• Resolving Problems

Dealing with a needy friend when you have cancer

Published: July 16, 2014 | Last Updated: March 17, 2016 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading
When a needy friend tries too hard to be helpful, you may need to set boundaries and take care of yourself.

QUESTION

Hi,

I am a recent cancer survivor. During my cancer battle, several of my long-standing friends stepped up to help out with everything from vacuuming to long phone chats to driving me to medical appointments.

Strangers also stepped up; people who had heard about my situation from others and could identify with it in some way or else simply wanted to help out of kindness.

All of these friendships mean so much to me, and I am grateful for all of them.

The strangers’ help was amazing, too… except for one person. This person is the sister of the facilitator of the dance group I go to. She tried to “help” me by offering to drive me to medical appointments, but, DURING my cancer battle, I had to figure out how to get out of it when she continually burdened me with a deluge of her own emotional needs.

Even now, I have never once met her in person. She would send me Facebook messages WHEN I had cancer demanding to know why I had not called her back instantly, literally minutes after we had already been sending each other Facebook messages. She had numerous burdensome requests for me.

Once I realized what a draining person she is, I frantically called my uncle to ask him to take all of the days that she had volunteered to drive me in to appointments. Fortunately my uncle (who is super great and totally non-draining!) saved me, which is why I still haven’t met her.

I put into effect some of the advice that I read about needy friends, then, and thankfully, she withdrew for months.

Recently, I am feeling much better, and now she is messaging me constantly on Facebook, as though we are best friends (I have NEVER MET HER).

When I tell her I have to stop Facebook messaging because I need to rest, she ignores it and sends me one, two, three, four more messages.

I have mostly ignored those in the past, occasionally I repeat myself that I need to go so that I can rest, but her numerous messages really bother me. She is not a bad person, but I feel my stomach literally tighten up when I see that I have a message from her (which is WAY too often!).

If she was not his sister I would delete and block her from my Facebook, but that would cause some serious problems with him and in my dance community. I go to his dance group every week and it is really good for me to go to it. He himself (her brother) has been a great, non-needy friend to me, and vice-versa.

How do I handle this situation? Thanks so much.

Signed, Fay

ANSWER

Hi Fay,

I hope you’re doing well with your treatment and recovery. I’m a breast cancer survivor, so I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written.

I think you have a few options. You can set your privacy settings on Facebook so that she doesn’t show up on your feed and you don’t show up on hers. You can also hide when you’re online so she doesn’t try to chat with you. You can be slow to respond to her messages, and keep them short and impersonal.

Another option is to tell her you don’t have the time or energy for any of your friends and you’d appreciate if she gives you some space. Tell her you’ll contact her when you’re feeling better, but ask that she not contact you.

If she doesn’t respect your boundaries, you’re well within your rights to block her. Tell her brother, your real friend, what you’re doing before you do it, but don’t ask him to intervene on your behalf because that would put him in an awkward position. Chances are if she’s like this with you, it’s a pattern and he’s probably aware of her neediness and poor boundaries.

Good luck. I hope you continue to feel better.

Signed, *Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.


Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about friendship and coping with cancer:

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Category: Needy friends

Comments (3)

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  1. DLH says:

    As a breast cancer survivor of twenty-one years, I seriously suggest you figure out a polite way to kick this person to the curb. I strongly believe removing stress-causing factors from your universe is crucial to a happy, healthy life. (Stage IIa-IIIb; 24 lymph nodes…kick trouble to the curb.) Good health Fay!

  2. I don’t have anything to add but empathy here.

  3. bronwyn says:

    I think Amy’s suggestions are good ones. Anyone who’s that pushy with someone she’s never met is obviously missing a few social cues, and her family members probably are already aware of her patterns.

    You do need all of your energy for healing right now, so whatever Facebook option allows you to avoid her with the least drama is the one I’d go for. I hope you have this resolved soon and can focus on becoming well.

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