Monday, February 4, 2013

Abandonment is not a form of love

When I was a kid, during our long, hot Sacramento summers, my friends and I would mull over the big questions in life. We'd sit under shady trees, blades of grass tickling our tan legs, watching ants march through the bright green tangles and ponder life's great mysteries: What happens after you die? Why can't you remember anything from before you were born? Is it better to die quickly and painlessly in an accident, or slowly and painfully yet with time to say good-bye, like from cancer?

Maybe we were morbid kids, but I tend to think most children think about these things.

Prophetically, I was strongly in the cancer camp. I felt that it was important to be able to say good-bye, to finish up, to tell people that you loved them, to close the book, even if you had to experience pain. In my fantasy death, I would be sick in bed, pale, long black hair spread across the pillow like Sleeping Beauty, and all of those who had hurt me would realize it, come and hold my hand, apologize for the error of their ways, and I would be at peace.  I felt satisfied knowing that after my death,  those who didn't come to see me would be sorry forever for what they'd done to me.

Of course, life doesn't work that way, especially for some of us. I was raised in an addicted, dysfunctional family, hence my desire for deathbed apologies.  But as we who grew up in that kind of situation know, crisis does not make dysfunctional families normal.  It makes whatever was wrong, worse.

An almost a universal cancer experience is abandonment. Upon your diagnosis, somebody you know will disappear. This happens even if you have an early stage cancer with a good prognosis, but it also happens when you, like me, have a terminal cancer.

It is a hurtful experience to know that somebody you formerly thought of as a friend suddenly won't return your calls, or sees you in a room and walks the other way, and somehow manages to forget that you exist. During your illness, these people not only don't contact you, send cards or messages, or ask about you, but many of them go out of their way to avoid you.  This is not an adjustment period, it can go on for the entire length of your illness, no matter how it will end. It stings when it is is done by a casual friend, but it can be devastatingly hurtful when it is a close relative.

In my life, the deserter is my brother.

When you have a life-ending cancer, being abandoned is not only painful but puzzling. You wonder, "do these people not understand that they may never speak to me again?" "Do I mean so little to them that they will allow me to die rather than put themselves through whatever discomfort they may feel talking to me?"  "Do they really not care?" "Won't they mind when I'm gone?"

In three years, my brother hasn't called me, come to visit or as much as sent a card. Three years of chemo, three surgeries, half my liver removed, a terminal diagnosis.... and silence.   Last summer I was at my step-daughter's wedding, which was just a few miles from his house, and we were driving by on his birthday.. Miraculously, I was able to reach him by phone (normally a near impossibility) but he would not see me. I sat there staring at my phone, unbelieving, as I heard the excuses, "The kids aren't up." (at 1:00 pm). "My wife isn't feeling well."   "I have to run errands." and, because of course he was thinking about me, "Traffic will be bad for you, there is a race nearby."

There was no traffic.

The real reason, I think, was simple:  he didn't want to see me. He didn't want to feel whatever feeling I would bring up, whether it be anger, sadness or stress. He would not put himself into emotional pain for me, his dying sister.

Somehow, he must be able to justify this behavior, but I no longer wonder how or why, and I have come to terms with this disregard.  It isn't about me, it is about him and his failings.  He will have to live with them or, mostly likely, never think about it.

Let me make this clear:  If he read my blog, I would not post this.  Although my blog is meant to share the reality of dying of cancer as well as let others with cancer know that they are not alone, I believe that it is not the place to air grievances. But he will never see this; he has bragged he doesn't read it or any other blog.  And so, I share this very personal experience as I have shared others, because I know I'm not alone, and my mission is to let my readers know that they are not alone either.  I am not the only one who has experienced this abandonment by a family member - thousands of you have too.

I have heard that best friends, sisters, cousins, even mothers suddenly disappear when cancer rears its tumorous head. Many times - most times - people recover, and their friends and family, oddly enough, come back. A few apologize, saying they couldn't "handle it."  The formerly sick person is often unsure what to do or how to react when somebody suddenly reappears and acts as if all is well, as if nothing had happened, when they have had a major, life changing event.

I was prompted to write this because in searching around to see what things I need to take care of for my family, documents or decisions that I have forgotten to make, a search turned up this article on And, this line struck me:

"Because they don’t know what to say or do, or because your illness may arouse their own fears of mortality, they may even avoid you altogether. Know that their apparent abandonment does not mean they don’t love you."

Puhleeze.  I beg to differ.

I question the definition of "love" by the author of this article.  My definition (oh, and Merriam-Webster's too)  is "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another." 

Abandonment in sickness means exactly that they don't love you.

