First Comes Breast Cancer, Then Comes Divorce

Posted on: May 8th, 2013 by

“So, how is your relationship now that you have breast cancer?” asks the cancer wellness program intake worker.

My husband and I are holding hands.

“I would say it’s stronger; we’ve become closer than ever,” I tell her.

“Great!” the intake worker enthusiastically responds. “Cancer can strengthen the bond between couples. Luckily, that is the case for you both as well.”

I’m relieved. I half believe the feel-good lie I just told her.


Ask any of our mutual friends, and they will tell you, my husband and I are the perfect couple. As college sweethearts, we had a wonderfully close four-year courtship. Our wedding is beautiful.

It’s the marriage that is a Ferris wheel run amok.

About a month after our wedding, my spouse develops severe OCD and paranoia. Four years later, he is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis that finds him visually impaired and even more mentally impaired. I am supportive, attending all his doctor visits and am proactive in his care. He stops working, but he refuses to apply for disability. And this is the point of contention: he won’t get the help he needs and we need as a couple. I arrange for a social worker to help him apply for disability, but my husband refuses to get help.

I am the caregiver for 12 years of our 16-year marriage. I must work two jobs to keep us financially afloat. I stay awake nights, thinking about the prospect of homelessness, not too far-fetched. If something should happen to me, I’m frightfully aware, I know we won’t survive. The stress is unbearable. I eat right and exercise, but sleep deprivation and worry and anxiety are downright unhealthy. Nevertheless, I am resolved that I will stay with him until death do us part. I do not believe in divorce.

A few months before our 15th anniversary, the unthinkable has happened: I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband promises to take care of me, but the tragedy is he can’t and he won’t – emotionally and physically. I beg him to get some income coming in, to draw from his mom’s inheritance, just so I could work only one job while I’m going through treatments. My oncologist wants me on chemotherapy at the same time as radiation.

It’s going to be tough.

I need to work just one job.

My husband promises he will draw from the inheritance so that my life can be a little easier while I undergo treatments for breast cancer. A few days later, he changes his mind. He is keeping all of the inheritance money, he says, because he has been planning to leave me for some time now and needs a nice nest egg. I cry and beg him to stay; I can’t face cancer without my life partner.

He stays.

But I still face cancer and its treatments without a partner.

Despite my situation, I’m still the caregiver, working a full- and part-time job and getting chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously. I seek emotional help from the American Cancer Society, Gilda’s Club Chicago, and the cancer wellness program. My husband accompanies me to the latter’s intake appointment.

He goes with me for the first appointment with my radiation and medical oncologists and the first chemotherapy session. I’m so panicked about cancer, and treatment, and doctors, that I don’t even consider the fact that my new team of doctors must think we are a great couple.

Everyone thinks we are a great couple. They marvel at the sweet man who is supporting his wife.

It is all an illusion.

My spouse decides that, after these initial doctor visits, I’m on my own. He never goes to radiation therapy with me. Monday through Friday, I drive myself to radiation, then take a train to work, then take a train back to the residential area where I parked my car, then drive home. A 12-hour day. This continues for 33 days. And I come home to someone unstable day after day.


I get chemo on Thursday, so I take Thursday and Friday off from my healthily accumulated vacation days. After his first and only chemotherapy appearance, he tells me that chemo is too toxic for him to be around. I tell him, “If you are afraid of your exposure to chemo, what do you think it’s doing to me?!” He doesn’t seem to care. Years of selfishness and mental problems have added up, and the toll is heavy.

I pay the price. In some strange way, so does he.

I do radiation alone. I do chemotherapy alone. I see my doctors….


I envy those patients whose spouses and family members have come to support them. Some feel sorry for me and take care of me during my treatment. A warm blanket. Apple juice.

I miss my husband, but things have been so bad between us, I figure I’m better off doing all of this alone. An employee from the American Cancer Society tells me, “Frankly, I don’t know how you’re even standing, given your treatment and work schedule.”

Truth is, I have no choice. I’m in survival mode; I will process what has happened to me later.
After treatment is over, I spend a year in aftershock. Our relationship is now severed beyond repair, and we are strangers to each other. We lie in bed at night next to each other, but we have nothing to say to each other.

During the year after my last treatment, I decide that I didn’t fight so hard to live just to be miserable for the rest of my life.

The marriage dies. It is already on the outs, but breast cancer hastens the inevitable. I still love my ex-husband; I always will. But breast cancer has weakened an already compromised relationship, and frankly, I’m glad the relationship ends. And that’s when I realize that divorce means my life is just beginning.

(To see Part II of this post, click here.)

How has cancer affected your relationships? Feel free to share the good, bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

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104 Responses to First Comes Breast Cancer, Then Comes Divorce

  1. Renn had this to say about that:

    Oh Beth, this is so honest and raw and real I feel like giving you a great big hug!! I applaud you. And I’m so sorry you had to go through all that cancer %$#^ alone.

    Truth be told, I suspect there are many, many, MANY couples putting on the game face in front of the doctors or nurses or neighbors. Cancer sucks, and it magnifies any problems you have pre-cancer. No bones about it.

    Thank you for sharing your truth. You won in the end — you have your darling little girl! 😉

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Renn, thank you for your comment and cyberhug. I think you’re right about many couples “putting on the game face,” as you say.

      I did, indeed, win in the end. My daughter is the world to me; had I stayed in the marriage, I would never have been able to adopt her.

  2. guest had this to say about that:

    Thank you for this post. I am publishing as a “guest” because my husband and I are still together… I could have written what you wrote, just replace “MS” with “depression” and add a few kids to the mix. I was the sole wage-earner throughout chemo and surgeries. In addition, I was the care-giver for my children. Now that cancer is “behind me” (we all know that is never the case), my husband is resentful that I am not my former self. I am struggling with the notion of divorce. It is all very difficult. With all of that said, I have amazing kids and a good job. I have supportive friends (a few even know the truth!) and an outlet for my anxiety (running!).

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Dear “Guest,”

      Your comment really moved me, and I truly feel for you and your situation. I think there are many people out there who were the sole wage earners — and even caregivers — during treatment and beyond.

      It must have been especially hard to go through chemo and surgeries and take care of an entire family! I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to take care of children in addition.

      I’m glad you have a support system and your children are great. I’m glad your job is going well, too. It really helps to have such support.

      Like you, my outlet for my anxiety was running. I don’t know how I would’ve coped without exercise. While I can no longer run due to pain from my last major surgery, I am swimming.

      Next week I’ll be posting a piece on my life post-divorce. Pursuing a divorce is a deeply personal decision, and it certainly is not the right one for everyone.

      Thank you for your candor. I appreciate your comment.

      • guest had this to say about that:

        No– THANK YOU!! I wish more people understood that BC isn’t this empowering experience that brings out the best in people. At least not for everyone…

        There are many of us with failed marriages and continuing anxiety. I liken it to being stalked- you never know when it will pop out of the shadows again.

        I will look forward to your post-divorce piece. For me (unfortunately), divorce just isn’t an option. My husband wouldn’t be willing to care for himself financially or otherwise. I just can’t do that to my kids. To others (including my spouse’s family and possibly my kids), I would be the one causing him to fail to be able to cope. :( Since, ya know, he stood by me during my cancer treatment. 😉

        • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

          I totally agree that many people don’t quite understand that breast cancer is not the most empowering experience. I like your analogy about feeling as if one is stalked. That’s the way I feel a lot.

          Divorce or a failing marriage is quite a predicament. Had my husband and I had kids, it might’ve been a different story. We can only live our lives the best way we know how.

  3. Catherine had this to say about that:

    Beth, I am so sorry you went through that without the love and support you deserved. Thus post is something I think many women never dare admit. It takes courage to be so open.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your support and kind words. It was a very, very difficult time, but I’m so glad I am past that. Unfortunately, there are quite a number of spouses/significant others that go through this type of experience.

