You've survived cancer. Now a friend develops the same type of cancer and is making horrible decisions (in your opinion). She's declining conventional therapies for a treatable cancer or deciding against telling her children she is sick. What's a good friend to do?
Your distress is understandable:
- You want your friend to do as well as possible.
- You don't want your friend to suffer unnecessarily.
- You want to keep your friend from ever saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now."
But often your anxiety is not only about your friend. Any of the following can also be playing a role:
- You fear the pain of watching your friend suffer.
- You fear seeing the suffering and end result you already fear for yourself.
- You fear the pain of grief, should your friend die.
- You want to avoid ever saying, "I should have found a way to convince her/him."
- You don't like feeling helpless.
Four of the most challenging pages I've ever written are published under the heading, "Important Message to Parents, Friends, and Extended Family." (pp. xvii-xx in When a Parent has Cancer).
I suggest boundaries for offering advice and offer tips for ways to get the information to the patients (or to influential people in the patients' life). "Ultimately, it is their life and they have a right to live it their way. Recognizing and respecting your limits in their lives is one of the ultimate expressions of love."