Dear Thelma: Could my toxic friends be causing the cancer?

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Dear Thelma,

Recently, G returned to the country after being away for almost a decade. She had married a fellow Malaysian and gained citizenship and in her new home.

G is exactly as she was the last time we met – caring and compassionate. Upon finally meeting up and catching up, G was shocked to find out that I was no longer on talking terms with K.

All three of us – me, K and G – used to be really close friends. We had met at work and we did a lot of things together. We shared a lot of our family stories and difficult times, visiting one another's families during festivities, and going on vacations together. Those were really good times.

Since G left for greener pastures, things changed with K. There were moments when K showed his true colours. He has quite an ego and considers himself an alpha male.

Unlike myself and G, K never really had to work hard in life. He comes from a relatively well-off family. He still lives with his parents. He is used to having things taken care of for him.

When K got married for the second time, I was his best man. He became particularly snobbish and condescending towards me since then.

I have chosen to not marry. Coming from a broken home left me with a lot of mental trauma and I vowed never to marry. Both G and K were aware of my choice. G understands my reasoning as she comes from a broken home as well. Initially, I thought K was sympathetic.

Now though, after G left the country, K has shown his true self. He would openly mock me for not getting married, in his mother tongue and in front of others. I don't fully understand the language they speak as it's not my mother tongue. I feel so betrayed. And instead of confronting K, I just decided to stop all communications with him.

K has never made any attempt to inquire about my well-being or find out the reason for my withdrawal. I fear he has started to brainwash G, as she is now pointing the finger at me for not being a friend.

Both G and K are moaning about not having close friends. I can understand where G comes from, but K got what he deserves, in my opinion. His arrogance and snobbishness leaves me cold.

Now I'm experiencing some sort of character assassination. K is making it look like I'm being overly sensitive and too emotional. He doesn't seem to understand that, after the times we spent together as friends, to have that trust broken is unacceptable. I sense G is siding with K.

Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The shock and disbelief still linger until now. I was unable to walk normally. Thankfully, the surgery was a success and I'm back to my normal daily routine. Doctors warned me to avoid stressful situations.

I told G about my condition. She is the last friend I have, though it looks like the friendship may not last.

The fear for my own mortality is ever present. I really don't deserve cancer at this stage of my life. Despite all the challenges and the hard times, I am still persevering.

There have been too many toxic moments and people in my life, that may have contributed to my tumour forming. I really wish to live.

Down but not out

Thank you for writing in. I’m sorry you’re having a bad time. You haven’t asked a question, so I will treat this as a conversation and respond with some thoughts.

You and K and G were friends a long time ago. People change over time and so do relationships. People who leave forget this. In their mind, time at home stands still.

When G came back, she was taken aback at all the changes. That is normal. People who go abroad for a long time typically have this experience.

But, while G may be surprised, she has no right to tell you to stay friends with K.

K openly mocked you for your life choice in not marrying. And what is worse, he did it in public. He chose to hurt you, he knew exactly what he was doing. Therefore, you were quite right to drop him.

By telling you that you have to be friends with K, G is effectively saying, “I’m okay with K hurting you.”

You might have a conversation with G, to try and get her to see she is enabling a bully. However, as you say both K and G don’t have close friends, be prepared for the possibility that G is more like K than you think.

The conversations around life choices worry me. Every person has the right to choose their own happiness. If you don’t want marriage and kids, that is your decision. Different strokes for different folks. Good people respect other people’s life choices.

K has no right to tell you what to do, and G doesn’t get to weigh in either. It is entirely up to you. Good friends love us and respect our autonomy.

In short, I would quietly step away from the pair of them, and concentrate on yourself.

My dear, you have had an awful time recently. I am so glad that the doctors were able to deal with the brain cancer. However, serious health conditions take a toll.

Cancer is frightening. When faced with a diagnosis, we are prompted to reflect on ourselves and the lives we have led.

I’m somewhat concerned at your thinking about your health crisis.

Nobody deserves cancer. And certainly, nobody makes themselves get cancer. Doctors warn against stress because relaxed bodies heal better.

As for the idea that toxic thoughts or toxic friends create cancer, that is just a nasty urban myth. It is nasty because it blames people for getting sick!

You did nothing to make this happen. The lifetime risk of getting cancer in Malaysia is 1 in 10 males and 1 in 9 females. It’s one of those surprises that life brings sometimes.

As you have had a shock, I recommend you have a spend some time with a mental health professional, talking over your emotions.

Also, start spending time with nice people. Pick up a new hobby and surround yourself with pleasant people who are kind, fun, and who respect other people even when they understand that we all make our own life choices.

You might start with a cancer survivor group. You’d find lots of peers there, and they tend to be a welcoming bunch.

I hope you find these thoughts useful. Again, you didn’t ask a question, so if you have one, do write again. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck and lots of happiness.

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Friends , toxic friends , friendship , cancer


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