  4. Elaine Schattner had this to say about that:

    Thanks for your honesty in this, Beth. And for this example of how cancer is not a gift…

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Yes, cancer is definitely no gift. If it were, I’d return it.

  5. AnneMarie had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth…

    Your words are riveting and this is a compelling and often untold truth. I don’t buy into the fact that “already shaky marriages” are the ones that fall apart when cancer knocks on the door in ALL cases, but in your case, that certainly seems to be the case.

    I’m not going to get all “rah rah” —look at the end result. The bottom line, people do need to read this because I am CERTAIN many of them recognize themselves in many parts of this beautifully written post.

    They need to know they aren’t alone. I’m sure your words will comfort many.

    Sending massive love to you,


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi AnneMarie,

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m hoping that I can help others who find themselves in a similar situation as I was in. In the end, the divorce was the best thing that happened to me. My physical health was sketchy, but my emotional health rallied a bit.


  6. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Thank you so much for sharing about something so deeply personal. I really admire you for doing so. I hope writing/sharing this was healing for you and I just know it will be helpful to many others who read it. I’m so sorry for all the heartache you went through, Beth. Hugs to you, my friend.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Yes, sharing this part of my life was very healing to me. I am hoping it will help others, and then I would feel that the pain I suffered was not in vain.


  7. Kathryn had this to say about that:

    We all have such burdens resulting from our cancer. I was young and single when I was diagnosed with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer. It certainly was a death sentence. When, over time, I failed to die, most men were not in the market for a female with such a diagnosis. Thus I threw myself into my work. I have now retired and my quality of life is pretty zip due to all of the long-term ravages of radiation 29 years ago. Seventeen years of chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Radiation-Induced Bracchial Plexopathy, lack of functioning arm and hand, and now going into shoulders, Fibromyalgia.. Pacemaker, pulmonary hypertension, open heart surgery, etc, etc. Plus he brain changes. My biggest regret is not being able to have a marriage and children. Now I face dying alone and I hate it. Today I’m playing poor, pitiful Pearl. I hope tomorrow will be better. Thank you for allowing me to share some feelings.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Oh Kathryn,

      I simply don’t know what to say regarding your poignant comment except that I’m glad you felt comfortable enough to share your feelings in this space.

      Words can’t express how much sorrow I feel at how you’ve suffered and how very real your fears are.

      You have every right to your feelings, whatever they are.



    • Kathy Janek had this to say about that:

      That is so amazing to live 29 yrs with stage 4 BC. There is a study going on to interview long term stage 4bc warriors.

  8. Lois Hjelmstad had this to say about that:

    Your post is amazing. My heart goes out to you. You have done some mighty hard stuff. And yet your picture is so beautiful.

    In my many talks around the country, I heard a lot of similar heartbreaking stories. I think the one that upset me most was the woman whose husband had left her (“I need a whole woman”) and taken up with her DAUGHTER from a previous marriage.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      That story is simply horrifying. It sounds like a nightmare.

      Yes, I’ve had some pretty harried moments in my life. Thank you for your compliment on my photo. :)

  9. Jason had this to say about that:

    Wow! I am so sorry that you had to go through what probably was the worst period in your life (definitely was in both my wife’s and mine) alone. I hope you don’t think all men are like your ex- they aren’t. I admire the strength you found to continue working, treatment and deal with your home situation at the same time. You are one tough lady – I really respect you.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, in fact, it was the worst period of my life. It sounds like you and your wife have had your share of problems.

      I was tough because I had to be. There was no choice.

      I don’t think all men are like my ex. That wasn’t my point.

      All I was doing was relating a true story of how cancer brought a dying relationship to its immediate end. It could easily have been reversed, with a man having the cancer and being the caregiver to his spouse.

      Thank you for your comment; I appreciate your readership.

  10. Jason had this to say about that:

    I know that wasn’t your point. I was sad to see the comments about men who left or were not supportive of there spouse when they needed it most – just saying not all of are like that – don’t think if the roles were reversed many women (even if the marriages was bad prior to the dx) would leave or act that way.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Jason,

      I so agree that all the stories about men being unsupportive or leaving their spouses are very sad. Thank you for your kind empathy regarding this issue. Of course, there are many wonderful husbands out there who support their wives. I was unlucky that I had no such husband. Oh well.

      Thank you for your clarifying comment.

  11. had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth, we have much in common. I know you’ve read my story. I feel the same that I had to process later because I was just trying to keep my head above water for so long. I wish you didn’t go through this, but hearing your story, I don’t feel so alone in my own. Thanks so much for having the courage to post. As far as your ex-husband is concerned, there are things I’d like to say and as honest as I can sometimes be online, any comments are too inappropriate, even for me. I’m sure you get the gist. The good news is that the worst is behind us. Here’s to better days!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Eileen, yes, we do have much in common. It’s true that when one is trying to just survive, processing often doesn’t happen until later.

      I’m glad you feel less alone. I believe there are many, many women who have gone through this or something similar.

      I needed some distance in order to write this piece. It was brewing in my mind for awhile. I felt I had to share this.

      Thank you for your comment, Eileen. I continue to look forward to reading your posts. And better days ahead — that sounds great to me!

  12. Kate had this to say about that:

    My sister is dying (bone/brain mets, early thirties, first diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago). Having years to observe, I’ve watched the experience bring out the real relationship between her and her husband, exposing issues and amplifying conflicts. When you first hear of the breast cancer/divorce links, you assume it is the cancer changing one or both partners – but now I think it doesn’t really change anyone. All it does is strip away the facades and show the true selves involved underneath it all. A lot of us aren’t as noble as we like to act like we are, and cancer has a way of revealing that truth. That’s what I see in your story anyway — the truth of your marriage, that had been true for a while, hitting you in the face in a new way.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m so very saddened by what’s happening to your sister. Your comment really moved me to tears.

      I agree that cancer does strip away the facade and amplify conflicts that are already there, perhaps beneath the surface. You are right: cancer revealed the truth in my marriage “hitting [me] in the face in a new way.”

      Very well-said.

  13. Knot Telling had this to say about that:

    Stark. Honest. Heartbreaking. Real.

    Thank you.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you for your comment and for reading my post. I appreciate the feedback. :)

  14. Katherine Gordy Levine had this to say about that:

    Brought me to tears. Will be sharing on my Pinterest Strong People Board. As a therapist I know how many put on a happy face when life is throwing sh** at them. Your sharing will help many do a reality check. Happy you moved on to live your life rather than the fruitless task of trying to be all for a man who offered nothing in return.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for sharing on your board. That means a lot to me.

      I’m sure that as a therapist you hear all about the good, bad, and the ugly. I did move on with my life, and a lot of happiness resulted. My post next week will tell about my post-divorce life.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting.

  15. Elizabeth had this to say about that:

    My husband seemed so wonderfully supportive throughout diagnosis, 6 months chemo, and a mastectomy that I considered myself very blessed. Then, a few weeks after the surgery, it was almost like a lightswitch. He still went to appointments, but emotionally withdrew support. He even worked behind my back at turning our grown kids away. He was stunned I think to see the how friends stepped up to the plate when I became too fatigued to drive during radiation, not just once, but during a recurrance. He still wants to go to my oncologist appointments, but if I say this one is routine and he doesn’t need to, he doesn’t reply with something sweet and caring, he says something like “you can’t remember stuff anymore.” (If we disagree later, I call and talk to the nurse and so far I have been the one to remember correctly!) Dear husband, who let’s the world know that he is not one of “those jerks who desert their wife during cancer,” sleeps in another room. refuses to hug, kiss, or hold my hand. He cuts me off when I talk and regularly puts me down. Things like when we were stuck in traffic in the parking lot after our youngest college graduation, it was somehow my fault and when the people he hired to take care of the yard broke a line in the drip system, again it was my fault. If I am feeling bad about how I look, he just either goes “it doesn’t matter” or “would you rather be dead because that was the other option?” The only time he compliments me is if one of our grown kids is visiting, in fact then he is super nice, but I understand he tells them behind my back that I am seriously depressed and mentally unbalanced, building a case against me in case I should say anything to them about how he treats me. Since I lost my job during cancer, still have severe fatigue, bad side effects from current antihormone meds, and my husband is my only income and insurance, I feel trapped. My mother had breast cancer and a mastectomy and my dad was wonderful to her. I found her journal after she died, and I took care of dad at the end of his life, so I know it was true, not an act. I am still wondering what mad my husband change so suddenly. I feel like I must be a very repulsive freak to him. Sometime he does show a little kindness, but it comes off as pity, not love.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      It took me awhile to take in your poignant, heart-breaking comment. Your situation and what was my situation is more common than society wants to admit.

