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How to cope when friends are not supportive


Question: My question is about how and where to cope as the spouse of a person diagnosed with an incurable cancer. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in November 2011. My world went black and every day since has been an emotional struggle. It doesn't help that I feel I have no outlet at all. At the beginning I was judged by family. No matter what I do, it is not enough. I've cried alone over it, feeling like the enemy, unloved, uncared for and cast aside.

I love my husband with all my soul. He is my best friend and the thought of life without him brings me to my knees. But I am a realist. I lost my mother, friends and other family members to cancer and I am not a stranger to its devastating effects. I look at probability and statistical numbers based on the type, sizes, grade etc. of cancer, but I don't all allow that to take away all my hope for a miracle. On the other hand, I'm deathly afraid to live in a fantasy world and to absolutely believe my husband will live through this. There is always the voice of hope in my heart and my mind, but I know that stage 4 does not have a good prognosis.

Last night I chatted with a good friend regarding last week’s appointment with my husband’s doctor. The blood platelets were too low for him to receive  treatment. This is not uncommon, but the doctor also mentioned that the tumors did not shrink very much. I said, “According to the doc, it's not good news.” Our friend, said to me,  “Well, it sounds to ME like it's good news!” in a tone indicating that I am negative Nancy. I'm so sick of it! It HURTS me! He's MY husband! My God, can't they see I'm in pain? I'm scared to death and having a tough time and several people had the audacity to say, “Well, YOU could die first.” What a mean thing to say to a grieving wife. I've decided I will not answer any more questions for anyone and I will continue to go it alone. People don't see that a person on this side of this disease stands to lose everything: the love of their life, financial stability, their good credit standing and even their home. Yet, you're supposed to act like everything's okay. Well, I'm not okay and my husband will eventually die because of this terrible disease (hopefully it will not be for a very long time) and my world will never, ever, not ever be the same. Thank you for listening.

Dr. Amy: Why are people so unkind to each other? We’re not here that long. Why do some people insist on spending their lives making other people feel bad? I am sorry that you are not being supported. You don’t need this—and especially not now. What you do need is to talk to people who are supportive and kind.

I encourage you to join a support group if you have not already done so. You might also find relief talking to a therapist. You have a lot on your plate and some professional counselling can help you work through the numerous issues you are dealing with. At the same time, if you are a member of a faith community, perhaps the leader can offer you some support and the congregation can pray for you and your husband.

You are living through a very stressful period. Try to take good care of yourself. I encourage you to get regular exercise. If you have not exercised for a while, it's important to check with your doctor first. Even if all you can do is take a walk every day, do this. Exercise makes you stronger and more resilient. It also helps you shed stress and cope better. My thoughts are with you. I send your peace and strength.

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