A pair of lungs stands in between two people

Does Having Lung Cancer Impact my Connections with Others?

I love getting together with my friends and family. I desperately need to talk about normal, everyday things and not think about lung cancer all the time. However, I find that I often feel a little frustrated when listening to comments and complaints about things that I view as minor.

Have I lost my empathy?

My family has gone so far as to tell me that I’m not very sympathetic anymore. I live with three men — my husband and my 18 and 16 year old sons — and my reaction to complaints from them about things like colds, vaccinations, and minor aches and pains tend to be more along the “suck it up, you’re fine” line than “oh, you poor baby.”

So what does this mean? Have I lost the ability to feel empathy for others? Not completely, because I am frequently devastated when I hear about someone who is doing poorly or passes away in the lung cancer community. And I certainly don’t want my family and friends to stop telling me what’s going on in their lives.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

How do I want to be treated?

It’s a tough situation. I want to be treated like a totally normal, healthy woman almost all of the time. I don’t want to be pitied or looked at as someone who needs to get special treatment because of my stage IV lung cancer. I’m fortunate enough right now to feel fine and am able to lead a regular life, without any assistance or accommodations needed.

However, there’s a tiny percent of the time when I DO want to be treated differently because I’m living with cancer. I’m not particularly proud that I have these feelings, but so be it. I just feel better if occasionally, not too often, my friends and family acknowledge that they realize the stress I deal with because I am living with cancer and thus, constant uncertainty.

I am able to have tons of empathy for others in the lung cancer community because I know they understand and continuously deal with the same things that I do — scanxiety, fear of progression, precariousness of future plans. It’s a two way street. Others, even my closest family and friends, are somewhat removed from this reality, even though when asked, they assure me that they appreciate the challenges I have.

A reminder to be more open and honest

So what do I do? Although difficult for me, I think I need to make sure others know when I’m going through a stressful time. When I was first diagnosed, I told everyone when I was going for a scan, but as time has gone on, I’ve kept that information more or less to myself, unless someone asks. I need to be more open about what I am still going through as opposed to pretending that everything is fine all the time. Pretending works for me for a period of time, but eventually leads to me having a meltdown (usually aimed at my poor husband) about feeling unappreciated.

My goal is to be more open and honest (at least some of the time!) and hopefully connect more truthfully with my family and friends in the near future.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on June 23, 2024, Ivy Elkins passed away. Ivy’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The LungCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.