(This “ask me anything” answer is in response to a class of young college students’ questions.)
Did people distance themselves from you? Do people treat you differently?
I’m not sure. Nobody close to me stayed away, in any case. There are some people who I know care about me and were upset to find out I was terminally ill but didn’t know how to talk to me. Some of them took a long time before reaching out. Some still haven’t and probably won’t. That’s okay, though I would still like them to.
I know many visitors have been nervous because they weren’t sure how I would be, both emotionally and physically. In fact that’s really why I started my blog, to let people know I was okay. Maybe some people are nervous about their own emotional reactions, afraid they might cry or say the wrong thing. My mom told me just the other day that she doesn’t stay very long when she visits because she starts to feel like she’s about to cry and doesn’t want to cry in front of me. I completely understand crying—I do it myself all the time. I also say the wrong thing far more often than I would wish! So I’m very forgiving about what people say. And I always have a box of kleenex handy.
It’s important to remember that nothing bad will happen from reaching out to someone going through something like this. It’s better to take that risk. We’re much more likely to regret not reaching out.