Some People Just Don't Get It

A friend made a comment that shows some people have no idea. No idea what, you might wonder. No idea what blood cancer patients go through during and after stem cell transplant. No idea that while we need a lot, we often don’t feel good about asking for help. So what did she say?

“You take more than you give.”

I was dumbfounded. I certainly didn’t take more snacks that I brought to our book group meetings. I didn’t give her the shirt off my back, but I did give her my mother-of-the-groom dress out of my closet when I thought it would look perfect on her at her daughter’s wedding.

What was she talking about?

She said that when people from the book group and other neighbors got together to bring me food after my first transplant, I had said I didn’t like it. Their feelings were hurt.

That was 17 years ago, and she was telling me this now? Tears welled up in my eyes. I tried to remember. It didn’t sound like me.

Then I realized that I had probably asked them to hold off when they offered because immediately after my transplant, I wasn’t supposed to eat food that was cooked outside the house. My doctors had said I didn’t want to run the risk of bacteria getting into food on someone else’s counter or in transit.

I didn’t have much appetite anyway. I imagine I thanked them and asked them to hold off on the food delivery until I was allowed to have it.

Feeling misunderstood

When I was allowed, I probably told them that I could only have cooked food. Maybe I told them what I could and couldn’t eat. There is a long list of do’s and don’ts on the so-called low-microbial diet immediately after transplant.

If I had said, “I can’t eat that” and they interpreted it as “I don’t like that,” they could have given me a break.

A friend who has known me better and longer got angry when I told her the story. She said I’m a very good friend. She knows there were times when I was just trying to stay alive. She knows that when I couldn’t go to the store, could barely eat, and could hardly move, I had to ask for a lot of things. She knows that I was grateful for what she did for me.

And she knows that when I was better, if judging by gifts given, I gave her thoughtful presents.

It's hurtful to be criticized for expressing your needs

If you go through ordeals as we blood cancer patients have done, you are just going to have to ask for a lot of things. It is hurtful to be criticized for being in that situation.

I guess another side to it, though, is that at least she stayed in the relationship, unlike another friend for whom my needs just seemed to be too much.

The other friend cheered me up when I was in the hospital and drove me to appointments when I was an outpatient. With each baby step that I took, he was by my side. Then one day he decided he didn’t want to be my friend anymore. He wrote me an incredibly hurtful email saying he just didn’t enjoy my company anymore. I might write more about this painful experience another time, but in the meantime, I’m wondering, do you ever encounter people who don’t get it?

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