Cancer is complex: it affects every aspect of a patient’s life — including friendships. As I write this, I recall those friendships that strengthened with my breast cancer diagnosis. And, sadly, I recall those friendships that simply withered away.
People react to their friends’ cancer diagnoses in many ways for many reasons. Those who choose to continue their friendships are in for a shock at why their cancer-patient friends have changed. A wonderful book addresses how cancer affects friendships. Directed at friends of an ill person and offering advice on how to maintain a close friendship with a friend who has cancer is Why is She Acting So Weird?: A Guide to Cultivating Closeness When A Friend is in Crisis by breast cancer survivor Jenn McRobbie.
This book is a real treasure.
Written for the friend of a diagnosed person, the book unearths the vast complexities of being friends with someone in crisis, especially if that person is dealing with cancer. McRobbie offers spot-on advice. Such advice is to make sure the reader develops a support system for herself during a friend’s crisis. McRobbie encourages readers to “Step Out of Your Shoes,” advising readers to envision what it’s like to be in her friend’s shoes and not to push friends away. She recalls how some friends did not give her what she needed at the time of her medical crisis. McRobbie emphasizes the importance for a good friend to “make space for your friend’s grief.” She advises the friend to “remain present” while the diagnosed friend expresses how she feels.
She says, and I wholeheartedly agree, that the word “should” ought to be banned.
One of the most important parts of the book is when McRobbie addresses social media. McRobbie warns, “Since you’re looking to support and comfort your friend, you need to be quite selective when communicating with your friend on social media,” noting that “….social media complicates matters when someone is in crisis.” She covers the etiquette of sharing information when a friend is in crisis. McRobbie offers sound, cautionary advice on sharing a friend’s situation on social media. She says, “If you’re unsure what to say on social media, stick with posts that aren’t about your friend.” Perfectly said.
McRobbie also emphasizes how important actions are, as she recalls friends who rallied around the diagnosed McRobbie and took her daughters to school daily.
The author covers what to say and what not to say to a diagnosed person. She is on point when she emphasizes that there’s no right way for someone to do cancer. She offers advice to the friend of a diagnosed person, such as building a communication plan so the friend can communicate effectively with the patient. In fact, McRobbie offers creative solutions. One of her most creative chapters is titled “Learning the Mathematics of Friendship.” I won’t tell you what it contains, but it is exceedingly helpful about how to be a good friend to someone in crisis. Throughout the book, McRobbie weaves her own story as examples that illustrate her points.
Overall, this book is perfect for people whose friends are in crisis, especially with cancer. Whether you are a cancer patient looking for a book for your friends, or whether your friend is the one in crisis, this book is a must-have.