      Sometimes our partners turn away from us emotionally. It sounds like this is what is happening to you. It happened to me; while I was going through cancer treatment, my then-husband seemed repulsed by me. He recoiled from me.

      I hope you are doing things that are good for you and taking care of yourself the best way that you can.

      Thank you for reading my post and writing a courageous, honest comment.

  16. Carolyn Thomas had this to say about that:

    Dear Beth,
    Thank you so much for describing what so many patients suffer silently while still having to deal with a catastrophic diagnosis and treatment. You may not quite be at the stage where you are ready to send your ex a thank you card (always a triumphant moment in the post-divorce journey, I believe!)

    The very worst kind of loneliness is the kind you experience when you’re living with a life partner who does not support you. Nobody deserves that, or should put up with that.

    And there are very good health reasons for that belief whether we’re living with cancer or – as in my case, heart disease.

    We know, for example, that after 15 years of follow-up, researchers have found that 83% of happily wedded women were still alive after their cardiac bypass surgery, versus only 28% of women in unhappy marriages.

    Staying in a relationship that is sucking the very life right out of you is not a healthy thing to do. More on this at “When Being Married Makes Being Sick Worse” at

    Wishing you all the best in the future, Beth.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Carolyn, I can believe that happily married women fare better after cardiac bypass surgery than their unhappy counterparts.

      It is a horrible loneliness to see your life partner refuse to support you. It’s worse, in my opinion, than being alone without a partner.

      Thank you for providing the link to that post. I look forward to reading it as soon as I can.

  17. lauren had this to say about that:

    Beautiful piece…having gone through treatment alone, I often thought it was better than going through it with the kind of partner my narcissistic ex would have been on that journey….but yes it was lonely and it still hurts to see these terrific supportive partners at appointments…It sounds like your relationship went through many years of dying…which is so emotionally exhausting, and really a relief when it finally happens that it ends. I am happy you are moving forward, and taking care of you now.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      “Emotionally exhausting” would aptly describe my relationship with my spouse. It was a difficult time in my life, the most difficult time, I think. But like you say, I am moving forward. It is so nice to take care of myself. I don’t think I would’ve lived much longer had I stayed in my marriage.

  18. Terri had this to say about that:

    Wonderfully written and beautifully honest. Thank you for sharing the real truth behind the “fairytale”. Life certainly knows how to throw a punch sometime. I applaud you for being real and I always look forward to catching up on your blog.
    Terri xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Terri. I really appreciate your readership and support. People do like to believe in fairytales. I think it is wonderful when people have supportive spouses. In my case, it was a complete farce.

  19. SCCC Guest had this to say about that:

    I am so glad to have found your article. First, thank you for writing this – you can’t imagine how helpful and honest and timely this is. I am so sorry for what you had to endure with your ex-husband but I am so happy for you that you had the courage to find happiness.

    I was diagnosed last year with small cell cervical cancer while pregnant with my son. At first, everyone was helpful but a few months past and they are all tired to “stick it out” with you – including the ones who vowed to do so. Its disappointing but your article has given me hope to have courage to find my own happiness because we all know our time is limited and for us who had been ill with cancer know it will always be hanging on our heads, this is why we have to be happy for the rest of our lives.

    My spouse doesn’t understand this, and even has reverted to going back to normal. Commenting I’m “slow” and have many excuses why I am not able to do things well or do certain things at all. I’m shocked to get this kind of treatment when I just completed my chemo, radiation, surgery and have birth to a child. And not to mention got the maximum treatment of my cancer since my type of cancer has 30% survival rate at stage 1.

    Sorry for the venting above. But after your article I had no idea people who vowed to love you can turn mean. We’ve been together for 12 years. Having a real tough time with this, but in the past month I had been contemplating divorce.

    Thank you again for being open with your story.
    I hope one day to be fully recovered and get my career back to become free of feeling oppressed. And begin to live my life again.

    Much Love and blessings to you and your daughter!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi SCCC Guest:

      Your comment really moved me tremendously. I am glad you found my blog.

      You have had a rough year, no doubt. I can’t imagine having to go through cancer while being pregnant. I’m sure you will make the best decision — not an easy one — for you and your family.

      You are not venting, so please don’t worry about it. Sometimes it helps to have someone to write to, even if you don’t know that individual personally. Just know that I do understand what it’s like to struggle.

      Everyone has to make his/her own decisions. For me, that led to divorce and a new job. To read “Part II” of my story, please see

      I wish you much future happiness and luck with whatever you decide to do. Please take care and please keep in touch.

  20. Lynette had this to say about that:

    I am so sorry to hear about what you have been through. I was married 38 years and during treatment for breast cancer my husband started acting very strange, especially during radiation. It was exactly like a lightswitch went off. He left before I was on my feet and dragged me through the court system all the while I had to endure two more surgeries due to damage from treatment. Not one call to see how or if I was okay…it was and still is a horror story. He is now is breach of the agreement and I am still in a state of shock…All I can say is actually I am stunned by what these men are capable of…Lynette ps by the way he is now living with someone

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Lynette, thank you for reading my post and for your comment. I’m so sorry that you went through so much. It’s difficult enough to deal with cancer and its treatment, but then a dissolving marriage is extra heartache. Just take one day at a time. I can understand the shock.

  21. Jan Hasak had this to say about that:

    This is so good, Beth. Sorry I missed this post. You hit the nail on the head. The only reason I didn’t post on this subject is because I know my ex reads my blog posts. But I can relate to everything you say. My friends and son support me more than my narcissistic ex-husband ever could. Divorce is just the beginning, as you say. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the stress caused by my ex-husband’s betrayal through a mistress brought about my Stage IV diagnosis. It’s a harsh thing to say, but I know that the crumbling marriage and divorce were more stressful than the Stage IV diagnosis and subsequent treatments. I feel better and freer than I have since the nineties when I was more happily married and raising children. Thanks for letting me vent! xox

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Jan,

      No problem about missing this post. Unfortunately, I also miss posts. I’m so glad you are free of that toxic relationship: your marriage. You know, we both think similarly. I wonder from time to time if all the stress of living with my then-husband caused me to get cancer in the first place. Living with him during treatments was pure hell. We will never know if the stress is what caused someone’s cancer, but we can’t really go there, can we? I’m glad you are freer than you’ve been for awhile.

      Kudos to you for building a new life!

  22. Autumn had this to say about that:

    I googled cancer and divorce and your blog came up. I agree with your article about it accelerating the demise but come at it from a different way.

    4 years ago I had a serious health crisis that left me unable to walk and in severe, chronic pain. No one could figure out what was wrong and I was left bedridden. My then bf stuck around for a while and we even got married, in part so I could get a very high risk surgery in another state which his insurance would pay for since I lost my career due to my health. But that wasn’t the only reason for me. I had been married before and swore I would never marry again. But with all that had gone on, I thought if he could stay around for all of it then he was someone that would be there and I loved him very much. Up to this point we had been seeing each other for 3 years and had, had a lot of issues but this seemed to settle them down. It was a very hard time losing my independence and all I worked for. 4 months after we got married he just left me and decided he wanted a divorce. I was still not walking and we never heard from him again. I finally got him to come back to me after a month but he was changed and cruel and constantly threatened to leave me. 4 months he followed through on that threat. this went on and off like that for years. the 1st and 2nd wedding anniversary we weren’t even together for. While he was gone, he would just basically vanish from our lives, no contact what so ever, moved to another town altogether where I had no connections at all and wouldn’t answer his phone, text or emails from me- meanwhile always telling me he wanted a divorce, dated, and even began a new relationship with another woman.

