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Have you experienced cancer "ghosting"?

Have you experienced a withdrawal from any friends or family members since your cancer diagnosis?

Please feel free to share your detailed experiences with others below.

Have you experienced cancer "ghosting"? 73 votes

Yes
76%
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No
23%
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Comments

  • kotchaj
    kotchaj Member Posts: 209
    Yes

    Yes, but probably not in the way that everyone thinks this happens. I had a really good friend that I've known for years. I remarried in 2019 and she just dropped off the face of the earth. No phone calls, texts, etc. We haven't lived in the same town in years, but have always kept in touch. Fast forward to 2021, when I was diagnosed and put it on the FB. I get a text and an email from her. Come to find out, she was diagnosed in 2019 and didn't want to bring me down by telling me she was going through a cancer diagnosis. I was stunned and very hurt. But also knew this wasn't about "me." We have kept in contact since she reached out, but it's not like before. Very sad. I would have wanted to be there for her, but it was her choice and she chose otherwise, which we all have the right to do.

    It's made me want to be a better friend. But I have also learned to not chase after someone who decides to not be in my life.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    @kotchaj thank you for sharing this! Indeed, a very different twist on "ghosting", but really worth talking about. Pulling away as a patient isn't uncommon. Thanks for adding this into the conversation!

  • amel_83
    amel_83 Member Posts: 112

    I didn't, but I kind of ghosted myself from other people.

    I just feel to stay on my own, read, walk, run, cook, stay with my kid, drawing, gardening...

    I used to be so social before my diagnosis in 2018 at 34, always organizing big dinners, parties, going out...not anymore, at all, zero.

    But I feel like is what make me feel confortable and happy now, so I just disappeared and do what I like, as I feel it...

  • kaynotrealname
    kaynotrealname Member Posts: 365
    Yes

    Yeah. I had some extended family members that I thought I was close to. Got diagnosed and never heard another word. Not even a text much less a card.

  • jonib
    jonib Member Posts: 91

    My sister did. She was very friendly with a family and she created a social media page for their business, etc. it was not a business friendship but a personal one - she just helped them out out like a good friend. After she started chemo, they just ghosted her.

  • tenorsfan
    tenorsfan Member Posts: 1
    Yes

    Yes I experienced it with several family members and what I thought was a close friend. The family members have yet to even acknowledge that I ever had breast cancer. They’ve never asked how I am doing and I’ve just determined that they are not worth the effort to try to reconcile. As for my so-called friend, I also never heard from her after my diagnosis two years ago. It’s painful and jarring but you come to realize that this is more about them than it is about you. And I have forgiven and moved on.

  • griffy
    griffy Member Posts: 1
    Yes

    Yes, I have been ghosted by some family members that I thought were very close to me not a card not a call. Very shocking. I was very close to my sister-in-law and I have not heard a word from her since I was diagnosed in December. it’s very surprising and hurtful because when she was ill, I sent her flowers cards and at least called her to see if I could help her out. I don’t know what it’s about. Also, in the beginning you find lots of support, but after you’ve been a treatment for so long, people tend to forget that you’re sick still, I have also been guilty of isolating myself since I am weak and tired. I also have a sister who has MBC we support each which helps when someone you love is going through it and truly understands.


    I have triple negative breast cancer. I have five more treatments of chemo out of 16 , surgery , and then radiation.

  • deeberk
    deeberk Member Posts: 1
    Yes

    Initially, there was an outpouring of attention, support and love. There were big-time prayer warriors out there. However, friendships did NOT return to what they were prior to the diagnosis. I consider this to be 'ghosting' because there was a shift in relationships due to the diagnosis. But to be on the defense, I think our lives change so radically after a diagnosis that things will NEVER be the same.

  • needs.a.nap
    needs.a.nap Member Posts: 157

    I didn’t understand what was happening or why until I heard a Podcast on “cancer ghosting” but a close in-law family member, who had always been very caring and close to me, seemed to become unusually detached and distanced. I haven’t had the emotional energy to address how her distancing away from me has made me feel, but I still reach out to let her know how I’m doing, even though she doesn’t usually inquire. And I don’t want to discount all the times throughout the years where she was right there, offering help during any given situation. To be fair, she has provided some practical help, but not on an emotional level. That’s what I miss, our friendship, and the time we used to spend together, the emotional support. I don’t know why she’s treated me differently after my diagnosis but I’m trying to not take it personally and I hope in time we can reconnect.

  • lottavi05
    lottavi05 Member Posts: 1
    Yes

    Yes, by family members and a very close friend. I didn't know what it was and it did not feel good (tears were involved). It is validating for me that this is actually a "thing" with a name. My approach to dealing with it was to talk with those that did stay close to me, let go of my expectations for those that ghosted me and send out positive energy that they would one day return to be a part of my life. And some of them have now that I am post treatment.