Love is not a feeling. It is feeling combined with behavior. It is sacrifice. It is putting aside your fears and your desires for the sake of somebody else.

Growing up in the chaos of alcoholism, one of my favorite sayings became, "You are what you do." Alcoholics say a lot of things in the throes of drunkenness or anger, or depression or withdrawal, false magnanimity or intense selfishness. You can become very confused by the dichotomy between what is said and what happens.  All you can go by is what they do, not what they say they are going to do. "Actions Speak Louder than Words."

And, I have found that is true for everybody. People are not what they say they are, they are what they do. Behavior is like a compass, always pointing true.   So many people get into trouble by not understanding that.  Women get into abusive relationships, people marry the wrong person, they ignore what we all see as red flags.   If you are hit, abused, ignored, abandoned, lied to, and then told you are loved - you are not.

Here is love and caring: A husband who goes to the store day after day and night after night and cooks the meals and cleans after working ten hours because you can't. A child who never complains that they can't do something because mom doesn't feel well. (A mom who is sick and does everything in her power to make sure her child does everything that other kids do is love, too.)  A friend who comes 2 thousand miles to remake a bedroom. A old acquaintance who calls out of the blue just thinking of you, to see if you want to go to a Globetrotters game. A gift card for food delivery, a homemade meal brought over, an offering of something soft or a dessert or a note or text sent for no reason other than people know you are having a hard time.  That you have cancer.  That you are going to die. That they'll miss you.

That is a big thing, and good people care with action.

Those things are love. Love is sacrifice of time, energy, money, and thought on behalf of another person. So, those of us with cancer, many of us who have had somebody abandon us in our lives, we must learn to focus on the good - the ones who demonstrably love us - rather than the ones who don't.

Had I written the line in that article, I would have written,

"Because they don’t know what to say or do, or because your illness may arouse their own fears of mortality, they may even avoid you altogether. Instead of focusing on those who have left you, make sure you focus on those who are still around and who are generously giving of their time. Because, you will find that there are more of them than you know."

I would never tell somebody to understand or forgive abandonment.  It is a cruel thing to face when you are dying and we have enough to contend with.  At some point, it is OKAY that it is about us.

Speaking of forgiveness, aside from that one line, I found some very helpful articles on that site, so if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or have a family member who has, then check it out.  I particularly liked the concept of an "ethical will" and will be implementing that idea in my own life.

The one thing I know, like my old childhood fantasy, is I don't want anybody crying over my casket who was not crying with me in life.  As an adult, I know I can't make anybody sorry, but I'll be taking steps to make sure that my children can mourn in peace.


Please vote for me in Healthline's Best Blog Contest.   You all have done a remarkable job helping me stay at the top and I'm very grateful you haven't abandoned me during this long, long contest! It ends Feb 14th so keep it up and tell your friends!  This money will go to my son's college fund.  Vote here: 


  1. oh, my dear ann... i so agree and disagree... i also can so very much relate. as you know i'm 4.5 years NED but i didn't know that i would get this far when first diagnosed with breast cancer. as i went through all of my surgery, radiation and chemo there were people who "jumped ship" on me. and that is when i knew who my "real" friends were.

    my dad always told me that if you have "true" friends that you can count on one full hand then you are one very, very, lucky person as most people can't even count that many.

    after i finished my last chemo treatment i hosted a dinner for all of those people who did not desert me, helped out, came to my aid etc. through those four months. i hosted a dinner of 70 and you know what... it only included one, yes one, family member... one sister. i didn't invite my aunts, my cousin, my other sister or even my dad. i invited the people - parents of my son's classmates and long time friends from the pub - to celebrate with me because they were the ones there day after day.

    i didn't and don't hold it against those who "couldn't hang". it proved to me that they were not as good of friends or family as i thought they were and i was okay letting go.

    with that being said - having learned who was or was not my true friend and looking forward to "what ifs" i wrote down what i wanted said at my memorial service if it came or ever comes to that. i have one true friend who is willing to read my "words from the grave" because they are not too kind... for example, just in case someone who did "abandon" me during my hours of need and shows up the beginning of it says "would the following people, if you are here, please stand - mrs. x, mr. z, cousin b, sister d etc. - Peggi would like you to leave the service immediately - you were not there for her and she does not want you here now."

    A cruel thing to do... yes, but what they did to me was cruel as well. i've tossed those folks aside and have no guilt in doing so... life is too short to worry or deal with that and my time and energy is better spent fostering the great relationships that i do have.

