The consequences of the little white lie

I’m not usually one to share personal stories but right now I feel I need to share it with the

I’m not usually one to share personal stories but right now I feel I need to share it with the Starts at 60 community, because it could save a life.

My beautiful friend Irene has been in my life for over 20 years. We met while working in the same organisation as mothers with young children. We sent them to the same schools and we lived in the same suburb. We raised our children together and over the years too many secrets and not enough wine was shared.

We’ve been part of a bigger friendship circle with other Mums from the school who’ve all stayed close and we just about always have twice weekly catch ups. We normally do one active thing like walking or tennis and one fun thing like lunch or coffee each week. As a group we’ve been through illness, death, divorce, second marriages, bankruptcy and the likes, so we have always been close and supportive.

I never once questioned anyone’s honesty, so when Irene began turning up less and less frequently I didn’t think anything of it. She would have reasons like doctors’ appointments, a cold, relatives visiting or grandchild minding – all very real things in our world – so it never once crossed my mind that she might have been telling a white lie.

We hadn’t seen her in just over three weeks when I had a call from her daughter Tess. Irene had been found at home unconscious after falling over and the doctors were worried it was from the cancer. Cancer? I had never heard of any cancer!

After rushing to the hospital and speaking with Tess and her brother, I discovered that Irene was undergoing treatment. She hadn’t been babysitting and it was Tess who had been driving her every day. She’d been telling Tess she was still seeing us in the afternoons or mornings that alternate with her treatment. The reality was that she was very, very alone.

Irene had told us a white lie when she went for that first appointment. She’d told us another when she went to receive the test results. It had become so easy to lie to us, to escape from the reality of being honest about it that she’d continued these little white lies.

This entire time, the month and a half this had been going on, we could have been there for her supporting her. We could have helped to take the burden off her family and helped her to stay positive.

It frightened me that she would rather face this alone than with the support of friends, who’ve been there for each other many times before. For some people that little white lie is a lot easier than facing the reality but it comes at a big cost.

My heart broke when I learnt what Irene had been doing. To know that such a dear friend was going through pain without the support she needed and deserved.

The reason I wanted to share this story with you is so that we can all be better friends. We can start to notice those little white lies when our friends tell us, we can start to consciously check up on those who we slowly stop seeing.

Friendship is so important and so too is support, let’s not let our friends fall out from under our wings when they need it most, let’s stop the cycle of that little white lie.

Have you experienced something similar? Have you watched a friend hide away at an important time in their life? How did you help them feel safe again?

Originally published here

  1. Perhaps she was trying to shield her friend from too much pain. Maybe thinking, ‘I’ll see this through without anyone else hurting.’

  2. In reality some people cannot handle sickness.its easier to do it alone.

    • Totally agree. I have just been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Its amazing that some people I have told I have never heard from or seen since my diagnosis. Perhaps that lady thought it better to keep quiet as she may have thought she would get the same reaction that I did. People are funny when it comes to sickness.

    • Good luck Adrienne, stay positive, treatment is so very much better these days with wonderful results too.

  3. My sister had the same story but with a different outcome. Her friend of many years survived a brain tumour for over ten years, then unfortunately it retuned and although she had treatments again, it was only to give her more time. When it came to the sad point that she would only last a few more months, she didn’t want any friends to visit her….she had her lovely husband and daughter caring for her. My sister was so upset, but didn’t want to go against her friend’s wishes, but luckily wouldn’t accept her decision either. My sister took a chance at being refused by her friend, and organised with her friend’s husband to just drop in for a visit and hope for the best. Luckily her friend realised how much she needed her, and my sister was able to visit her a couple of times a week until her friend sadly passed away. My sister needed the visits as much as her friend and family did.

  4. I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and have the support of my wonderful daughter/ family / and friends this can be extremely over whelming and I do understand how Irene was feeling as you need some alone time to come to terms with what is happening as information and treatment comes at you so rapidly it is hard to get a grip on it with everyone around.Having to take drugs your body is not prepared for can impact on your ability to process all this and you therefore need time alone for love and thoughts go out to her

  5. Did she not want to worry people? Was she too independant? Very sad when friends want to help.

  6. Sad but true. We accept what our friends say at face value and because of our own work load miss the tell, the tell that something is not quite right. I have just done this myself, we need to stop a second and recheck our friends. After all our friends are what keep us sane and steady as we attend our families and bare our work loads. FRIENDS💛💙

  7. It is very difficult from both points of view. I’ve had a harrowing year and after my last heart procedure, I was told that there was a possibility of me having cancer. So far all but one test has been clear. Unfortunately, because of my heart medication, I can’t have the procedure required to determine if there is cancerous tissue or not, until March. I needed time to myself to let the dust settle but I also soon needed support. Just be there for your friend now, as I am sure you are. There seems to be no easy answer apart from take it day by day.

  8. Sometimes, when you are really ill, it is good to see people who do not know! Just for a little while you can escape from the reality of what life has thrown at you. There is no sympathy, no special considerations, just pure friendship & hopefully some joy & laughter, which is so hard to come up with when someone you care for is suffering.

  9. I have a medical background of many years…..those suffering and those who are with them react to news of disaster in many, many different ways….so many lives change forever when ill health arrives…..she may have wanted a little time to ” grieve” for the loss of her health while she came to terms with what was happening…..but at the end of the day your support will mean a great deal to her and her family….but she needs to deal her way…..

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