What is a friend?


Does knitting gloves for a friend define friendship?

Today’s post has been jointly written by me and my friend Rach, blogger at The Cancer Culture Chronicles, following a Skype where we talked about my ‘World without cancer‘ post.

One of the themes of the week has been one of deep reflecting about friendship. Rach was saying to me yesterday that some of her ‘friends’ have simply stopped asking her how she is, now she has metastatic breast cancer. Or they’ll send one line emails that say ‘How are you?’. Do they want the truthful reply that might take more than one line, or do they just want to hear that she’s ‘good’?  ‘Just read my blog’, she sometimes curtly replies. Others might just send meaningless, closed messages, like ‘Thinking of you.’ Messages encouraging no reply.

So, we’d like to ask our friends. Are you prepared to go down cancer’s rabbit hole? All the way?

Thinking about cancer, and death, has meant that I now view friends differently. Friendship, post cancer diagnosis, is deeper. Rach has similar feelings on friendships today. She simply doesn’t have the physical or emotional energy to manage friends who, through the passage of time and lives moving on, have really just become acquaintances. Her circle of friends is now much smaller, but she knows they are people she can rely on. And that’s never been more important.

And these reflections on friendship had prompted me to do a hefty Facebook clear-out of my friends, realising that many of them aren’t really my ‘friends’ after all, and I was telling Rach about this. In our usual snarky way me and Rach started joking about it. ‘Did I make the cut?’ Rach sarcastically asked, and then, ‘What’s the criteria Sarah?’

I said, ‘Well you know real friends you go to lunch with don’t you?’

‘Yes,’ said Rach, ‘so is the definition of a friend someone you would go to lunch with?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘it’s probably more than that.’ And so began much snorting with laughter and sarcasm. And our list of criteria for ‘What is a friend?’ was born. Continue reading