    I do have one very dear and young friend who just could not handle any of it... not seeing me sick, not seeing me bald, not seeing me suffer but the sweet little thing told me so. She told me that to see me sick scared her. She apologized and said she wished she could face me but she didn't know how to handle it, what to say, what to do... and that was quite a special gift to me... i told her it was okay and i understood, that i knew she cared - we hugged, we're still in touch, she is still a friend.

    so as far as your brother goes i can understand how much it hurts but as you said - Instead of focusing on those who have left you, make sure you focus on those who are still around and who are generously giving of their time.

    use your energy to focus on your true friends, your healing and your love for your family and to hell with the negatives.

    wishing you peace and strength.


    1. Peggi, I don't see what you disagree with!

      I disagree with you a bit: I don't think I would implement the funeral "words from the grave" thing. The funeral is not for me, it is for my family, to start the mourning process. Those who have demonstrated they cause scenes won't be at the funeral but that's to give my children the peace they'll need, not out of any revenge. I wouldn't want to call them out during a ceremony, that would be mighty uncomfortable!

      Make no mistake, I am focusing on the people who have been here for me. It is surprising and many more than I would have expected. It's a beautiful thing.

  2. Yes, this happens and it can be both puzzling and upsetting. On the positive side, I have to say that I also had people like my husband's ancient uncle, with health problems and other serious challenges of his own, who went out of his way to call me up and tell me silly jokes, take me out for dinner etc. I also had people I did not know well prior to cancer, who stepped up in amazing ways and really helped get me through treatment.

    1. I have had so many people think of me that it was a true eye-opener. It's amazing how kind people can be. I should have written this piece to really focus on the fact that you will be given that gift of love from people that you never expected it from. People can be just so generous.

  3. Thanks for bringing this to light. I had a fabulous support team and my friends and family came to together in an amazing way. BUT I was very hurt, in particular by one person, who would not as much as say, "How are you doing?" When I confronted him on it he said, "I don't want to butt in to your personal business"....HELLO! I am blogging about my PERSONAL experience, so it is not that personal, really. Also I had two friends of my dearest friends dump me completely just as I was recovering. I still don't get that. Wishing you well. Keep the posts coming!

    1. Flo, I have a lot of support too. It's just such a universal experience - it seems every person I meet with cancer has had that one person vanish. Very weird.

  4. I've had the exact same experience with my sister since being diagnosed with bone mets last October. I totally agree with your re-write of that advice--focus on the positive and the many people who do show that they care. I've also made some wonderful new friends through support groups and look on these people as my "sisters" now. No, it doesn't take away the hurt of not hearing from my sister, but it does make it easier to carry on and continue to enjoy each day of life.

  5. Speaking as someone who also came from a dysfunctional family, people who come through the experience are masters at shutting down emotionally and blocking out whatever pain life throws at them. It's how they "survived", after all. As I always tell people, not everyone wins the family sweepstakes. Some of us are unlucky in the family department through no fault of our own.

    1. True. I understand why it happens but what I don't understand is why a person can't push through in spite of it. Won't regret come to play in a few years time? Maybe not.

      It would for me but I'm not as much of a master at shutting down emotionally. I am not a person who cries though - I'm trying to let it happen now. But crying for me means giving somebody the satisfaction of hurting you and so I learned 45 years ago not to do that.

  6. Ann - my heart hurts as I read the story about how your brother has deserted you. I am left speechless, not understanding how a family member could just walk away like that. There are no words. You share the same childhood and with that has come his inability to feel. I'm pretty sure you got his portion of that, and sometimes a double portion of something is a blessing and a curse. It's raw, it's deep, it overflows to these very pages. But once again you've blessed us with your very personal and exposed experience to help understand this aspect of your journey. I can only hope and pray that one day your brother will know what a generous and loving person you are and can embrace all you have given back despite that childhood dysfunction. Maybe that experience didn't teach him how to love and live, but if only he would open himself to you he could find what he seems to have lost. You have also taught the rest of the world an immensely important lesson here, Ann. Love is indeed about sacrifice and is unconditional. Sending my love to you and a great big hug across this entirely too big country.

  7. Ann, thank you for putting this experience into words. I've been on both sides of the equation: just as I was recovering from my treatments, two of my friends who I only have contact with through Facebook were dying. And I HID their posts from my feed. I knew they were dying and it scared me so badly because I thought, "That could be me." I felt too vulnerable and too fragile to deal with that pain at the same time I was dealing with my own fears. It took a good bit of courage for me to read your blog and Facebook page as well, because again, "That could be me."
    At some point, I was able to face my fears and engage again with my sick friends. As a stage III "survivor" (for a year anyway) it's hard for me to read your blog sometimes because it scares me. Yet, I love it. I absolutely love you and your blog. But I always hesitate before I read it. I take stock of my mental state for the day and assess whether or not I can handle it. I've never even met you, but I love you. I don't want you to die of this disease. I don't want anyone to die of this disease. I have become emotionally invested in you. And that's hard. It would have been easier to ignore it and pretend like it didn't exist. I would have spared myself some emotional pain, but I would have missed such beauty and wisdom.
    Anyway, I know this is a bit disjointed. I'm tearing up as I write it. I hope today is filled with love and laughter for you, Ann.

