DEAR HARRIETTE: My cousin and I had been best friends since we were little girls. As we grew, our relationship became closer. She was my college roommate and my maid of honor. We lived close to each other and hung out on a regular basis. Five years ago, when I was 30, I was diagnosed with cancer. I spent two years undergoing chemotherapy and radiation that put me in and out of the hospital for months. During this low point in my life, my cousin disappeared: no calls, no emails, no texts, not even a visit while I was in the hospital -- nothing. I understood she just did not know how to deal with my illness, but her absence was the hardest part of my cancer experience.
I am now cancer-free, and she has had a child and gotten married. I gave my cousin a gift card, but I did not attend her baby shower. I was invited to her wedding, but did not attend. I cannot pretend like nothing happened. My family sees me as the one causing the rift because of my refusal to make nice with her. My sister tells me that my cousin really wants to know how I am. I miss my cousin terribly, but unless I hear a heartfelt apology from her, I do not see how a relationship can be possible. Am I right in thinking this way? -- Cancer-Free, Chicago
DEAR CANCER-FREE: Unfortunately, many people have a hard time dealing with illness -- either of themselves or of people they love. It is not uncommon for loved ones to retreat during these times, which can be extremely painful to those who are ailing. And it can be difficult to forgive.
Oddly, you probably are the only one who can fix this. It is likely that your cousin is so embarrassed or so distracted by her child -- or a combination of both -- that she is paralyzed and unable to act. Reach out to her. Tell her how much she hurt you and that it is hard for you to let go of that pain. Tell her you miss her and want to find a way back to each other. This may open the door to an honest conversation.