Cancer permeates every corner of life and it would be selfish to suggest that my diagnosis affected only myself. After only seven months of marriage my mother had to move into our flat so that my husband could continue working. I needed a lot of care.
My steadfast family rallied around me, their support encompassing both me and my husband’s emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing. Friendships, on the other hand, were subject to changes I hadn’t quite anticipated.
I connected with people in similar situations as myself. The craziness of the cancer melting pot forged what I can honestly predict will be life long friendships for which I will be forever grateful.
Many of my pre-cancer friends went under a transformation. Some of my closest, nearest, and dearest people genuinely didn’t know how to approach me or what to say. I couldn’t help but feel abandoned or even slightly betrayed. I realise now that they were probably feeling bereaved: bereaved in the anticipation that I might not win my cancer battle and mourning for the person I was before.
My Nemesis: The Pub
Being this sick fundamentally changes a person and I was no longer able to participate in pursuits where I could socialise. The pub for instance would make my anxieties sky rocket. No eyebrows, balding, and clinically obese from the medications deemed necessary to reduce the swelling in my skull. Some days I couldn’t even stand up for the amount of time in took to take a shower, let alone go out. Maybe my friends felt abandoned by me?
Other friendships intensified to an almost obsessive degree, one in particular closed in on every aspect of my life. Surprise parties were organised for chemotherapy milestones with invitations extended to my family. There were presents for each day of chemo, Race for Life events with my name of people’s backs. They’d even attend hospital appointments with me. Looking back, it was quite intense.
But friendships such as these soon fizzled out and went flat as soon as I started to get better. The energy needed to maintain that level of closeness needs to be filled by something as potent as cancer and we didn’t have that.
The remaining steadfast, dependable lot are still constant, never focusing too much on the cancer, because cancer of course didn’t and still doesn’t define me as a human being. But looking positively, cancer brings to light all different types of friendships, which are all necessary in their own kind of way on the ever winding road to recovery.
Would I Change Things?
The whole six and a half years of my brain cancer journey has put things into perspective. Now, with my eyebrows grow back, the pub no longer intimidates me. But I reserve pub visits and coffee dates only for those precious, constant, dependable few. Looking back I have learnt so much about myself and my relationships that I wonder if I’d change what happened to me. I feel I can see people for who they really are now. I understand the grey a lot more - relationships are much more complicated than just 'good' or 'bad'.
Victoria Wild is a Brain Cancer Survivor, now six and a half years post-diagnosis.