    He filed for divorce last Nov. 2012 and then the woman he was living with kicked him out.
    I didn’t know this but sent him a text asking him if this (the divorce) was really what he wanted- not expecting a reply at all. He however did. And within a week (a week after he had been kicked out- again I didn’t know this at the time)- we made the decision to make our marriage work. There were a lot of other variables going on and I always felt to blame for our marriage not having a real shot. I was living with my dad when I became ill, we got married very quickly at a courthouse, but remained living at my dads because I couldn’t really make a move at that time. The plan was once the surgery happened and I was better we would find a place together. He left me before any of that happened. I felt we never got a real shot at our marriage. Getting married itself was so fast and no one even knew about it except for 3 people. These were the things I was tortured by when he left. My health issues and the loss of my life that I had, had, career, and then marriage put me into the ground. The non-stop pain only made it worse. I was suffering physically, emotionally and mentally.

    I was so happy to be have been given this miracle of him coming back to me. But the issues were so huge to overcome but I had faith and hope. No trust but I had faith and hoped trust could be rebuilt. But he was exactly the same with all the same issues and excuses and poor treatment. Us getting a place of our own, us having a vow renewal in front of family and friends, us having a life to make our marriage work- me getting healthier, none of it- mattered. I fought tooth and nail for the both of us for our marriage and I began to feel more and more exhausted and disillusioned. I was at my breaking point and finally after 7 years of this relationship and trying to make it work, and after only 1 year back together again- decided I no longer could do it and whats more didn’t want to. I had finally made that decision- and he was diagnosed with cancer. We are in the midst of it now. We have fought a lot. He has been demeaning and manipulative even during his hospital stay and now has one more tool at his disposal to shame and degrade me. His illness. I now feel trapped. I feel I can’t leave him or do anything because of his illness. His cancer is “primitive” and “microscopic” and “concentrated in one area” so they are extremely optimistic and going to use chemo to really go at it. But we have been told repeatedly that IF you have to get cancer, this is the kind to get!! The problem is that it was found on his spinal cord and it caused some neuro damage and as a result he lost his ability to walk, and his bodily functions. His legs are slowly coming back but for now he is in a wheel chair and there is no way of knowing if they will come back full force. I feel absolutely trapped. It’s a very toxic and poisonous marriage. Though he’s withheld sex the whole year prior to this he informed me in the hospital if he couldn’t have sex again (due to the damage) he didn’t want a wife anymore. I’ve gone to therapy during the past couple of years to help me deal with all of this and he informed me in the hospital I needed to ‘up my therapy’. He constantly tells me I have a ton of issues and informed me the other day that I was 70% wrong with this marriage. He felt he was being generous with his 30 percent and said that was all he would give me and said he stood by that. I feel so trapped and know that if I were to leave now I would be looked at as a monster because he has cancer.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Reading your comment moved me tremendously, and you have been through so much. Your relationship sounds very complicated, and I can truly understand how you have wanted your relationship to work. I’m sorry that the marriage makes you feel trapped and that it is “toxic and poisonous.”

      I can only speak from my authentic experience. In my case, cancer was a “wake-up” call to end my marriage sooner rather than later. I stayed in it too long, partly because I didn’t believe in divorce, partly because I would feel like a failure, and partly because I still loved him. What I came to realize is that my staying in the marriage (there were no kids, thankfully) would eventually kill me if I didn’t get out.

      I realized that for years I allowed myself to be trapped when freedom was right there all along.

      Your situation might be different. Couples counseling might be a good thing. I’m so sorry for your pain and sorrow.

      Thank you for reaching out to me. I wish you the very best — whichever direction life takes you.

  23. Autumn had this to say about that:


    thank you for your reply. Today everything it all came to a head. We are divorcing. This happened on our way to treatment. He through every hateful thing, nothing was off limits or sacred, anything I had entrusted him with he went after me…. all while sitting in the waiting room full of people waiting to get treatment. I just sat frozen staring at him. I didn’t even try to defend myself. People were staring as he let loose all his hate and rage. I realize now he had been just waiting for this moment to be use his current situation to gain even more sympathy. It’s sick that he is using his illness as such but he’s been doing just that from the beginning. When he didn’t like something I said or a question I asked he would tell me he was done, and then suddenly break out crying (with no tears) and say ‘thanks a LOT’, I don’t NEED this right now, I have cancer and too much to worry about! or say “you haven’t even asked about PT yet. Thanks a LOT!” always doing this in front of others shaming me and guilt tripping me for not doing/saying the right thing when he wanted me to. He did this every single day of his 3 week stay. Once he got home and had no audience he didn’t “cry” once. It’s hard to explain. He is a Narcissist. I will be made out to be a monster with his illness. But like you I stayed in this relationship too long and those that are in my life have wanted me to get out for a long time seeing the toll it was taking on me. At one point it nearly killed me and like you- if I were to stay I was heading there again. And again like you- I truly, truly wanted me marriage to work and have a chance and it took me a lot to take a chance on marriage again after having my first one fail and be so devastating. And like you- I still loved him, to my detriment. I believed everything he said about me. That I was the one with the issues, that even my family “if they had the balls would tell me and I need a family intervention” trying to make me feel isolated and alone and that I had no one that cared about me in my life- and so much more and worse. And today he did the same saying the same things and more and for a moment I let it sink in and believed him. Not very loving to myself doing that. My youngest daughter helped me by saying, “mom we KNOW you. NO body knows him” meaning, first- we know you for who you are the good and bad and still love and accept you anyway. No body truly knows him other then the face/act he puts on.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Autumn, first of all, I’m sorry for all you have gone through. It sounds like a very difficult situation at the very best. Choosing to divorce is not an easy decision, and going through a divorce is difficult.

      It’s best to do what’s best for you. If you want to read about my life after my divorce, please see the following link. Good luck with any decisions you make, and feel free to let me know how you are doing. I care about you.

  24. Renee had this to say about that:

    Similar to many of you, I was in such denial and thought my husband was my rock only to learn that he has been siphoning off money into another account and having an affair with another woman. Unimaginable that at a time that I needed him most, he proved to be a selfish narcissist. I am so much stronger than I ever imagined and now see this as a blessing. I thought the cancer was the physical tumor inside me but it was sleeping next to me all these years. Thank you universe.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry that you had to endure so much heartache. I felt the same way about my husband: the cancer was devastating, but I viewed being with him as some kind of malignancy. I’m so glad you have survived this terrible ordeal.

  25. Ann had this to say about that:


    Thank you for your story. I too have had breast cancer leading to a mastectomy, chemo and herceptin. I have always been the strong one in our marriage. I went to every treatment and hospital appointment on my own. I talked to my husband on many occasions about the need for him to be stronger and support me. It had no effect. He never wanted to talk about cancer as he said he was terrified of losing me and could not cope with the children on his own. The few times I did take time out he told the children I did not love them and that I only cared about myself.

    I have been fortunate, treatment is finished and I am now doing well. Unfortunately I have no emotional links to my husband and desperately want a divorce. He is a good guy and says he does not want this and loves me dearly. He tells me he loves me all of the time but his actions have not changed. I want to leave but I am afraid to hurt him.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Ann,

      First of all, I’m so very glad you are doing well physically. The choice of whether to proceed with a divorce is a very personal one. I do understand about the fear of hurting the other party; I was afraid to hurt my husband by seeking the divorce, but in the end it did hurt both of us emotionally but I had no choice.

      I don’t know if you both have tried marriage counseling? It might be useful, although, in the end, only you know what is best.

      Take care and keep in touch.

    • Stephanie had this to say about that:


      I am so glad that you are doing well.

