Family issues

I've found since my diagnosis I've felt a lot of resentment and anger towards my family. Before being diagnosed with lymphoma I hadn't heard from most of them for months, or even years. We all live in the same city, but I was always sort of the odd one out when we got together. There were times where I'd go to a dinner get-together and no one would say a word to me the whole night.

So imagine my surprise when I'm getting phone calls all day, and visitors dropping by out of no where.

It doesn't help that there had been no cancer in my family before me, so their knowledge was beyond limited. It took weeks to get them to stop referring to my diagnosis as "Lam-Fa-Do-Mia?"

I bore through the usual conversations of;

"Is your hair going to fall out?"
Probably
"Oh no... I don't think it will"

Or;

"Ooohhh Lamfadomba, right... I think Drew had that once"
No, Drew didn't have it, it's a type of cancer.
"What? You have cancer?"

But I think the final straw came when;

"I was watching The Doctors, and they had an episode on Limfomba. You probably caught it from your pet rats."

I try talking to my mum about it. She tells me not to let it get to me. They're just trying to help. I wish I could say they'd help more by just leaving me alone. Or god forbid maybe they pull up google and take some time to learn about what I'm going through. But you can't pick your family, I guess.

Comments

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  • Hi Hilarbee,
    I can relate to this comletely. People not talking to me then they find out im sick, and now they want to talk to me. This drives me crazy. I've had friends that were mad at me and refused to talk to me for years, he randomly called me to say "Im still mad but now that your sick i want to hang out." I havent had family be as clueless as your describing because there were other family members with cancer, but i've had friends just not get it.

    Your not alone, im sure many people on this site that experienced similar things you have.
  • I understand completely. I am the first person in my family to have surgery, let alone cancer.

    I once had an aunt come out to my house and offer to say a prayer with me. I agreed, out of niceness, although it was kind of awkward since we only see her on holidays. Anyways, during the prayer she kept calling me Ashley. My name is Angela.
    I know she was being nice, but you dont even know my name???
  • That's rough. It's not like they're just uneducated about it but willing to learn...they're ignorant and have little to no desire to learn what you're going through. That's no better than the people who blame the patient for their illness. I get that sometimes someone might think it...but to voice it? Give me a break. I have little tolerance for that kind of stuff.

    My family may be kooky and a little redneck, but they love and respect everyone in the family regardless. My wife's family is much like yours. There are some very deep grudges and bitterness in that family and some of it has been passed down a couple of generations, even. Some of them boycotted our wedding when we decided not to provide alcohol (alcohol is expensive!), and some of them never even comforted my wife when I was almost dead.

    Some families are like that, and I am all for cutting them out of your life entirely.

    My wife has a recent fascination with sociopaths, and this sort of behavior tends to go along with that.
  • I can sorta relate, other than family I saw regularly none of the rest of my family came around, but since I was diagnosed in 8th grade I had always been the outcast never cool, didn't play school sports, didn't have the newest stuff. After my class mates found out I had cancer I was asked to come back and give a little speech to them and let them ask questions the questions they asked "are there any hot nurses?" "so this is like summer break for you?", I got up and walked out although I have to say it was easier for me to cut ties. The important thing is to remember who is close to you and not let other affect you.
  • Nick Hayes;5760 said:
    I can sorta relate, other than family I saw regularly none of the rest of my family came around, but since I was diagnosed in 8th grade I had always been the outcast never cool, didn't play school sports, didn't have the newest stuff. After my class mates found out I had cancer I was asked to come back and give a little speech to them and let them ask questions the questions they asked "are there any hot nurses?" "so this is like summer break for you?", I got up and walked out although I have to say it was easier for me to cut ties. The important thing is to remember who is close to you and not let other affect you.

    Good on you for not putting up with that crap.
  • It really sucks when the people closest to you let you down. Fortunately, most of my family has been great, but my grandmother decided that I had tuberculosis (!?! wtf) and for MONTHS would inquire about how my TB was and it was so ridiculous. But that bit of ridiculous came from denial as opposed to a lack of caring so it was a little easier to let it go.

