But those meetings can be awkward, as they will always be overshadowed by your cancer, whether it is the main topic of conversation, or the elephant in the room, constantly present, but not to be mentioned!
What are the different categories of people you can meet, and this is not an exhaustive list, i may come back to it as new types appear, or i think about other categories:
1- the emotional acquaintance
Often work related, it can be a colleague, or an ex-colleague, not too close, but always nodding when met in a corridor. Or it can be a client, a counterpart in another office, etc.
This person is generally aware of your situation, if only because you are no longer visible in a professional setting; usually, office gossip will have allowed the information to disseminate widely.
Those people will mostly smile a lot, ask how you're doing, look at you intensely, trying to determine whether you're going to crumble right now in front of them, or if you'll have the decency to move on and allow them to continue their day without a drama on their hands. If they feel cornered, they'll ask more details about your treatment, how you're coping, but you can feel their unease, as they dread anything related to physical discomfort, and are mainly interested in avoiding to catch that disease themselves.
Rating: inevitable, but uncomfortable, for both parties.
2- the friend
Whether it's a close friend living in the same city, or a friend from years ago who's now a few continents away, this leads to long and cheerful exchanges, with the degree of technicality depending on the education and profession of said friend.
If that friend is a doctor or has medical degree, expect to be grilled regularly for about an hour on all your symptoms, any drug you're taking or not, be ready to give out all your metrics coming from blood tests etc.
Usually overly optimistic, these discussions are essentially heartwarming, useful and potentially have a positive impact on your health. The only major drawback is when you feel completely under the water, and can't really take in so much positivity. See the movies 50/50, or The barbarian invasions (les invasions barbares) by Quebec director Denis Arcand, for two different examples.
Here it's a bit more difficult for me to give too many examples, as my parents are both out of the picture, and already for many years. Of course, having a true love and partner in your life is going to make a huge difference! First of all, because it gives a perspective, a will to go on and recover as fast as possible and as well as possible, often beating the prognosis that the medical staff could have made.
But families being utterly dysfunctional, your mileage may vary. From over-protective mothers who will break down on the phone at the mere information of a small cut or a lingering fever, to infrequent instant messages from a sibling living far away, family is both a source of warmth and support, as it can be a source of emotional pressure and lead to periods of depression and cries.
In any case, this is an experience that should be used in a positive way trying to solve some lingering issues, to regroup, correct past misgivings, i's a time also to forgive and move on, you have more important things to deal with.
4- other patients
Whether it's in the friends/acquaintances zone, or more casual relationships, you are going to bump into people who also are dealing with the same issue, even if it's a different type of cancer, at a different stage, with a different treatment etc.
This is tricky and can go both ways. First of all, there is of course a lot of common ground; you are both facing a similar experience, have similar fears, hopes, problems etc.
But it can quickly get out of control, if one of you is severely worse off, experiences a lot more side-effects, is totally depressed, had been abandoned by his partner and has nobody else to talk about his/her problems than you.
While the need to comfort a fellow in dire straits, one should not forget to focus his/her efforts on healing himself, and in order to achieve this, you must protect yourself from negativity.
Some of those relations could turn out destructive for yourself, and may need to be cut short, for your own sake.
Once agin, in the movie 50/50, there are a few scenes that show clearly how this can work out.
DO not hesitate to propose me other categories for further discussion.