      I would like to encourage you to seriously consider trying to save your marriage. As others above I was in survival mode. And did not give any consideration to how my husband was feeling. Unfortunately, he decided to continue his affair and move in with her. As stated above, I now live in a small apartment and I go home from work each night and cry. I have tried to get my now ex-husband to come back to me, but he says he loves the woman he was having an affair with. Trust me, I also never thought divorce was an option. And it is even worse than I ever imagined. When I got out of survival mode, there was nothing left. I love my husband so much and wish that I had been strong enough to deal with my marriage during surgeries. Please, anyone thinking of divorce, please do everything you can to save your marriage. Now the only man I have ever loved (college sweethearts) is living with another woman and is in love with her. What would have been our 25th wedding anniversary is next month.

      Thank you for listening.

      • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

        Stephanie, I think this was in reply to Ann.

        I hear your pain and heartbreak and loneliness, and a possible impending divorce causes such pain and more.

        You are not alone. This is a common feeling.

        I’m sorry for what you are going through. I felt so sad reading your comment. It sounds like you are going through complete hell.

        Like you, I married the only man I have ever loved and we were college sweethearts. I know what it’s like to have that type of relationship ripped away.

        Please don’t blame yourself for not being strong enough to cope with your marriage during the time of your surgeries. You were going through a lot. There is no blame here.

        What helped me cope was therapy, good friends, and keeping busy. Maybe seeking out professional help would be a good thing, not to help you get over it all, but to help you cope day to day.

        Thank you for writing, Stephanie.

  26. Gai Comans had this to say about that:

    I loved reading your story. My husband and I were only married 6 months when I was diagnosed although we had been together you 9 years. But when I was diagnosed I knew that the marriage would not last even though to the outside world we looked to be the perfect couple. Looks can sometimes be deceiving.

    I also loved the line “”Truth is, I have no choice. I’m in survival mode; I will process what has happened to me later.””

    I also put off “feeling” what was happening so that I could get through it. As I found out, eventually you need to real to heal.

    This is my post about the ‘gift’ of surviving….

    Love Gai

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Gai,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Yes, first we need to get through it and then heal, as you say. Thank you for sharing your wonderful post. I really enjoyed it.


  27. Janet Jorgensen had this to say about that:

    Married 15 years. His reaction to my cancer was to walk out on his job. I had to continuing working through surgery, chemo, radiation because I couldn’t lose my insurance. He eventually had an affair and left.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Janet,

      I’m sorry that cancer was made even harder for you because of your husband’s actions. I totally understand what it’s like to work through all the treatments and feeling so scared about losing insurance.

      I hope things are better for you now. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  28. Annie had this to say about that:

    Beth…after reading your story I feel as if I am reliving your life…I was diagnosed this past May with breast cancer. In June I had a lumpectomy, July bilateral masectomy and this upcoming Monday I get my first cycle of chemo. Eight years ago my husband cheated on my while I was pregnant with our second child. He suffers from depression. Since then I have been taking care of both our children and him when he has his low times. He has been on and off of jobs ever since. I am a teacher and have held a job for the past 20 years. He was supportive of me and my cancer diagnosis for the first couple weeks. Since my mastectomy he has been gone every night coming home late and not helping with anything around the house. When he is home he sleeps. Thankfullly I have a support system of friends and family to help me. But I see our already strained marriage heading where yours did. To others on the outside, he acts supportive but when they leave he checks out emotionally. He has said he will come to my first chemo appointment but I am sure it will be his last. Breaks my heart that I cared for him through his depression and infidelity and he ignores y illness. When I bring it unto talk about it….he leaves the room and ignores me. Thank you for listening.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Annie,

      I am so sorry for all the suffering you’ve endured. It’s difficult enough to go through cancer, but as you and I all too painfully know, it’s made even more difficult when a marriage is strained and one does not get the support of a partner.

      Just know that I’ve been there, and I do understand. You are not alone; as you can see by all the comments, this is something that unfortunately happens a lot.

      I am a teacher, too, another thing we have in common.

      It’s hard to go to chemo alone, but it’s amazing how much strength we have when we need it. Just tap deep inside your courage bank and do what you need to do to save your life.

      I hope your chemo treatments go well and that you have a healthy life for years after this horrific disease called cancer. Please keep in touch.

  29. Chiara had this to say about that:

    Dear Beth,
    I’m a recent breast cancer survivor at 43. I moved in with my loving boyfriend of 2 years in August 2014 and in October 2014 I found the lump. I had chemotherapy first, which is when the trouble started between us, then a single mastectomy. During treatment, he told me if we weren’t getting along by the end of radiation, I’d have to move out. Well, I didn’t need radiation after all, and as soon as I told him that, he told me to move out. I still had my drains in. I’ve been blown g too, and recently this topic has created some curiosity in me, and I’m glad to have read your post. I’m sorry this happened to you, especially after all the years of care giving you provided for your husband! I was devastated when my boyfriend broke up with me, we were speaking of a future together before I got sick, then as soon as I got sick, it was like I was an inconvenience to him – my neediness didn’t fit into his schedule. I leaned on my friends and family too, but I wanted him to be my rock. He couldn’t deal at all. I think cancer patients should be made more aware of the statistics of breaking up after a cancer diagnosis, because when I was going through it, I felt very alone. I already felt vulnerable, scared and anxious during treatment, and the discord between us made me feel even more alien. It’s been three months now, and everyone tell me how relaxed I look: I’m glad to be free from the stress of our relationship, and I know he just wasn’t fit to stay the long run. Good luck to you Beth!! xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure cancer and then the end of a relationship. While some relationships strengthen with a cancer diagnosis, others — like yours and mine — deteriorate.

      I’m sorry your boyfriend at the time couldn’t deal with your diagnosis and treatment. It’s awful that he asked you to move out while you were trying to mend, especially with drains.

      The end of a relationship is devastating for sure, but there is happiness down the road, although it’s impossible to believe it when grieving the end of that relationship. I agree your boyfriend couldn’t deal with your illness.

      I’m glad you are free of the stress of your relationship. Thank you for reading my post and for sharing your story. Hugs.

  30. Pingback: Support Can Turn A Breast Cancer Fighter Into A Cancer Survivor

  31. Tamara lowe had this to say about that:

    Dump his sorry ass! You will come out shining like a star and when he begs for you back, smile and wave goodbye

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for the support. I wish it were as simple as me dumping him. It was a mutual decision and a heartbreaking one.

  32. Angelina had this to say about that:

    My story is very similar to yours. Although I didn’t have to work I had 2 small children to care for, and our home. When I was first diagnosed is when I started to see there was going to be a problem. He down played my cancer like I had a common cold, and should just buck up and get over it. He never read anything to educate himself about my cancer, my options, my outlook. He totally abandoned me emotionally to make every decision alone. He drove me to chemo treatments, but left me there alone while he did “errands”. He was not working, and we had no insurance. His father had recently died, leaving us a substantial inheritance. All he cared about was that money being squandered on my cancer treatments. We had a fight on the way home from my second chemo treatment because I was upset he never stayed with me during the chemo treatments, and he told me I should kill myself to avoid putting the family in a financial hardship. I’ve never been able to forgive this. Although its been 6 years. I knew at that point I was on my own during this horrible time in my life. He never did any cooking or cleaning, grocery shopping, or anything else while I did my treatments. Never came to a single radiation session. 33 of them. Drove myself to every one. Cried alone. Never said a kind word of love, support or care during the entire time. Never held me, kissed me or wanted to touch me in any way. Any time I needed him for anything he was “put out” by it and let me know by his tone and body language. He never apologized for telling me I should kill myself. He always justified his behaviors and actions. No compassion, no empathy. No nurturing. Tamoxifen put me into premature menopause at 36 y.o.a, caused weight gain, and moodswings. None of which was aacceptable by my husband. Again no empathy or compassion, let alone understanding or support. Im now off the Tamoxifen. Still married, though divorce was on the table…and still is. I dont know if I will ever forgive or forget how he treated me. Married 13 years next month. Nothing is what I thought it would be. Just thankful to be alive to raise my cchildren.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      First of all, I’m so glad you are alive to raise your children. This is a wonderful thing.