  • aimeefox96
    aimeefox96 Member Posts: 11
    Yes

    I was just talking to my boyfriend about this. How since my diagnosis/surgery my friends who claimed they'd be there for me have completely disappeared. I really only have my coworkers and my boyfriend to talk to and hang out with. My friends have pretty much disappeared.

  • rucccccc1233455
    rucccccc1233455 Member Posts: 1
    Yes

    Yes, by a couple of friends and a close family member. They ghosted me for the time when my active treatment was going on and after that when i was not my usual self. After a year and a half, when i am feeling better and can go out and participate in activities, they are back with their usual behaviour (before diagnosis) I am not sure now how should i take this. If anyone has suggestions, kindly tell.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    Welcome to all the newbies, and thank you for participating in our poll! Your input is truly appreciated. We're here for you, so please, don't hesitate to reach out if you have questions or if you're seeking guidance.

    The Mods

  • sarahmaude
    sarahmaude Member Posts: 336

    Yep. What upset me more than I thought it would was a comment from a work friend/colleague who stopped collaborating with me and asking me to do things we'd done together for years. Maybe because she assumed I was too consumed with treatment or too upset to work? Not sure. I certainly found out who my true friends were. Anyway, it's been 18 months since I finished treatment, and she's still distant.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    @sarahmaude that is distressing. So sorry to hear that experience. Many people have difficulty facing illness. Not an excuse, just a reality.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    @rucccccc1233455 wonder if you would feel comfortable asking them directly?

  • lady2022
    lady2022 Member Posts: 7
    Yes

    I did and was surprised. A friend I had known for many years who had gone through breast cancer herself completely disappeared (she had bc before I knew her). I was hurt but then realized she wasn’t the friend I thought she was. I’ve moved on from that relationship. Also a sibling that never acknowledged, but that’s kind of my family. I don’t take it too personally. It’s made me realize the kind of person I will be for those who are going through tough times. Just simply reaching out to say I’m thinking of you. It’s not hard. I guess it took going through something hard to realize it though.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884
    edited March 19

    @lady2022 yes, amazing what going through such difficult experiences teaches us about how to support. Thank you all for sharing! Keep the stories coming!

  • claireinaz
    claireinaz Member Posts: 679
    No

    No, but it's because I was very careful who I shared the information with in the first place.

  • artwish
    artwish Member Posts: 1
    No

    After reading comments, might have some ghosting. Did not really notice since I withdrew from them. Had some real emotional issues after starting harmon therapy. Also did not tell everyone which was bad because people did not know why I was so changed when they did see me. Even had several melt downs in public, so upsetting for a must be in control personality.

    We have had a long standing Friday lunch gathering and that helps keep us connected with some of our friends.

    Frankly you just can not expect things to stay the same. Most are fair weather friends and you only find your true friends in time like these. They will come if you call. Remember to reach out too.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    @artwish, welcome to Breastcancer.org, and thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights here with us. You're absolutely right that life brings changes, and true friends are the ones who stand by us through it all. 💙

    Again, thank you for joining us. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need help with the forums or the main site. We're always here!

    Sincerely,

    The Mods

  • luvdbyhim
    luvdbyhim Member Posts: 168

    I found that I was the person who planned, called, did, and then stage 4, I am tired. I am not doing as much reaching out and told my friends. Some call more and others are almost moved to "someone I used to know" status. I then realized I guess it was more of a one sided relationship and I am not interested in investing anymore of my valuable time with those who are not in the relationship. I would much rather spend more time in people are invested in our friendship.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    That's always a disappointing realization, @luvdbyhim. But it sounds like you're seeing it as an opportunity to prioritize the people in your life that care and put in the time. ❤️

  • sweetp6217
    sweetp6217 Member Posts: 120
    Yes

    When I was working retail, this person was fine by me when I had hair. Once I wore the skullcap and the pink pin, they said "Ooo, you're contagious!" Manager ripped them a new one since they were as stupid as it gets.

  • annon123
    annon123 Member Posts: 2
    edited March 30
    Yes

    I am on my third major cancer (the poll you fill out doesn't allow to put that cancer #1 was X year and #2 on the other side was Y year). Breast Lt large DCIS (that they first thought was invasive with nodal involvement but the nodes swollen weren't sentinel nodes, rather, as I learned 7 years later from follicular non-hodkin's lymphoma (incurable but indolent), also when I had IDC in the same year on the other side). That caused problems at work where some avoided me, others blamed me if I was not as cheerful as I once was, my sisters ghosted me and a couple of friends.

    BC #2 a neighbor ghosted me as his wife had died of BC about 6 mo earlier so that was understandable, same family members ghosted me again and two friends.