    1. Charlotte, it means a lot to hear this from you. Facing fears is one of the most courageous things a person can do, especially when it is for somebody else.

      That's why it's surprising when somebody who is supposed to love you doesn't face them for you, and turns away and in the process, hurts you. But it is a tremendous gift when somebody who doesn't have to look, like you - does. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out.

  8. Ann, I am blown away by this post. So smart, thoughtful, heartbreaking and beautiful.

  9. Ann, this is such a moving, heartfelt post, it made me cry. At my cancer diagnosis close family and friends abandoned me, and I remember thinking that the abandonment was worse than the cancer itself. (Of course, many family and friends gathered around me and supported me.)

    I know that I am capable of true love because I took my dying friend to chemo for three years and cooked for her. I visited as often as I could. It was so painful, but when we love someone, we shouldn't abandon him or her.

    I'm sorry about your brother abandoning you. Yes, focus on the people who are your true friends.

    1. Beth, you are wonderful for doing that for your friend. I do focus on the wonderful people in my life. There are many.

  10. I don't have cancer but I do feel your pain. My dad AND brother have stopped talking to me since Obama got reelected because my HUSBAND voted for him. Nice family, huh? The way I see it, I don't need those negative, hateful people in my life anyway...

    1. Are you kidding me? Are you honestly trying to compare Ann and what's she's gone through with her illness to your husband voting differently from your relatives?

      I have been reading Ann's blog for close to a year and I hate that this is my first comment, but honestly, I can't just let something like this sit.

      Take a running jump!

    2. It is hurtful when people distance themselves from you for any reason. I understand that - having a dysfunctional family means we have had times of distance.

      However, if you call your father and brother and say "let's get over this foolishness" they may change their minds. Perhaps you will discover there is a different reason they are not speaking to you.

      I can't make a call as the phone isn't answered. And, being abandoned in your "hour of need" when you want your family the most - that is indescribable.

  11. Ann all I can say is your words hit home. I too have stage IV breast cancer mets to bones. At my initial consultation was told my life expectancy is 5 yrs. And that was 3 yrs ago. I try real hard not to do the count down as morbid as it sounds but it does creep into my daily thoughts. I really enjoy reading your blog and posts on FB. I vote daily for that college fund for your son. I too unfortunately have experienced the loss of someone who I thought was a sister from another mother. ;)
    As the saying goes. She was my partner in crime running buddy annd we were there for each others ups and downs for 15yrs. She was there with my family the day I found out I had terminal cancer and was actually there the first month of my illness. I know we were both in different places in our lives. She had just left her 2nd husband and was wanting her partner in crime by her side again. She wanted me to move in with her and let the parties and endless men to begin. However as fun as those days were in the past I had no desire to go back there. I was in this black hole and needed my best friend there for me thru the treatments, vomiting, depression, anger, tears etc. however that didn't happen she just disappeared. Claimed the one and only time I called her that she had lost my number. WOW really??? So with that being said Iwashed my hands with her and the 15 yr friendship. I don't feel like I'm beyon selfish because I know forsure if the tables were turned I would be there for her without thought. I enjoy reading your blog, you are raw and straight forward with no sugar coating. You understand and listen and that's worth more than my weight in gold. So I just want to say thank you Ann and keep up the good work. You make the confusion alittle clearer. God Bless You..

    1. Thank you for voting! And, don't count down. People can live longer with mets. Your doctor shouldn't have given you that number.

      You are definitely not selfish. If there is ever a time we get to be a little needy, it is now. That doesn't mean whiney, mind you (hate that) but it is the time for family to gather close. Well, I have a family that I will gather close, it just won't include a lot of my blood relatives.

  12. Beautifully written and oh so eloquent. Such an important lesson in learn what love truly means. It's one that so many people never fully grasp. Your brother is really missing out by choosing not to have a relationship with you. I don't know if he could add much to the emotional quality of your life, but you would certainly adda great deal to his.

  13. How beautiful, and thank you for putting into words what so many of us have felt, or will feel. When my own mother passed from mets six years ago I was so angry with her brother... still am actually. He made it for the important part, you know the funeral. Now that I have my own breast cancer, it's my sister. Thank you for being real and genuine. I'm grateful.

