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Being a Friend

Posted 4/14/2013

Posted in

  Tomorrow, I promise, I will find another theme for the day's entry. There has been some similarity over the past few days as I have written and shared wonderful essays about friendships and relationships and supporting one another. This is one more. From Lisa Boncheck Adams, whom I have surely quoted before, in the Huff Post, this is directed at those who want to be our friends. This could be another thing to xexox and have handy to give to people--either before or after they put their foot in their mouth.

  Ms Adams writes beautifully, and, like all of her posts, this one is full of excellent advice and heart. Here is the beginning and a link:

Some Thoughts on How to Be a Friend to Someone With a

Serious Illness




I always get some heat about posting essays about the


stupid things people say to those with cancer.


I know people go to


my site expecting to learn. That's what I'm trying to do: educate. People inevitably vary in their responses to


what people say. After all, responses to books, movies, and comedians are all over the place.

Occasionally people will get defensive and say, "Well, I have said one of those 'stupid' things and I meant well." I am going to

take an unpopular stance and say that meaning well isn't always enough.

Maybe the listener is scared. Maybe they've had cancer or a family member with it. Maybe they are just uncomfortable talking

about illness and death. It's important to remember: it's not about you. It's about the person with the illness. If you are a friend

you will need to get over your discomfort or get out of the way. What you don't want is for the ill person to have to be consoling

the listener or trying to minimize the seriousness of what they're feeling.

Do not turn it back on you, or when you had cancer, or when your child or mother or 2nd grade teacher did. It's not necessarily

the same. Types of cancer are not the same. Even subtypes of cancer are not the same. Now, I'm not saying you should always

avoid interjecting something to let the other person know that you've had experience with cancer. But the first thing out of your

mouth shouldn't be to connect it to someone else and what their outcome was, good


or bad.


Different diseases cannot be compared. Different cases of


the same disease cannot necessarily be compared, either. Chiming


in with, "Oh, my second cousin's boyfriend's dog walker had breast cancer" doesn't help a person, especially if it's followed by

"She suffered in pain for a long time and died" (yes, this gets said more often than you can imagine). The other end of the

spectrum is, "Oh I know someone who had that. They're fine now." (Okay, but some people are not fine... should they be

jealous? Feel inadequate?). Someone told me in response to learning I had metastatic breast cancer that his wife "had a bit of

that last year."




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