Cancer Ghosting: What to Do When Your Friends Disappear

Posted: November 19, 2020








Cancer Ghosting: Why Good Friends Go Ghost

Once, we were convinced the word “cancer” was enchanted with a mysterious, dark magic that can make friends vanish on command. We were half right: War on Cancer did some research on cancer and relationships. The results? Heartbreaking. 

Over half of the respondents said their friends or relatives had cut contact after their diagnosis. If you’ve got the same problem, this one’s for you, bud.

Why are friends disappearing on us?

“Throughout my experience with cancer, I’ve lost a bunch of friends because they don’t understand what I’m going through or how to handle it.” - Bianca, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Thriver 

This phenomenon has been dubbed “Cancer Ghosting.” 

Yep, you read that right! Ignoring texts, not returning calls, and placing a sudden, unexplained distance between yourself and another person is commonly known as “ghosting.” And it’s not just for bad Tinder hookups, anymore.

The constant contact of our society definitely has its perks, but it also makes it feel painfully obvious when someone’s avoiding you. Has anyone ever opened your Instagram story about treatment or heart reacted your selfie from six months ago, yet conveniently still not responded to the DM you sent days ago? Ouch. Even if your friend’s silence is motivated by not wanting to say something stupid, it still stings. 

We get it bud, but... hear us out. 

Why is the cancer ghosting phenomenon so common? Unreturned calls or texts feel a lot like abandonment when you’re experiencing such a major trauma. In reality, they’re often a sign of two things: 

  1. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything. 

Haven’t you ever wished for a road map to get you through this journey? Your friends, even the best of them, are a little lost right now, too! It’s a safe bet that most of the people you know haven’t done this before. Unless someone has experienced cancer first-hand, they can’t even come close to understanding what you’re going through.

One of the most Googled phrases about cancer is “What to say to a friend with cancer?” 

Next up: “What to do for a friend with cancer?” 

Many of us feel isolated during cancer treatment and recovery. Still, there are likely a LOT more people in your life who care for you than you realize. They may seem distant because they want to be there for you, yet feel as if they’re walking on eggshells. People who haven’t faced a major health crisis may struggle to show their support in the most meaningful way. 

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