• Resolving Problems

Having a disagreement with a friend who gets diagnosed with a serious illness

Published: May 15, 2015 | Last Updated: May 15, 2015 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
When a friend gets diagnosed with a serious illness, it has a way of changing your outlook.



I had a dispute with a friend via on-line several months ago and now she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When I found out about the cancer, I tried a couple of times to meet up with her for coffee, but she either went to the wrong place or got caught in traffic. She has never been late or mixed up about a place before.

Our dispute has excluded me from our foursome. I took the blame and I think the others are blaming me. They say she wants to get together, but I don’t see it. I offered a third coffee meet, but she is being evasive. What do I do? I know the friendship will never be the same but I don’t know what else to do in this crucial time.

Signed, Lee


Hi Lee,

When someone has an altercation with a friend who is later diagnosed with a serious illness, it can provoke a range of feelings, from guilt and regret to a recognition of how trivial the argument was in relation to larger issues.

It’s nice that you tried to reconnect with this friend but it sounds like either she is unwilling or unable to meet you to discuss it further. She may want to minimize the stress she is experiencing.

It sounds like you are also worrying about what your friends think of you. Right now, they may be very protective of your friend, which is understandable given her diagnosis.

I think the best option for you is to refrain from involving anyone else in your dispute and to maintain a friendly stance with these other women, independent of your friend. You can express your concern about her, and offer to help out if she or they ask you to.

Don’t beat yourself up about having had the dispute. Disagreements can occur between the best of friends.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (6)

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  1. Peabody's Cow says:

    I’m experiencing the same behavior,I just found that my sister,with diabetes,had her leg amputated 1.5 yrs ago.I don’t doubt the expanse of lapsed time- due to the fact in order for my sister to feel important,she’s assassinated my character,reputation.Everyone I encounter thinks I’m an abusive dog,I’m a Christian,my sister went opposite,the occult. I wept when I was told the news,I even apologized for having not checked on her sooner,(except she wouldn’t speak) NOW,I’ve offered to bring her home as my military dependant,but I challenge her rather than coddle her. I called her,she’d been outside with her dog over an hour,but wouldn’t give five minutes to me on the phone.if I call,she’s so drugged,unnecessarily,and has attempted suicide,her husband won’t ask for a mental health consult,she can overcome this.I walked through a quadruple bypass with her with zero thanks.
    Now,it’s breaking my heart,it’s as though her married family wants her to die,I know she can overcome with therapy and positive encouragement. She’s aware she hurts me and it’s of no concern to her.

  2. Dionne says:

    Being evasive often just means “no,” that she does not wish to resume the friendship, cancer or no cancer. You made the offer several times and I assume she knows where how to reach you. Therefore, I think you’ve done your part to try to repair the friendship and should let yourself off the hook now.

  3. Maddie says:

    I’m sorry for your situation, but she probably cannot deal with the stress of your right now. It’s clear she doesn’t want to meet up so stop trying to push it.

    I would suggest sending her a nice card with a brief note stating you are thinking of her and that she should feel free to call if she needs anything, then let it be.

    Don’t mention the argument and don’t bring other people into it.

    • Lauren says:

      I agree with Maddie. Leave it be for now. A nice card as Maddie suggested would be appropriate, and now the ball is definitely in her court. That’s all you cn do now.

  4. tanja says:

    I agree with Amy. Sorry you had to go through that Amy. My twin sister had skin cancer. Her relationships with people changed as well. I took care of her kids but when it came to anything else, she pushed me away and there was a lot of jealousy and sometimes if I talked about my feelings, people would tell me to back off. My sister at least is letting me have the kids, while she goes through the treatments and all that, so if she doesn’t talk to me much about anything else.

    The best thing is to refrain, don’t push it. If I were you, I may get her a fruit platter and a handmade letter and wish her well, let her know you are deeply sorry and leave it on her door step. But, you have to decide if you want this friendship as well, because if it is just because she has cancer, that is no good for you either and she may recognize that.

  5. Amy F says:

    I’m a cancer survivor. On one hand, being diagnosed with a potentially life ending illness can make one take pause and examine what’s truly important in life. Don’t make her lack of availability about getting together during this time about you. She’s running around to doctors, tests, scheduling surgeries, chemo/radiation. Her energy is probably inconsistent at best. You need to follow her lead for a while and not take things personally.

    If you don’t want to be her friend, don’t be. That’s ok. You don’t have to feel guilty or behave in treat your relationship (or lack of) differently because of cancer.

    You don’t have to see each other to keep up the friendship. Send cards. Offer to bring dinner. Offer to go to the store for her or clean the bathroom. Don’t say, “let me know if you need anything” because she probably won’t ask. If you offer something specific, she’ll more likely agree. If she’s up to having coffee, offer to pick her up, sometimes driving is just too much.

    Cancer changed my relationships. Some close friends backed away, other not as close friends became closer. You don’t can walk away without feeling guilty. That doesn’t make you a bad person. If you need more from the friendship than she’s able or willing to give, you can adjust your expectations or back away and concentrate of other more fulfilling relationships. I wouldn’t want someone being or staying my friend because I had cancer, that would feel too much like pity.

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