  14. Dear Ann, I usually never comment on anyone's posts, but for some reason I now feel the need to: I think I understand the message you want to communicate, but I must say that I feel your viewpoint is rather one-eyed. For some reason, it feels important to say that even without further reasoning. I hope the best for you and your family. BR, Noga, a regular reader from Finland

    1. I love the language differences! I don't know what one-eyed means. Do you mean one-sided?

      If so, I can't write my brother's side as he doesn't speak to me (he doesn't answer his phone or return message). If he did, I would write it. But, this isn't really about my brother. So many people share this experience. I can't tell you how many people tell me they have had the same experience. A friend of my husband's told him today that family members also turned away from her mom when she was going. Their reason was they didn't want to "remember her like that." Well, I'm up and walking so that can't be the reason.

    2. Ann is not being one-eyed at all - we all experience the same reaction from people close to us. My own mother was upset and said "How could she do this to me". Gee I didn't do it on purpose. I noticed friends from work didn't keep in touch as well as others. Only 2 people came to visit me at home while I was having treatment. I think cancer scares a lot of people and that is why they seem to not care.


  15. I have been reading your blog since the beginning-we were diagnosed around the same time,treatment ran the same course.I have 2 brothers who, in the last 3 years, have never contacted me. Never called when they found out from my mother. Never called after my 2 surgeries. Never called while I was doing chemo for a year. Never even bothered just to see how I was doing. My mother would bring over a meal the day after my chemo treatment and I wouldn't see her again until the next one. She basically would come, set it on the table and leave-took her longer to drive over then stay. Never saw my father in 5 months-he never came with my mom. After the 6 treatments with the "tougher" chemo that was pretty much it for seeing them. So yes, in a way I know what you are saying. It used to make my sad to think I wasn't even worth a cheap card and a stamp. So yes, I do know what you are saying. I,for one, say to hell with them.

    1. I don't care about cards, but what they represent. Hey, at least your mom brought food! LOL. :)

  16. A lot of what you read is like cotton candy to placate the reader and it's likely not written by anyone who's gone through it. I agree that real love expresses itself through actions.

  17. You are such a wonderful writer and thinker, Ann, and you so often see through a lot of muddle to get to the fine point of things. I appreciate that very much. I'm so sorry that your brother has been so hurtful. Hard to understand. It will hurt him when you're gone. I can't imagine the guilt won't get to him somehow. When I went through chemo my oldest brother mostly stayed away ... didn't phone or stop by or visit me when I was in the hospital. It hurt. But then I was especially puzzled when, after I had finished treatments and when his wife left him, he arrived in tears on my doorstep needing comfort. I know he felt guilty about abandoning me when I was in my worst of times because through tears he often repeated, "I read your blog every day". I never knew. I don't know if that's true and even if he did, it didn't make up for his not even express any care for me during that time. So I comforted him during his difficult transition. I helped rebuild his self esteem and confidence, I took him shopping for new clothes for his new, leaner physique (he's colorblind), I talked to him almost every day. And then he met another woman and I almost never hear from him again. All I can do is shrug and think how very self-absorbed he must be and I have to be sad for all he's missing in life.

    It is really surprising the people who one expects to see us through our most difficult times and then who don't and equally surprising the ones you wouldn't have expected who do in spades. For them I am so grateful and I make sure they know it.

    By the way, my other brothers and their wives weren't nearly as supportive as I thought they might be. My family in general really failed me much to my surprise because I've always thought of us as a close family. And now my friends, who have been wonderful, are my family. Thank GOD for friends!

    I wish you peace with how your brother has behaved, Ann.

  18. Yes. I can relate, in fact quite painfully. For me it was my husband. We are still together but Im not sure how I ever move on from knowing that he just wasnt there for me. I have rationalized that he did the best he could. But, I know I deserved better. I know, when I hear of your husband and the husbands of other woman who have gone and are going through this when they say, "I couldnt have done it without him". I cant say that. I can only say, I did it without him! But I also say, that we are in this thing of dying essentially alone, even with the wonderful family and friends around us. Its a lonely place.
    I think it would also be important to say that those of us with cancer react very differntly to our diagnosis and treatment, and sometimes the abandonement that we feel may be somewhat self induced. That is, we may inadvertantly shut people out. I definitely did this. I wanted so very much for people to come over, touched when people brought food, moved beyond belief when I received a card or a text. But, initially I didnt respond to much of these kind attempts. I couldnt even thank most of them. I was humiliated and deeply depressed. I isolated myself. It was a very select few, that perservered, that didnt take no for an answer, that texted and came over, and drug me out, and gave me a hug, and listened as I cried. And for them I am forever grateful.

