Friends, when you find out you have cancer, people literally come out of the woodworks. People from high school, past jobs, friends of friends, etc. Everyone has well wishes and offers to help with things. Everyone has advice on how you should handle your treatment, thoughts on how you probably got cancer in the first place (apparently my deodorant gave me breast cancer), and stories of their aunt’s best friend’s sister in law that “died of (insert cancer type here)”. (Wow! Thanks for telling me about a person you didn’t even know personally and their tragic death of a completely different type of cancer! Or if they passed away from breast cancer, that makes me feel really great as I just was diagnosed with it!) There are lots of “have you tried this vitamin or this natural remedy” messages. This can be overwhelming. Especially while your head is already reeling from the initial diagnosis and abundance of appointments that follow. I initially felt like I had to respond to every single person messaging me and giving me advice. It was exhausting. I then realized (with some help from friends and family) I didn’t owe a single person anything. I owed it to myself to focus on what I needed, what I thought was best for me, and conserve my energy for getting through treatment and getting better! I came to realize the people that truly were there to support me understood this. They checked in but didn’t expect a response right away and actually followed through on offers for help.
For some reason when people are diagnosed there are people that feel the need to offer their thoughts or ask very personal questions just because they are nosey. I know that sounds harsh and I’m sure some people have the best intentions, but looking back there were people I hadn’t talked to in years, messaging me and asking questions that I didn’t feel comfortable responding to. To me, that didn’t feel genuine, that felt like either a pity message or someone that just was being nosey! I even had people I didn’t know message me on Facebook or Instagram, trying to get me to buy their natural products or supplements they sold through their pyramid business. They were using my cancer to try and profit off it because they saw a friend of a friend share one of my posts or they saw my Caring Bridge. If it had been a close friend offering me something they sold that might help, that would be different, but these were people I didn’t know well or complete strangers. I would respond with a polite message stating I wasn’t interested or not in a place financially to do anything else at that point. Looking back on it, I didn’t even owe them a response! Ladies (and gents) if there is one thing I can stress, YOU DO NOT OWE ANYONE A RESPONSE OR INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DIAGNOSIS, CONDITION, OR TREATMENT PLAN!!
Find the few people that you feel comfortable sharing information with, whether that be friends, family, Project Pink’d sisters, or co-workers, and just lean on them. Pick a “spokesperson” so you don’t have to keep relaying the same information. For example, my work wife Lindsey would update my co-workers on major information and they knew to go to her before messaging me. They would message me kind words and support, but understood that I may not always respond if I wasn’t feeling up to it! My mom kept the extended family and the church prayer chain up to date. My best friend Meagan kept close friends up to date and my fiancé Nolan kept his family up to date. A person that truly cares and wants to support you, will not be upset if you don’t feel like talking, don’t respond right away, or don’t share every detail!! If someone is making you feel bad or gets upset with you for not giving them all the information they are looking for or not responding quick enough, that is toxic, and not someone that has your best interest in mind. You find out who truly cares and wants to help, versus those who want to look like they are supporting “their sick friend with cancer” for social media purposes, but don’t actually follow through when you need them. If I could give one bit of advice, it is to remember to put yourself, your recovery, and your mental health first. Like I said you don’t owe anyone anything. The only person you owe anything to is yourself! The people who truly have the best intentions will understand and support you in whatever way you need!
I am incredibly blessed to have had people that told me this in the beginning. That told me I didn’t need to respond to everyone. That understood I was literally fighting for my life and I didn’t need to expend the extra energy explaining my “tragedy” to people that were just being nosey. They respected my time and space, followed along with my updates on Caring Bridge, and actually helped with cleaning or meals when offered. My sisters in Pink’d further confirmed this for me. Find your crew and stick with them! Don’t worry about all the excess!