      Your story is similar to mine in that my husband let me down, as you know. What I can’t get over with your experience was how your husband told you to kill yourself. It strikes me as very heartless. I’m so sorry for all you had endured. Cancer is quite difficult to cope with, and it’s made all the more difficult without a supportive spouse.

      I’m so sorry you have gone through such grief. Hugs.

  33. JoannaLawless had this to say about that:

    Me too. So many parallels. Only, it was my inheritance he spent setting himself up for his new life while I was suffering chemo dementia and trying desperately to save my marriage and my life. I’m so sorry, sister. But thank you for putting this up. I can’t go to support groups, watch movies, or read pamphlets without feeling sad and angry and isolated. We were together for 20 years. At 35 I got bilateral breast cancer and tested BRCA positive. He never touched me again. But he lied right up until he left, telling me we would adopt a second child as soon as my treatment was done. I was going to fill out an application when I found the info from the realtor in his new girlfriend’s town. Some men are just shits who lash it the moment you stop being their mommys. I’m bitter but alive. I understand now how bad and downright abusive the relationship was, and I know I’m better off. But the timing of his abandonment, and the dishonesty, put me in a position that was incredibly dangerous to me and my family, and has done irreparable damage. I can’t imagine a time when I will feel whole again.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. I wish I could give you a hug, but a cyberhug will have to do.

      One word you used “desperately” really resonates with me. That’s how I felt — desperate — through this whole experience.

      I’m sorry he lied to you and spent your money. My ex-husband stole a lot of my money and stashed it away, as well.

      I’ve been divorced for a number of years, and I still don’t feel completely whole. It is a tall order to feel whole.

      Perhaps a therapist could help you? I fought my way through the extreme tragedy of being lied to and going through divorce, thanks to a wonderful therapist.

      Just take one day at a time. Time does heal, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

  34. Johnna Bass had this to say about that:

    I told my husband that I wanted a divorce on my 50th birthday. It was 10:41 am and we had been up sinse 7:00 am. We had hand pushed our acre lot and were walking when I told him, “It’s my 50th birthday, the most important birthday”. He looked at me annoyed and said, Happy Birthday”.
    I said, “Do you understand that I might not have made it to this day, I wanted you to say “Happy Birthday, I am glad that you didn’t die and I love you”. He just looked at me. I burst into tears and said that I wanted a divorce.
    He was nice the rest of the day and was pretty nice for about two weeks. He made some comment about the future and I reminded him that we were not going to be together.
    He had t been very helpful during the whole cancer deal. The house was dirty after I had a blood transfusion and was t able to clean up. He doesn’t know how to clean because I have always done all of the housework.
    I was on my phone getting quotes from a cleaning servive. He walked in and asked me what I was doing and told me that all of us (me included) would clean the house. I told him that I could not. He got the kids to clean up and I could hear him and the kids complaining about it. He barely got anything done and had an attitude all day.
    Two days before that I collapsed in the bathroom, fifteen feet from where he was playing on his phone. I hit my head repeatedly on the wall, having some sort of seizure.
    He didn’t “hear me,” fall.
    We made an agreement that we would divorce in two years after paid off all of the bills and our houses would be paid off. I told him at that point we could go our deprecate ways but we didn’t have to get a divorce we could see each other when we wanted but both have our own life. I did tell him that if he touches anyone else, then not to touch me.
    I just found out that he decided to speed up the process. He is seeing someone. When I confronted him he blamed me saying that he would have been perfectly content growing old with me that I asked for the divorce and he was moving on with his life. I told him that I didn’t want a divorce, I wanted him to love me. Of he didn’t say he loved me.
    I was distraught. I told him that we were definitely in trouble but we had to save our 16 year marriage. We only have two years until our business is paid off and we are set financially. I told him that I don’t want to share ,OUR business with a fifth person who was t there to struggle so much in order to get to that point
    I told him that we had severely neglected our marriage and that if he went on a weekend getaway with me and
    still wanted to be with her when we got back that I would exit the marriage peacefully if not I was filing for adultery grounds.
    never responded. He came to pick up the kids today to take them to the gym. I asked him if I was invited to go. We had a pretty good family day but when he was leaving I told him that I loved him and he did not reply.
    He works and lives in another city and only comes home on weekends.
    He is in denial about my cancer, the mastectomy didn’t seem to bother him. He doesn’t want me to get reconstruction and even got jelous about me working on a project with a man. I had no toe nails, no eyelashes, very little hair all from the chemo not to mention no boobs. He said that I was too fatigued to do anything around the house ( I did everything that I always did except directly after the blood transfusion) but I had enough energy to work on “that guy’s project”.
    I know that I should just get out but I went to a chaplain to get advise. The cancer really hit a shaky marriage.
    I am hoping to work it out but I don’t know how involved he is with the girlfriend. I initially told him that I don’t have the strength to fix our marriage. I am going to fight for it because I do love him but this is hurting mecmorecthan the cancer.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier. I totally understand when you say the relationship is hurting you more than the cancer. That’s how I felt.

      I’m sorry for all your pain and sorrow. I’m sorry you are enduring so much. And, even though my marriage ended in divorce, I do understand the strong desire to save one’s marriage, no matter how troubled it might be. I worked very hard to save the marriage; we went to marriage counseling — in our case, it didn’t work. He didn’t want to change.

      Just know that I wish you the best, whatever your decision is. Feel free to keep in touch.



  35. Pingback: Care is a 4-letter word. So is help.

  36. Anna had this to say about that:

    It really makes me sad and angry to hear that this many women are being mistreated, mentally abused, and neglected while going through cancer treatments! Although I can’t say that I’m surprised. One study I heard about recently stated that about 80% of women are still doing all to most of the housework. So, it’s not surprising to me that when these men do have to help out because their wives are so ill, they don’t know how to take care of the house or manage the family, and they also have no desire to help. Therefore, the easiest thing for them to do is blame the wife! This is completely selfish and so wrong! What’s really sad is that even in 2016, these poor women are still so used to taking care of everyone, they feel guilty about not being able to continue to do everything, even if there is a completely capable adult male in the house. If the husband is sick as well, then that’s a different story. Why are wives expected to help their husbands when they are sick while these husbands don’t think they have any responsibility to help their wives out when they get sick? I know there are good men out there. But honestly, from what I’ve seen from what girlfriends have gone through, and the stories I’ve read, they are few and far between. When is our society going to start raising boys who believe that they are responsible for helping their wives, just as they believe their wives are responsible for helping them? It works both ways. Too many boys are still being raised in homes where mom works full-time and still does EVERYTHING around the house! Men have no clue how to help, and get angry when they’re not being taken care of when their wives are sick. Very sad that this is happening in 2016!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      First of all, I agree that it is alarming how many women are suffering through illness and horrible spouses at the same time. I’ve also had a considerable number of women privately sharing with me their heartbreaking stories.

      That being said, I know that many, many husbands/significant others are a great support to the women they love. There are truly a lot of good men out there. I’ve seen and heard abundant examples of how well these men become caregivers and all the pressure and stress these entail.

      Unfortunately, my then-husband was unable and unwilling to help me. He was completely negligent. I wrote this post to share my story, and it happened to resonate with many women (and some men who found their partners unwilling to care for them!)

      The goal of this post was first and foremost to share my experience and, in doing so, reveal an aspect of illness that is not often acknowledged.

      I appreciate your readership and comment. Thanks for your input to this conversation.