  19. Hi Ann,

    I come from a Christian perspective and am amazed at the wisdom I so often find from the perspective of an atheist such as yourself. I completely agree with your reflection on love. It reminds me of the times that I have failed in this regard (hopefully not as spectacularily as your brother) but we all fail to greater or lesser degrees. I wonder what your thoughts are on forgiveness? If you were to forgive your brother what would that mean for you? Can you forgive without a relationship being restored? (I say absolutely).

    1. Give me a break...what good does it do anyone that a cold-hearted bastard doesn't have to live knowing people consider him a cold-hearted bastard. Forgiveness without first knowing there is regret from the transgressor is so pansy...and just gives him ammo to do it over and over.

    2. I found this an interesting question. As an atheist, the concept of forgiveness to me means somebody has wronged me, realized it, has apologized and asked to be forgiven so we can continue on with our relationship.

      I cannot forgive somebody who has not asked for it and if they don't want to apologize or even know they have wronged me, I can't forgive.

      I can learn to live with it, I can let it not bother me, I can understand it (all of which I have done, by the way, I was just using my brother as an example.) But I cannot forgive anybody who has not asked me for it. In a religious sense, I think only God can do that. And, I am not God.

      Nor do I believe in a God. :)

  20. Ann, I so sorry about that, it must be hard to think about as well as a bit bewildering. I'm sorry you have to think about abandonment right now, and I'm sorry your brother is being a jerk. This was very poignant, and I wish you much peace.

  21. Ann
    I wish I stil lived in Sacramento (OK actually I lived in Davis) I would love to be your friend. I have stage III breast cancer and hoping to stay that way. My brother and sister in law who live 3 hours away essentially didn't visit at all during all my miserable treatments. I still like them but it is not the same. Since that is my husband's only family, he feels like an orphan. My sisters were clearly upset by my diagnosis and were much more supportive.
    I'm so sorry your brother is a hopeless jerk.

  22. Thank you for addressing the problem of abandoment so thoughtfully. This distancing is evident in many different terminal illnesses. I saw it when my huband had early-onset dementia. Believe it or not some of them eventually came around, but some never showed up. It was very plainly their loss.

  23. I read the article you referenced and then today I found this one: which highlights the importance of an ethical will (though not mentioned in those terms). I thought of you as I read it and thought I'd share it.

    1. Ann; I too come from an extraordinarily dysfunctional family.Because my family was upper middle class WASP, the facade of a perfect family was of the utmost concern.We were thrown from second story windows, put into comas from head injuries,watched our pets be tortured to death, etc.

      in a family as dysfunctional as my own invariably a scapegoat is chosen. I am high functioning on the autism spectrum [diagnosed AFTER my youngest son was] and never even spoke in school or public[ i could at home] until i was nearly 14 years old, which made me the inevitable choice for designated scapegoat.
      Though my father was the initial perpetrator of abuse my family took all of their pain and suffering onto me to such an extent that I was being more abused by other family members than by my father. also, my family members felt no need of a moral compass for any actions because anything that happened was invariably blamed on me.[including my brothers rape of myself and a 13 year old neighbor when he was nearly 22]
      I escaped through marraige soon after turning 18 and we moved clear across the country to get away from them.
      after my first husband died I returned to Colorado hoping things had changed.
      well, they had and they hadn't. my dad was [and i know this is rare] totally ashamed of his actions and begged my forgiveness, which i gave. on his deathbed my family felt it was the appropriate time to tell him how much they hated him and "have fun in hell you piece of shit." my mother was restrained from holding his hand.I was told by my family that they would get revenge on me for being kind to him during this time.
      Well, they did.Quite successfully.
      when i was diagnosed with breast cancer i naively thought that would be the time for our family to heal. Hell no. as a mayyer of fact one of my family members managed to get ahold of some phone numbers of memners of my community[ a nudist resort] and convince them that i was FAKING cancer. they somehow convinced a number of the members, members who had seen my scarred chest and loss of hair for months.
      Um, Anns blog today [as so many other times] has helped me to understand that my familys treatment of me is not my fault. I cannot fix them. I cannot make any of them leave a message on my phone saying they are sorry I have breast cancer. and no, they do not love me 'deep down' and that's okay because alot of people [including finally myself] love me alot.
      thank you again ann for saying what only you could say.


  24. It is hard to feel abandoned. My two brothers and dad did not want to hear a thing about what was happening to me when I went through treatment. When asked how I was doing, all they wanted to hear was "fine." Nothing more. I blogged about everything and they could read about my treatment or not. Blogging was my therapy. I felt alone but blogging helped me get through that time period even if no one read my blog.
    You are not alone. There are many followers of your blog. All you can do is take one day at a time. Dwell on what you have, the friends and family who do care and who can handle how the cancer effects you. Positive energy should be your focus. Enjoy everyday and every moment. Life is too short to focus on anything but the positive. Those who have abandoned you will have their own demons to answer too once you are gone.

