I’m Not Your Punching Bag

Posted on: January 19th, 2018 by

Punching bag

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about those breast cancer support group members who were more of an albatross to me than a help. You can read about it here.

Within the last year or so, two of the three offending, most insidious group members, D and S, contacted me. As I haven’t had a good rant in awhile, it’s time to unleash my first rant of 2018. The third toxic group member’s name is G, and I doubt she will contact me, but I will rant about her anyway.


You called less than a year ago to touch base and to tell me you heard about faculty layoffs at my college and you interrogated me about my job security. Prior to our conversation, you had left your typical bossy voicemail message, “Call in!” and a bossy e-mail message “Report in!” So, I called you up, not because I like you, but mostly out of obligation and because one of my flaws has been that I am too nice to oppressors.

During that conversation, I found out you had had a prophylactic mastectomy planned in spring. I wished you the best of luck and a quick recovery. I was glad that your recurrence didn’t seem to metastasize.

I ignored your disparaging question, “Are you still living in that little house in suburbia?” (I know, you are better than me because you live in downtown Chicago, the center of the universe.) I didn’t even bother to tell you we moved to another little house in suburbia. What’s the point? You never have had full conversations with me. You just call me to dig up and, ultimately, share any dirt on me to your other support group cohorts. Every time I called you in need of support, you would get off the phone within two minutes, using the excuse, “I’ve gotta go. I have something in the oven,” or “I must run, honey.” When you needed support, on the contrary, you expected me to linger on the phone with you.

The last time we spoke, you had questions about my single mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction. I told you I no longer remembered any details, but truth is, I was miffed: you had never even bothered to remember that I had a bilateral mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction, even though we had talked in depth several times prior about the procedure.

Our support group friend Faun had the single mastectomy and TRAM flap, not me.

I am not Faun. Rinse. Repeat.

Oh, and here’s a fond memory: When I was preparing for my surgery, you told me that my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction choice was not in my medical best interest, even though my doctors fully supported my decision.

I know, I know. Your doctors are better than mine. You’ve said so a billion times.

After our last record-setting 15-minute conversation, you got off the phone, and I then deleted your phone number from my contact list.


You are deranged.

Last week, you oddly sent me a friend request on Facebook — even though we haven’t communicated in more than 10 years.


The only reason I can see for you to get in touch with me is to find out what’s going on in my life and report back to the rest of the insidious group.

When I was a regular member of the support group, you always made it a point to tell me that your doctors and hospital were superior to mine and that all the cancer research in the world was done at your hospital, not mine.

I repeatedly told you that you were not supporting me, but you continued to throw this petty shit around.

And I remember what you did. When a male breast cancer patient tried to join our support group at Gilda’s Club Chicago, you ostracized him and made him feel like a nothing. I told you that he has breast cancer and deserves our support, but you went to the head of Gilda’s Club and flatly told her that a man does not belong in a breast cancer support group, especially since we were all women. So he was asked to leave.

The support group would have been better off if you left instead.

And the time you told me not to adopt a child. That this was not the right choice for me. Who do you think you are to try making decisions for me? I may be significantly younger than you, but the truth is, I’m an adult, capable of making my own decisions. So between the my-doctors-are-better-than-yours and do-not-adopt-a-child episodes, I decided it was in my best interest to sever ties with you.

So imagine my surprise, after more than 10 years of being out of touch with you, you send me a Facebook friend request. Between you and D, there are too many assholes trying to contact me for my comfort.

Why now?

Because you want to once again intrude upon my life. You don’t miss communicating with me; you miss communicating about me.

I’m not your punching bag.

So go away.

Oh and by the way, I deleted your Facebook friend request.


Thankfully, you haven’t attempted to get in touch with me since our big blow-up over 10 years ago. You won’t. You regularly have a litany of all the people you hate. That’s the bulk of your phone and in-person conversations. I know because whenever you would call me, which happened to be every fucking day, all you would do is complain about all the people who did you wrong.

I didn’t know boundaries then. But I do now.

Over 10 years ago, when you told me that the group felt I wasn’t ready to adopt a child and that my dream of motherhood was not meant to come true, I yelled at you and hung up on you. We never communicated again — thankfully. I’m sure I’ve since been the subject of many conversations between you, S, and D. But I don’t care.

Just try to send me a Facebook friend request. I dare you. I will feel delirious when I delete your request.

And to all three of you, my life is rich with wonderful friends and family. I don’t need any of you.

The only thing we ever had in common was cancer. So goodbye, toxic trio.

Have you had problems with people in support groups? Feel free to share.

Have you ever joined a support group? What has the experience been like for you?

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7 Responses to I’m Not Your Punching Bag

  1. Eileen had this to say about that:

    The two that got me the most was anyone telling you not to adopt. I’m so glad you adopted Ari. The photos you post on FB give all of us pleasure as we see the love between you and your beautiful little girl. The next one is the guy who was rejected from Gilda’s Club because he was a male. That’s sexism in reverse. He had breast cancer and probably needed the support more than the women. What friend of his could relate to that? I’m betting none. Oh well. Live and learn and rid ourselves of the toxic ones. btw: I had an online support group but not an in-person one. I know others who shared your unfortunate experience. Maybe I should be glad I didn’t attend one in person.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Eileen,

      Thank you for your sweet words about my daughter. Although parenthood is a lot of work, as you know, I would never trade it for anything. Ari is the light of my life.

      The male breast cancer patient incident really broke my heart. It was really a low point. I’m so sorry for what he has endured, and I hope and pray he found a good support group.

      I’m sure there are great in-person support groups out there, but I feel so much more connected to the online breast cancer community. I have found support here like no other. Thank you for your support and for reading this.

  2. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Wow. Amazing how toxic and self-centered and stupid and mean people can be. How appalling. We all know the way people like this treat us is all about them, not about us, but it always shocking. I hope you never hear from any of them again. Hugs. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Kathi,

      I hope I never hear back from them also. It’s amazing that after such a lapse of time, they still think they own me.

      You’re right: they’ve seen this as all about them; it’s always been about them. I sometimes felt I was in an adult version of the movie “Mean Girls.” So glad to be free of these individuals.

      Hugs back xo

  3. Caroline had this to say about that:

    I recently cleansed my life of two toxic friends. I have gotten a lot of blow back from one. Recently I posted questions about unethical behaviors I can’t tolerate. She is not on FB but some how found out about my post and sent me a blast by text. I have since blocked her on my phone…. Never tolerate abuse like that or people who want to make decisions for you. They are not worth your time or energy.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Caroline,

      Good for you for eliminating the toxic friends from your life! How dare that woman give you such a hard time due to your post.

      I agree about never tolerating abuse. I’m so glad you are free of this toxic duo. Keep on keeping on….

  4. Nancy Stordahl had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    Oy. Some friends turn out to be, well, not friends at all, right? And with some, it’s always about them, no matter your situation. Your post reminds me that I need to do a bit of housecleaning of friends on Facebook.

    Thanks for the post. You know how I love a good rant! xo

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