Dear Suzie, My friend has cancer and i try so hard to stay strong for her but when ever i see her i want to cry. I spend day and night with her making sure she is ok scared everytime leave the room incase she slips away. My boyfriend has hardly seen much of me anymore. he said he understood that i needed to be with her but now he says he cant take it anymore and has left me. I have tried everything to make thngs alright but it all goes wrong. i dont know what to do anymore. please help.
I’m so sad to hear about this – you do have my sympathy. The only thing you’re doing wrong is expecting too much of yourself. You’re not Superwoman. You can’t cure cancer simply by force of will and by wishing. And neither can you juggle your need to be with a dying friend at all times with the rest of your life.
What you need to do, painful and hard as it may seem, is to let go. Let go of the belief that you should be really, really strong and be taking this in your stride. Of course you cry all the time – it’s a horrible, difficult situation and anyone with half a heart would be in tears about it, all the time. You need to get some support, and some time off, to cope.
Let go of the fear that if you turn your back, she will die. If she is going to die from this illness she will do so whether you are there or not – what happens is not your responsibility. Leaving the room to see to your own life isn’t selfish nor will it harm her. You can’t make “things alright” and you’re not letting things go wrong. It’s the cancer that’s killing her, not you – and you can’t keep her with you simply by hanging on in there.
I would think if she realised you’d let your relationship go because of her, she’d be mortified. The best gift you can give her is to live on happy, as a tribute to her. My advice would be to draw up a more realistic schedule of visits, that allows you to see your friends and family as well as support her. Most people end up with compassion fatigue if you ask too much of them or too much of yourself.
Make a point of saying all the things you need to say NOW. When I lost a very dear friend few years ago, I made sure we’d told each other how fond we were of each other and what fun we’d had and how much I had valued her. Having done that, I didn’t then feel bad when she died even though I hadn’t seen her for a couple of days because we didn’t have any ‘unfinished business’. Finish your business and stop feeling so responsible. The truth is that however much you love people and however much you hover over them, if illness is going to take them away it isn’t going to let them off the hook because of your effort or love. As I said, you need some support – get it from CRUSE