Angels and bolters: a field guide to the wildlife of cancer (when your diagnosis shows you what kind of friends you have)

Angels and bolters: a field guide to the wildlife of cancer (when your diagnosis shows you what kind of friends you have)

Some follow on responses to my comment about how friends accept you when I replied to Hooper's question on supplements, , prompted me to look further into the way our friends react when they learn we have cancer. That's how I found this gem by Karen Ritchie M.D., who has identified the following categories of friends: Preachers, Clueless, Bolters, Angels and Fellow Travelers.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, strange things happen to other people. Cancer will probably change you, but it also changes people around you, people you thought you knew..." (Well worth a read.)

And why is this the case when cancer is so common? I'd heard figures of around 20%, but it is now around 40%!!

Interestingly, when I entered "what proportion of people g" into Google, the autocomplete gave the top response as "what proportion of people get cancer" ahead of "go to university" or "get married".

Obviously we're a group of fellow travellers here, but I'm pleased to see we also have many, many angels.

What's been your experience?


PS For those that have looked at the Cancer Research UK website, CLL falls into the WHO | International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Leukaemia C91 - C95 group: (ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Codes > Neoplasms C00-D49 > Malignant neoplasms of lymphoid, hematopoietic and related tissue C81-C96 > Lymphoid leukemia C91-) and has the diagnostic code 91.1. This doesn't include those of us with Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma (coded 83.0) and that dual disease nature really upset the coding system. Read the below for more if you are interested:

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  • I think the above is a pretty good description of how people respond from very positive and helpful to useless and back away. Really need to get used to it as an ever larger proportion of the population are affected by a cancer sometime in their lives. A more open approach by those with cancer may help change attitudes but there are good reasons not to tell the world - catch 22 springs to mind!

  • In my experience it breaks down into four groups, very much like ‘ CancerLynx ‘ says….

    1)Those who somehow just do not believe, or want to think, you have cancer. They are in complete denial. These people can be difficult for me to talk with I find.

    2)Those who just seem to fade away. They are perhaps worried that they might say something inappropriate, or the whole subject just scares them badly.

    3)Those who accept it when you have cancer but NEVER ask about any health issues you might have at that moment. Normal conversation applies, as long as the word cancer does not come up.

    4)Those who are perhaps one’s longest or best friends who both accept the situation and do ask if ‘ everything is OK ‘. They might not be comfortable when talking about cancer, but are willing to do so, knowing that you yourself are happy with the conversation.

    When people are told by me that I have a type of cancer most people lower their eyes, look away, or are a little embarrassed.

    Thus to let the family know my situation I sent out a circular e-mail specifically marked ‘ No replies please at this time.’ This avoided the situation whereby the recipients were expected to reply with ‘ suitable sympathetic phrases ‘…!!

    In summary, of course we can expect some embarrassment from friends and acquaintances, but the best and oldest friends do care, and do ask, about our situation.


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