  37. Pingback: Reversibility. | Le Voyage – life/travels/cancer/healing/photgraphy/syria/charity/and more

  38. Anon had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I’m so glad I found your blog and especially at this stage of my life. I have not been diagnosed with cancer, however found a lump in my breast yesterday, which I’m sure many of you will appreciate is a very scary moment. I asked my partner of 8 years to feel it, in case I was being over-sensitive. –
    After all, I had surgery 2 weeks ago, only to find out that I had an infection in my ovary and Fallopian tube caused from a burst cyst. I was told that due to the amount of scar tissue, kids are not likely to be possible. Sad news, as I’m only 35.
    Anyway, he felt the lump and looked at me to say “great, thanks for ruining my day!” I was a little shocked to say the least, as he is such a supportive guy usually.

    I went to the doctors this morning, and was immediately referred as an urgent case to the Breast Cancer clinic at my local hospital. My mum had breast cancer just over a year ago.

    This evening, after work started well, but he then got angry again, and started yelling at me. Telling me I can’t look after myself and he thinks we should split up. I don’t know if this is a reaction to fear, worry or what, but all I wanted, and still want is a reassuring hug.

    I feel so alone right now, and scared. Scared I’ll be facing whatever this is alone, scared it will be cancer, scared I am about to lose my femininity after being told I can’t have kids. I feel pretty low.

    I’m shocked that people can be so cruel and I feel for each of you who has been through cancer…alone. But reading your stories and comments has made me feel stronger in the sense that I am not alone, I’m just not with those who understand.

    I hope my tests come back negative!

    Thank you for sharing your story Beth, and I’m sorry you had to go through this. But thankfully, you found your happiness.
    Thank you x

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I hope and pray the results are negative, too.

      My heart broke as I read your comment; you are going through such a rough time, and it’s perfectly fine to grieve your losses. Life certainly can be cruel. And I’m sorry your partner is not being supportive.

      But you are not alone. So many people are in similar situations. Yes, the possibility of breast cancer is petrifying to so many people who go through it.

      I was rendered infertile by my chemo treatments. I sought out adoption, which is not for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.

      Of course, you feel alone and scared. I understand. I’ve been there. Whatever your test results, please keep in touch. I care about you.

  39. Lacey had this to say about that:

    Thank you for sharing. I am a two time breast cancer survivor. I lost my mother to the disease just 16 months before my 2010 diagnosis. At diagnosis I had a 2 year old and a 4 year old. As marriages go, mine was always difficult. Husband had anxiety and depression and my life was devoted to trying to make him happy. I was naive. I thought if I could create the conditions he would be content. So I devoted myself to it. Trying to make him content in a life he never wanted. Because he did love me and care about me and felt obligated to me he always stayed. But then in 2010 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went into survival mode it was like he checked out of life. I had 2 kids and an absent husband. I went to all my appointments alone. He always would say well someone has to work. I made it through a year of treatment that included 3 surgeries, 6 months of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation. He wasn’t even present at one surgery. Our marriage continued to decline. No trust, no communication. We went to marriage counselor while I was undergoing chemotherapy. I was humiliated by our first session focusing on the need for consistent sexual intimacy even if I was sick. Felt like a total failure. I was trying but between 2 kids, treatment and the body issues that come with this disease, intimacy was a challenge. I was almost chastised by the councilor. Like I didn’t care. We stopped soon after. We went on auto pilot. Survived like room mates for a couple years. Then in may 2015 I was diagnosed with a second cancer. By January he moved out. He said I put everything ahead of his needs. He resents me because my cancer is more important to me then his needs. I realized at that moment I needed out. I needed to focus my energy on me. I will not say it’s easy. I work full time, raise 2 kids and go every 2 weeks for herceptin infusions. He is involved. He flys in and does the fun stuff with the kids. I am the one to deal with all the hard stuff of parenting, alone. That’s the hardest part. I feel totally alone in this thing. I have friends, but no one truly understands the gravity of dealing with this progressive disease until you walk it. It would be amazing to have someone invested in your life. Someone truley there, mind body and spirit. If I am honest with myself, in 18 years of marriage, I have always been alone.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for reading my post and sharing your situation. It’s a terrible thing to be with a partner, yet really be alone. I totally get it. It’s horrible to be alone through cancer treatments, and I’m sorry you didn’t have better support from your husband.

      That counselor really was unprofessional. And I don’t buy into your husband saying your cancer is more important to you than his needs. The truth is, having cancer as you know is a major game changer, and a person suffering through the disease and treatment needs a lot of TLC.

      Ironically, when my husband and I split up and I was physically alone, that’s when I felt less alone than when I was married. I don’t know if that makes sense, but part of me felt at peace.

      You have a lot on your plate — between the job and the kids and dealing with cancer. One does what one has to do, and you’re doing the best you can. You must take care of yourself. Perhaps seeing a therapist — a good one — would help you? Just a thought.

      Thank you for your comment, and I wish nothing but the best for you.

  40. alan had this to say about that:

    the male side of view , I was with my wife through it all , saw many sides of her I did not know existed , worked through them , 3 surgeries 1 major radiation treatment through the course of 15 months , the worst 15 months of each of our lives ,she gets back up and running , we work out a plan through a counselor she delt with , I got on board , chasing the plan ,right to the day of turning the corner she files for divorce .the worst day of my life , but no where near the worst that she had been through ,I thank my lucky stars she id still here , as all the kids were hers , I would have lost them back to there father for sure,thats why I am thankful she is up and running ,now as she is moving forward I am rebuilding my goals and dreams ,we both learned a ton through all this , and I thank god she chose me for the last 10 years to help her raise our family ,do I miss her , you bet ,however after all she has been through her happiness over all out shines all the heartache and dispare that came from those 15 terrible months ,I used she through out this as I did not want to reveal real names , we both agreed we saw the best and worst a marriage can offer , I thought we would find that middle ground of happiness ,

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for providing your point of view regarding the matter of cancer and divorce. As you know, divorce is a very sad, often scary time. I totally get it when you say that she filing for divorce was “the worst day of my life.”

      However, I am encouraged by your wonderful attitude. Rather than harboring deep resentment toward her, you wish her the best. Wonderful.

      I wish you both the best in rebuilding your lifes — as well as much happiness.

  41. alan had this to say about that:

    than you for your kind words , I saw a quote recently that stated , life is not measured by how many breaths we take , but by how many moments that take our breath away ,
    I can tell you I have had my share and then some in the last 10 years and hope both my wife and myself can create many more on our separate paths , I would prefer they were with her , however as I stated before her happiness is paramount in my mind for her future , I love you she , wishing you all the best that life has to offer , live the DREAM

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I love that quote! It’s so true that life is measured by the moments that take our breath away. Hang in there. There is happiness in so much of life.

  42. alan had this to say about that:

    God that just brought me to tears ,

  43. alan had this to say about that:

    here is the 1 that took my breath away the most , this was written in a journal by she that I found in this computer , the names have been changed to protect the children , it will go on my grave stone as we all know its not the day you were born or the day you die on your grave stone that counts its the story of the dash in the middle example 1/27/1959 – 4/29/2039 ,its the dash that tells the story,

    Father’s Day. Alan is truly the best Father, Dad, Friend, Refuge any kid could have. If there is anything I know it’s this: God wasn’t just thinking of us when Alan and I met; he was thinking of my kids that needed a Father that would show them Patience, Truth, Self Worth, Respect, Unconditional Love first to me and then to for them, Acceptance….the list is endless. All I know is Father’s Day is everyday for me because I thank God everyday for the fantastic Dad Alan is. I often say that Alan single handedly changed Ian from his core. When I see Ian, I see Alan. And that’s a good thing. Anya…..Alan and Anya have such a close knit bond she shares with no one but him. I love it. It makes me smile. I don’t mind being number 2. I don’t blame her one bit.

  44. Wagner Jessi had this to say about that:

    It’s a thing of joy to have someone on earth who God almighty has sent to redeem and help those that are in captivity. My husband divorced me but Doctor Osemu Okpamen recently saved my broken marriage again. You can find more on my blog-post here ( ) about how my marriage was reunited. Wagner Jessi, UK, Hampshire.