    FNHL major ghosting by family and friends because of the incurable aspect, I was told I couldn't even remotely refer to it at work as it "might upset people" (umm what about me?).

    I learned last week BC #2 likely metastasized to at least my hip (found by accident) and more tests and a biopsy April 2 and 3. Haven't told anyone but my best friend and she hasn't ghosted me but then again she took care of her mother-in-law when she died of bladder cancer so has dealt with her emotions about someone she loves who has cancer.

    Anyway what I learned about ghosting is:

    1. Because we are not the only ones affected emotionally from this diagnosis (any cancer not just breast) some people can't handle it (some it is just initially, some never can), think if they talk to us while they are upset they will upset us, etc. Because the emotional earthquake of a cancer diagnosis affects almost everyone in our life, not just us, it can become (from their point of view) about them and not so much about us. Most end up feeling guilty about that at some point in time. Some initially handle it "better" than others, just like some of with cancer initially "handle" it better than others. Takes a while to get a grip - us and them - and there are plenty of triggers out there (eg earthquake aftershocks) over time that make this hard all over again.
    2. Some don't know what to say or are afraid if they talk about it with us they will upset us (and don't get/think about the fact that we are already upset and talking about it can help at times), so they say nothing, then they feel guilty so they don't contact us because they don't know what to say about ghosting… and if you value the friendship what I found is that I had to reach out and make them feel comfortable about both ghosting me and their guilt (and other feelings). Once they were back in my life (and not all were) things were better. It shouldn't be that way but the reality is that is the way some people act and so we need to reach out if it matters to us, never mind that we are the ones who need emotional support. Of course they need support too, but it shouldn't have to come from us except that often we have no choice if we want to continue a relationship with them. And some of my friends I did want to continue that relationship as I valued them before so I didn't just walk away. I reached out and if they responded then we rebuilt. That was usually rewarding (but not always so then I walked).
    3. Sometimes our cancer triggers others because a family member, good friend, etc. or even themselves have had, have, or have died of cancer. Our cancer triggers them in a way they are having trouble with and so for their own protection they back off. The father of my blood cancer oncologist died of cancer about a year before I was diagnosed. She could only handle cheerful grateful patients and I was anything but that with 2 cancers (BC #2 and fnhl diagnosed in 10 months, a minor child melting down, a job not being especially understanding and it was all I could do to keep working full time - needed the income and health insurance as I was a single parent). Because of her job she had to deal with so many of us that triggered her. As a result, as a cancer patient, I was "ghosted" emotionally by my oncologist.

    Ghosting us sucks but I think the reasons are complicated and not everyone ghosts for the same reason. The people I valued the most before this happened I reach out to. And sometimes I had to comfort them and help them deal with my diagnosis (not that it was my responsibility but when I valued them enough I did it and usually it paid off)> The others, if we cross paths I may act like nothing happened and see how they respond (and for a few people that was enough to stop the ghosting).

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884
    edited April 1

    @annon123 thank you for all your valuable insights into this! Very appreciated.

    @sweetp6217, people can be very insensitive and ignorant. So sorry you had that experience, but wonderful that your manager spoke up for you!

  • kcufcancer
    kcufcancer Member Posts: 1
    No

    Reading the posts on this topic, and realizing I’ve come to the right place. I made the mistake of telling one person that was well intentioned and a survivor herself who posted my picture on a. Facebook support group which turned out to be the worst experience. A survivor in the group told someone outside the group, and then others as well, and I was deluged with emails and phone calls that I did not want, or want to share or explain my business. What I got was pity parties and a suck of my energy. I’ve told very few close friends and family and prefer to keep it that way. I want my energy for fighting this disease and kicking its ass to hell. And I trust and leave the worrying to God.

    I was diagnosed December 28 2023, lumpectomy January 31, started radiation March 22 and will be done April 17. Hormone therapy next- don’t know what they will put me on yet… Cancer picked the wrong Bitch. Stay strong ladies. We got this.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 7,884

    We're so sorry for your experience, @kcufcancer. That must have felt like such an invasion of your privacy, to tell or not to tell is a very personal decision and the power and control over making that decision is yours and yours alone.

    We're glad you found us here, and hope you find solace and support in this community.

    The Mods

  • shanagirl
    shanagirl Member Posts: 333
    Yes

    Yes,I have been Ghosted by close friends and family over the years. I don’t want to make this a long post but I think People just don’t know what to say when they learn your cancer has come back and metastisized after many years. I think they don’t know anything about cancer stages and always think and ask “oh so when will your treatment finish? When they find out treatment will never finish until it stops working they think right away you’re going to die soon. That’s when the distancing starts and the polite question when they see you “HOW DO YOU FEEL?”……..