memories.
Did your friendships change when you had cancer? If they did how? How did this affect you?