    Do you have any good friends that you can rely on? I know that I had one friend who also had a different chronic illness who was my ROCK during therapy because he understood what it was like to be sick and young, even though he didn't have cancer. This guy saved my sanity. Maybe a friend who has a sibling with chronic illness would also be a little more understanding of what you are going through.
  • Just need to vent today! I'm having a feeling sorry for myself moment I guess. I finished chemotherapy about 4 months ago after suddenly being diagnosed with non-hodgkins earlier this year at age 28. It came out of nowhere like I'm sure it does for most. I felt like my life was finally turning around - I was accepting some family issues that have been ongoing the last couple yrs, I got engaged and was planning my wedding, thinking of starting a life and family with my fiance.
    My mom died of advanced breast cancer when I was 15, she went into remission and then it came back; so I have really bad and very emotional images of 'cancer' and so this diagnosis of NHL still feels very unreal to me. I watched my mom deteriorate and felt like - will that be my fate too? Funny thing is that I started going for mammograms years ago trying to be cautious about the family breast cancer history and then I get something completely different and unrelated. It feels like a cruel joke and now all I want to do is survive and have the life I always took for granted. When I first started treatment I was convinced that there had to be some reason for this, some meaning - maybe to show me that I can overcome the disease that took my mother and changed my life forever. To beat it for her. Maybe to bring my family back together after so many estranged relationships formed between family member over the course of several years after my mom dying. Maybe to make people in my family put things in perspective in their own lives. I'm trying to find some meaning - maybe its foolish to think of it that way but I'm trying to search for some positive in it.
    But I'm having a really hard time adapting back to every day life and thinking positive now. I feel disconnected from people and find I can't cope very well at all with family issues that have come up. Between the lack of emotional/mental strength and the lingering chemo brain I feel like a mess at times. I don't have a very close relationship with my father. He was there for me during treatment and I felt like we got closer and we started talking more often. And now after the treatment is done, I guess I expect him to change in some way, or our relationship to change. But I feel like they are reverting back to exactly where they were before and the same issues and bullshit come up and its disappointing and depressing. The same drama happens. It's really hard to accept that your parent/your family may never be what you need them to be. And its depressing and discouraging to me that maybe this idealistic idea that my cancer would help bring us closer and change things was just foolish thinking. Maybe its simply black and white - my cells went haywire and thats all there is to it. I wish I could be one of those strong cancer survivors that you read about for inspiration but I just feel like such a freaking feeling-sorry-for-myself mess and I find myself feeling so angry and disgusted towards people. I thought after I got through treatment, I would be this stronger more confident person - like if I could get through that I could get through anything and not be phased by the day to day bullshit but I feel even more vulnerable and easily rattled by things. I'm hoping this will pass over time as I get clean scans.
  • That sounds incredibly frustrating, but try and remember that it beats the alternative. Imagine what it would be like if you were tight with your family and they all disappeared when you were diagnosed. Try to keep it in perspective because when you get stressed and upset about their behavior, the only person you're hurting is yourself.

    But, you're also not obligated to humor anyone right now. If they show up and start bugging you, you can simply say, "thank you so much for coming, but I'm not feeling up to visitors right now." If that's too subtle, tell them it's time for you to take a nap, give yourself a shot, have explosive diarrhea -- whatever will make them want to leave.

