Translation of a post by Alex
Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about friends and friendship. It is always difficult when you are going through something extreme. Before, I thought that the chaff is separated from the wheat in those kinds of situations. But it’s not that simple.
When my diagnosis, and then Bella’s came, it’s like our legs were pulled out from under us. We had never been in a situation where we had to deal with cancer. I had acquaintances here and there that knew someone who had this or that. But it was always so far away that it was easy to stay out of the way. Now I know that this wasn’t a great way to behave. I mean, at that time we were so carefree and easy that we never grappled with it.
That changed for the first time in 2011, when my uncle got colon cancer quite young (just over 50) and died of it shortly thereafter. That hit me hard. I hesitated a long time before I visited…one Sunday morning I had the feeling that I had to go see him right then. Which I did. Now I am really happy that I saw him one more time and was able to tell him that I loved him and say goodbye. He died the next night in his sleep.
Today I am very sorry that I didn’t gather the courage to be for him before that. Now I know how alone you feel in such a difficult situation and how important it is, to maintain contact with “outside.”
It also hit me hard when I got my diagnosis of “Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans.” This very malignant growth was removed in an operation and I had to wait almost three weeks for a final diagnosis. Three very long weeks during which I didn’t know whether I would be able to spend Christmas with my loved ones. I won. 1:0 for me. Many of my friends weren’t aware of what was going on with me. People were avoiding me; I was freefalling: despair, rage, sadness. It isn’t bearable when you are stuck in this situation. The result was that I decimated my circle of friends. I once asked a “friend” on the phone if she would come and visit me or would at least call…She said she was stressed; the washing machine was broken, and, and, and…I was insulted and pissed off. But I hid it away.
Then came Bella’s diagnosis. I had just started bringing my life back to normality when the next lightning bolt struck. Unfortunately she wasn’t spared this horrible experience. Her best friend lied and told tales and went so far with it that no one came to visit her. I got involved and sorted out the situation, which I normally wouldn’t do. But in the end she has friends that she can depend on now. She has a very different group of friends than she had before and I believe that is a good thing.
We learned that there aren’t only friends and enemies in this world. There are subtle shades of both…true friends are like winning the lottery. But not everyone can deal with these terrible twists of fate. I have learned to accept that. I now see that I was like that before and I feel really bad about it today. In the meantime I have been forced to deal with the topic a number of times, but I am happy for those who don’t have to deal with it. A diagnosis or some other horrible fate can be so difficult for other people that they don’t know what to say. You stand there and just have no idea what the right thing to do is.
I remember a phone call I got from a mother of someone in Bella’s class. She called and said that she had wanted to call since she heard about Bella’s diagnosis. But she wasn’t sure if that was okay and that she just didn’t know what to say. I was so happy, and also because it showed that someone was thinking of us. My answer? “Thank you for being there for us. I don’t care what we talk about. Tell me something that doesn’t have to do with cancer and illness. Be my connection to the “outside.” It felt good. The loneliness and sadness abated. Her daughter and Bella were in the same class, but never had much to do with one another. They are very different. But they became friends. She came to visit Bella regularly, even when we were staying in the hospital. This friendship is still going strong – between the mothers and the girls. They don’t see each other often, but when they see each other all is right with the world. As mothers, we meet at least once a week for coffee and a chat.
Through these horrible experiences, we weren’t doing well physically, but also mentally. We were able to give ourselves psychological support with essential oils. The children’s hospital helped us get to know them. We figured out that Bella reacts well to oils. Lemon and orange were extremely helpful when she was feeling depressed.
So why I am taking the time to talk about this topic here? I have a small glimmer of hope that I can give other people courage. People who are buried in the depths of the abyss need a helping hand. Help can come in the form of a phone call or an email. Don’t be silent when someone is in need. You have nothing to lose. For those affected, don’t close the door when you feel like you have been left alone with your illness. Leave the door open just a crack and see who opens it and comes to you. Sometimes people aren’t retreating, they are paralyzed by the whole situation.