  45. PJ Reeder had this to say about that:


    I wanted to cry after reading the first half of your story. I couldn’t even finish. You have been through so much, I just want to hug you.
    I’ve had BC but my husband was very supportive. That’s what any woman deserves. You are one incredible woman. I pray the best for you.


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      PJ, virtual hug accepted! I’m so glad that your husband was supportive during your breast cancer crisis. That’s the way it should be.

      Thank you for your prayers. They are very much appreciated. My life has turned out to be awesome thus far.

  46. Danielle had this to say about that:

    Dear Beth,

    It’s late out here in California, but I just read your post and all the comments. At first, of course, I felt compassion for your own sadness and loss. Honestly, I was a bit shocked by your story and the harsh realities you endured. Then, I felt even more compassionate sadness for everyone who posted. I felt proud of those who persevered, and ached for those who felt lost and alone. But gradually, I began to sense a lightness over my heart, a soft blanket of calm joy. I’m truly feeling so good, and so much better about myself. Now–please don’t get me wrong. I am not gloating, saying, ‘boy, I’m glad that’s not me.’ Because it *is* me — I found myself in some portion of every single post. I was fired from my job just a couple weeks before my breast cancer diagnosis last year 2015, and had known for over a year before that I had to divorce my husband (I just didn’t know how, and we have a daughter. Yeah, I’m kinda naive, too!). I went to every appointment & surgery alone, then had a single mastectomy. A girlfriend I was just reacquainted with insisted I stayed in her home, in her own bedroom while she took the couch, for 3 weeks after surgery. She waited on me hand & foot. All she had to do was drive me home from the hospital, but after about 5 minutes at my house, she saw the writing on the wall. She literally demanded I come stay to get well at her house. My husband never called once to even say hello. All the time I was so worried about my then-14-year-old daughter. I was truthful with her, and she put on a brave face, but we were both secretly worried. I don’t even have to tell you how my husband behaved — it’s all there in the previous posts: the shaming, neglect, criticism, narcissism, the works. He even told a client (he’s self-employed) that he was late delivering a proposal because *he* was struggling to help me after my surgery — which had already happened weeks before! Anyway, I think you know by now what I’ve been through. The whole experience has been so demeaning, so insulting! I’m a smart (!), well-educated, self-starter, creative, motivated — I basically ran the business for my husband while he shmoozed around with clients, for the last 14 years! I can change an electrical outlet, prepare a 3-course gourmet meal, write a novel, replace a toilet, put up with a teenager, drive a stick-shift, run the house, volunteer all over the place, teach Sunday School, and scoop the poop. Now — my income is zero (and nothing from husband; it’s all Bank of Mom), my body is a visiting foreigner, my daughter is the quintessential consumer-driven teen with her own social pride to hold up, I’m strictly thrift stores and food stamps (until husband messed that up). I’m just laying here, at rock bottom, like the bottom of an empty swimming pool, looking up at a beautiful blue sky and not a clue about what to do next. I just had the start of reconstructive surgery 6 weeks ago, with more ahead. Still no divorce, no job, no money, but– no cancer. And yet, weird as it sounds, it warms my heart to read these posts, even with all their pain, fear, confusion, shame, & loneliness—because it means that *I’m* not alone anymore! I’m not alone pretending to be “fine”, to be “coping”, to be the (only acting) parent, to have to hold it together for my daughter, or my mom (at 94 she’s doing okay, and we have always lived with her). I’m not the only non-stop caregiver who really, really needs to stop giving and start caring for myself and my own health. And, as was mentioned a few times, I have no doubt that the stress of being married to a narcissist played a part in the cancer, because it added stress to me, along with the whole cast & crew it brings along, of depression, anxiety, confusion, alcohol, anger, doubt, and all that. Finally, today, June 25, I actually Googled “How to respect yourself” — and I look forward to studying that very carefully! Thank you, Beth, for your post and for putting up all the replies as well. I wish you the best on this sojourn, that by sharing, you have invited the rest of us to journey along, not alone.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Danielle,

      I was so touched and moved by your comment, which also contributes to the community of those suffering emotional pain and feelings of isolation. The unbelievable number of comments really shows that there are many, many people like us who have deep marital pain during and after cancer treatment.

      Your friend sounds wonderful. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through. You sound like a great self-starter with so many abilities.

      Thank you for your thoughtful, insightful comment. I treasure it.

  47. petra had this to say about that:

    i understand your pain.. thank you for writing this.. i myself have a brain tumor i was seeing a guy for over two yrs..supported and encouraged him thru some difficult times in his life.. anyway he broke up with me in an email.. a few days after i find out i had a brain tumor.. i wrote him to tell him.. he just blocked me.. not even asking how i am or nothing. some ppl are beyond selfish. i wish you well and hope your ok.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Petra,

      I’m so sorry about your situation. It’s horrible to have a brain tumor, worsened by an unsupportive partner. You are so right about some people being selfish; oftentimes, people are too afraid to grapple with a life-threatening disease. I hope you are OK too. I am praying for you. Thank you for your well wishes.

  48. vera had this to say about that:

    Hello everyone, “[robinson.buckler @ yahoo. com]” helped me out when i thought my life is lost don’t know where its going……… It all started when the father of my two kids left me and sworn never to have anything to do with me and all effort to get him back prove to be abortive and i decided to let things be the way they are cause i felt my life is lost don’t know where its going. But Priest Andrew came into the picture and things turned out to be how i have ever wanted it to be……….I will forever be grateful to him for the rest of my life, Am so happy!!!!!!!!!!………………….

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Vera, I’m so very glad you had a special person, this priest, be a support system for you. I am happy that you are happy. Thank you for your comment.

  49. Kathy had this to say about that:

    I can relate to so much of what has been previously said. Last year in July, my mother had a stroke and my father-in-law passed of lung cancer in August. It was a very stressful time. My husband of 36 years started an emotional affair with another woman because, “I wasn’t there for him.” While trying to repair the damage done to our marriage, I find out I had BC. I have always been a private person and don’t share much about my personal life and I feel so alone and embarrassed about how unsupportative he has been. He puts on his “game face” in public. If I could afford to, I would kick his ass to the curb, I know I would be healthier for it. Cancer diagnosis was 5 months ago, still have 7 months more months to complete treatment. I know I am stuck here for now. I now know I am never going to get from him what I need. I told him, “What comes around, goes around.” It is really sad to know right now I spend more time worrying about my marriage and unsupportive husband than getting well. Glad I found this web site to know I am not alone. I have a very aggressive cancer and I plan on being a survivor in spite of him. Living happy is the best revenge.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Kathy,

      I’m so sorry for all you are enduring. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is so very difficult as you know. One doesn’t need an unsupportive husband in addition. I’m so sorry and I am at a loss for your pain and suffering.

      I do understand what it’s like to worry about one’s marriage more than one’s health. Just keep focusing on you and your health. Make this a priority because you only have one life. You have a right to be happy.

      Have you thought about seeing a therapist? It might help you out. I have one, and she saved my life.



  50. Pingback: Competing in Cancerland

  51. Pammy K had this to say about that:

    Thank you very much. I can really relate to you. I am so sorry your life hqs been so rough. I had a breast cancer diagnoses in 2013, then another, then another. My husband was supportive but it ruined our marriage completely. I have stage 4 bone cancer now and he is abandoning me. He discribes me qs this awful person. Did cancer change you? You are very strong.

  52. Angela had this to say about that:

    I wish the drs focused more on the mental health I was first diagnosed at 28 after chemo and radiation and mastectomy my husband calls me franentits that if I had any self respect I would have killed myself already.Now the skin from the reconstruction is dying and I have a hole drs are telling me I’ll lose implant and I no longer have insurance I can’t have reconstruction and I can’t live like that anymore he won’t stop I don’t know how much more I can handle

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Angela, you have so much on your plate, and you are going through a lot. Please seek out a therapist. Mine saved my life. Mental health, as you know, is so very important, and I know you can get through all this crap that life is dishing out. Please let me know how you’re doing.

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