  25. A dysfunctional family does not become functional in a crisis. Sad but true. My brother sounds like your brother (Sister??????!!). Ann, you know, we all wish for closure, but the fact is that we can only control ourselves. You're a lovely person, and your brother is a disconnected boob (ironical choice of wordage, hey?) and maybe, just maybe you're better off without his involvement. I understand your pain, but everytime I've been around my brother, things are just stupid. You haven't got time for stupid. You've got a contest to win!

    1. Wow! Did that one line ever catch my attention? A dysfunctional family does not become functional in a crisis. (I think that's what I expected when my brother was diagnosed last July & then my mom in January)... Nope.

  26. Hi Ann,
    I'm sorry your brother has chosen to cut you off the way he has. It hurts to be abandoned by those who are supposed to love us most. Families, mine included, are sometimes hard, even impossible, to figure out. I think you certainly have the right to focus on those who surround you now with their love and actions. Thanks for yet another honest and heartfelt post, Ann.

  27. I'm so glad you're blogging. As a fellow blogger, I know the community that you build and the relationships that enrich your life. This post is terrific. I recently read a post (sorry--Can't remember where!) in which a priest talks about the gift of setting aside one's uncomfortable feelings to be with someone in their suffering (of any kind). It really moved me, as my husband is so gifted at doing this, and I have felt blessed to do so, as well. My cousin is currently dying of cancer. I visited her recently and was reminded of the blessings one can receive when pushing past the discomfort.

    I also grew up in a dysfunctional family affected by alcoholism. My dad was diagnosed with leukemia and died all within five days; it was definitely a blessing to have him go that way.

    It's really nice to "meet" you. I look forward to traveling with you on your journey.

  28. I follow your blog, it has meant so much to me to read your honesty and humor. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your well thought out assessment of abandonment.

    I was diagnosed young, and honestly, I think more people turned away from me as a result. It wasn't supposed to happen, more people didn't want to deal with the reality that none of us is guaranteed their life or their health. I have a beautiful and amazing life, but I am so scarred every day by this abandonment. I had people by me, and I do try to focus on their support. But my godmother, my cousin, my college pal, my old co-worker: you haunt me every day. You remind me the simple truth is, some people don't give a damn. And here's the scarier part: you really won't know until it counts which ones those are going to be.

    I have no need to hide in the drivel of "they don't know what to do". Thank you for some additional strength in my convictions. It also strengthens my resolve not to be someone who abandons people in their time of need.

    You are an amazing person.

  29. Hello Ann, my name is Kayla Korpics and I am 14 years old. I'M so sorry I didn't see your video sooner. Watching your video not only did I cry the whole time but, the whole time I watched I felt like I was getting stronger. Your video made me realize not only How much my mom does for me but also, to live each day to the fullest not knowing what could happen next. You've inspired me so much and I will definitely add you to my prayer every night. I would love a response from you , my email is i will make sure i stay updated on your progress. Thank you so much . Stay strong. <3 love, Kayla.

  30. I am SUCH a DORK! I clicked "Subscribe" earlier today, thinking I was subscribing to your blog posts, not THIS post. Consequently, when Anonymous posted at 2:48 and I received it in my mailbox, I thought it was from YOU to ME, and I REPLIED. I am laughing right now...Anyway, if you saw my reply, would you please delete it. I'm off to sign up for the nursing home now...thanks.

  31. Anne Lamott talks about this behavior In her book Traveling Mercies. She is a left wing born again Christian if you can picture such a person, and this is one of my favorite books of all time.

    She says that our obligation to those who are sick is to show up. That's it. Just show up -- be present in some way. She says that the sick person's community should gather and build a house of safety around the ill person and their family.

    I experienced the disappearing friends and mom during treatment. When I think about it (and I try not to), my mantra is "at least now you know."

    Ever since I read that description, I have tried to show up. I haven't always been successful with my mother, but the "show up" standard is so ridiculously low there is really no excuse for not meeting it.

    On a more practical note, I am an junkie. I started to order something this morning then remembered your 4% deal but I can't locate the link-- I'm technologically challenged and it is probably like when I can't find my glasses on top of my head.....but if you'll point me in the right direction, I'll use it every time and spread the word to my fellow junkies.