    It also sounds like they would bother you less if they were better informed. One of the best things I did during treatment was to put my sister in charge of mass emails. We drafted a lymphoma 101 email, and then she was in charge of sending out updates as my treatment progressed. It was so helpful that people were informed about both me and my illness without my having to update them, and when I do see people now, I find that they are less awkward and that their questions are smarter.
  • +1 to informing people. my wife did a lot of informing when I was incapable of doing so, and because of that my friends and family knew a lot of what I was going through and their questions were smarter and they were a bit more sensitive to what I was going through at the time.

    but there will always be those who are poisonous and it's just not worth it to make them important in your life. certain members of my wife's family are like that and we have been progressively shutting them out. when they add that much stress to your life, it's absolutely your right to be a little selfish. you've been through a lot, but it's worth pointing out that as survivors, our continued good health is a delicate balance. I got pretty stressed a little over a year ago and came down with an ugly, painful case of shingles because my immune system was not in great shape. then, when visiting the aforementioned poisonous family members for the holidays, I got violently ill on top of it, requiring a visit to the ER. and instead of making an effort to have a pleasant holiday, the poisonous family members just ruined the whole trip. make family members aware that the added stress is bad for your continued health and work to distance yourself from it.
  • I almost said something a family member yesterday along those lines - about telling him the added stress is bad for me right now and to not involve me in it. I find now when stupid family drama comes up (unrelated to the lymphoma) that I just have no coping or tolerance for dealing with it. I get so angry and frustrated..way more than before treatment and getting cancer. Being a very non-confrontational person, its a hard topic to bring up with family and let them know hey I'm different now and much more emotionally fragile so please leave the b.s at the door.
  • thank you for this thread! it has now been almost a year since i was diagnosed and my family is driving me nuts about it. i let it slide for months, telling myself that their behavior is temporary. but now all we do is argue about it. which is ridiculous! i cant change that i had cancer, there is no one to blame, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. it is done. so what are they really arguing about? and what the hell am i supposed to do? i am trying to be patient with them because i have heard that it can be very difficult for care givers. i dont know what else to say about it right now. just putting it out there in hopes that i can get some sleep soon.
  • jenmm612;5885 said:
    I almost said something a family member yesterday along those lines - about telling him the added stress is bad for me right now and to not involve me in it. I find now when stupid family drama comes up (unrelated to the lymphoma) that I just have no coping or tolerance for dealing with it. I get so angry and frustrated..way more than before treatment and getting cancer. Being a very non-confrontational person, its a hard topic to bring up with family and let them know hey I'm different now and much more emotionally fragile so please leave the b.s at the door.
    Losing tolerance for stupid manufactured stress is pretty common.

    Once my husband was diagnosed we made a very public statement to both of our families that any family drama would need to be left at the door because we would not tolerate any added stress. It's *mostly* worked out well, but there are some people who can't seem to survive without the drama so we shut them out. Also, anyone who makes any kind of judgement about how we're dealing with life (a multitude of catastrophes came down on us all at once, only one of them cancer) gets cut out of the info loop without any further adieu. It's amazing how you can be over-reacting AND under-reacting depending on who you're talking to, and how ready people are to point out how you're handling everything exactly wrong.

    By all means, limit contact with the stupid petty bull as much as you can.
  • I have to say we've had good & bad family/friend reactions to the cancer diagnosis. For instance, my husband had not spoken with a lot of his extended family since some drama came up over money about 10 years ago and divided the family. But now both of us are communicating with everyone in the family and it seems to be a general understanding that whatever happened all those years ago doesn't mean crap now that he has gotten sick and wants/needs his family's support so much. I list that as one of our "positives" to come out of this whole mess. Unfortunately there is some immediate family that isn't so quick to forgive and forget so we're left feeling torn and pulled in both directions- doing what we feel is right and upsetting those that don't agree with us. But this is as good a time as any to FINALLY stand up to the family & family drama and put your foot down and say "I'm not going to settle for playing nice and putting up with crap I don't agree with any more."

    As my husband likes to say say "I have cancer, I can say/do whatever I want" LOL
  • Exactly! He isn't too worried about offending people at this point in his life : )
  • gahendersons;6573 said:
    Exactly! He isn't too worried about offending people at this point in his life : )

    nor am I. other people can just stuff it if they don't like what I have to say.