To Tanya, who has cancer

Hey Tan, I had lunch with a mutual friend today and she told me you’re only doing texts these days, so thought I’d text rather than call. But my text got a bit long so I thought I’d write this down and text you a link to it.

If I had called, I’d say I’m sorry to hear that you’re doing chemo, that I know you’ve got this because you’re one of the strongest and most resourceful people I’ve ever met, any day you need to be, but that I don’t expect you to be that person every day and you don’t need to pretend, because I’m your friend.

I’d say that everybody’s journey through cancer to wellness is different so I know that telling you all the details of another person’s own cancer experience won’t help you one bit.

Furthermore I am not a surgeon, radiologist or oncologist so I won’t dispense advice to worry or confuse you. Nor am I qualified to assess the expertise of surgeons, radiologists or oncologists so I won’t even try to recommend someone else to you.

I’d also say that I know this kind of experience can make it kinda weird to relate to friends and family, because they all have to deal with it too, in a variety of ways.

Sometimes they want to make every interaction about the cancer when you would rather just pretend nothing’s changed for a few precious hours. And sometimes they make you really uncomfortable by cheerfully pretending absolutely everything is fine when today you feel it’s really, really not. Sometimes they become SO NEEDY that it feels you’re the one supporting them, even though it’s your cancer. And sometimes even your closest friends won’t know how to deal or relate and you will never hear from them again.

And sometimes you just want to curl up in a ball, feel sorry for yourself and not be the strong survivor everybody tells you that you are.

I get that and it’s OK by me – just tell me how you want to play it – I don’t have any expectation about seeing you or not seeing you until this is all over because I’m your friend and you owe me nothing.

Finally I’d say: I promise to just listen when you need to speak, be silent when you can’t summon the energy to interact, help in any way you need me to, and not help when you don’t need me to. I take frank and concise directions well and without reading anything else into it.

When this is all over, you’ll be different, but I’m sure I’ll still like you. Until then, I remain your friend to need (or not need) as needed.


I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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