  32. I have read your blog from start to present, I love it! I don't love that you have cancer but I love your wit, and your humor, and the grace that you have accepted this disease with.Not everyone is capable of continuing to "live" after such a diagnosis. I am sorry your brother seems like, for lack of a better word...a shit head. My sister has Cystic Fibrosis and it's not fun to think about her, someone I love more than the Earth, Moon and Stars, suffering or dying or even just being annoyed because her Jeapordy reruns are not on :) I can't imagine abandoning her. That really sucks that your brother chose to deal with his feelings that way. The other people in your life sound amazing and I'm glad for you that you have such wonderful people to surround you. Keep writing, I will keep reading :)
    Best Wishes

  33. I just stumbled on your blog after googling "I hate pink." I got an email today from the Susan Love Research Foundation asking me to donate money for breast cancer research because, um, it's Valentine's Day. The message was very pink. I unsubscribed telling them, in part, I hate pink!

    I've been diagnosed with three primary cancers in five years so I have this "I gave at the office" feeling about financial solicitations, even when they aren't pink and don't try to link breast cancer to Valentine's Day.

    I rarely post comments on blogs and haven't read much of yours but this post really hit me. First, I didn't realize how widespread the issues of abandonment are and you've done a marvelous job of pointing them out. Your story and those in the comments are heartbreaking. I have my own less severe tale, and I guess this is ironic, but it helps to know I'm not alone in my abandonment.

    The other part of your post I particularly appreciated was calling out the other organization for claiming "but they really love you." You are so right that as the saying goes "love is an action verb." To be told "but they really love you" about someone who abandons or abuses you is nothing short of crazy-making. Thanks for calling out the truth on that one!

    PS, good luck with the contest. I've voted.

  34. Hi i am Bintang, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i read this post i thought i could also make comment due to this sensible post.

  35. I love reading your blog! Thank you for sharing this very personal journey with all of us. My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV lung and breast cancer, about a month ago. Both were diagnosed only a couple weeks apart.. The breast was not a shock to us, but the lung sure was. The lung cancer is inoperable and mom has just started chemotherapy. Her attitude has been so bad lately; I keep telling her it's a mindset and she needs to face this another way. A positive way - She's bitter, pissed off, ready to quit (and she is only on round 2 of chemo) - Did you also go through those phases? I wish she had a computer so she could keep up with your blog and get some inspiration out of it like I have. Good for you, still finding the joys in life & taking it one day at a time. You're such an example to cancer folks everywhere!

  36. Love this: ''Love is not a feeling. It is feeling combined with behavior. It is sacrifice. It is putting aside your fears and your desires for the sake of somebody else.'' YES.

    My mum has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I have been amazed and overwhelmed by the support of people who I don't know that well: old and current colleagues, friends who I hadn't previously classified as very close and a best friend who is now even dearer to me.

    Throughout it all, my oldest friend, someone who has known me and my family for 10 years has deserted me.

    And it is not because she 'can't handle it.' She is 'busy.'

    The anger I felt has now dissipated into disinterest and disappointment. How self-absorbed some people can be.

    Thank you for writing this post, I needed it.

  37. I read this and it came very close to home. I too come from a very dysfuntional family. I would not even call them family. I've washed my hands of them. They are some of the sickest people I've ever come across in my life. I was not suprised in the least of my treatment. I went thru horrific cancer treatments by myself, and came out stronger. Like one poster wrote ' If were lucky we will be able to count on one hand people we can truly count on when we die' . Mine started out stage 3C IDC. Then moved on to two more separate cancers. One brother that physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually abused me has been smearing my name along with his wife for years. My only son abandoned me. I was a very good mother, and wife. My X husband used my illness against me ' and made me out to be a bad mother' Has literally turned my now 22 yo son against me. I've been so heartbroken, and I would not wish this heartbreak on anyone. The friends I did have pretty much abandoned ship when I got really ill. They even went as far as to Break into my home while I was away and steal things from me. But, I figure it this way, best to find out now whom I can trust, and take care of this illness. The stress of just finding out you have cancer is a nightmare.

    I figure I'm the better person because I would help anyone in their time of need. I've always been the one that helped anyone that needed it. I always dream of having a good, caring, and loving family. Well in a way it happened. I met some people, and they took me in as their own. They at least phone me, and show they care. When this happened in my family I was not surprised at all, they are truly the sickest people I've run across. My one and only child turned on me. I was not a drinker, druggie, or anything like that. He just had more fun with my X and the X could give him anything, and gave in to his every whim. I'm smeared all over the net. It's terrible. Very heartbreaking. I do wonder about Karma. I did not deserve this treatment, it emotional and domestic abuse all over again.

    I do wonder sometimes what to do with the anger I feel, it does hurt. My last conversation with my son ended badly. I doubt our relationship is repairable.

  38. Thank you so much for this post.


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!