Are Some People Avoiding Me Since They Learned of My Breast Cancer Diagnosis?

Question: Is it my imagination, or are some people avoiding me since they learned of my breast cancer diagnosis?

Answer:Unfortunately, it's probably not your imagination. People react to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in very different ways.

As we mentioned before, there's a strong mythology that accompanies the word "cancer." Indeed there's been research that's shown just saying the word "cancer" or reading the word "cancer" causes significant anxiety and anxiousness in over 50 percent of the people who see the word. So people react to this illness in a very strong, emotional sense.

When people feel anxious they will often stay away from the source of that anxiety. And, in a sense, their fears about perhaps inadvertently saying something wrong that will harm you or injure your coping mechanisms also increases their anxiousness.

All of these factors can contribute to people withdrawing, not on the basis of a conscious decision not to visit or not to provide support, but in response to their own feelings of anxiousness when they think about this disease and the severity of the disease. So it's not unusual for there to be some withdrawal by members of a family or friends or co-workers when this diagnosis and treatment occurs.

My advice usually in that situation is to communicate to people your openness to being contacted and your willingness to be contacted. If you behave normally and interact with people much as you have before and discuss this treatment and your illness in an open and supportive way, that tends to reassure people and slowly bring people back into your contact.

Michael Zevon, MDPlay

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