Moving Out, Moving On

Posted on: May 15th, 2013 by

Dazed and downcast, I sit on a box the movers set down at my new apartment. One of them tells me, “Why are you so sad? Your life’s just beginning! I’m divorced, and my life is the happiest ever. Yours will be, too.”

I wonder if he is on crack. Happiest ever? I will never be happy again.

I’m also upset that the movers know too much about me. Ideally, I wouldn’t have told them my personal business, but they did wonder why I was moving only half the furniture out of the condominium. So I spilled the beans about my husband and me splitting up.

A neighbor had watched the movers load my few possessions onto their truck. She finally came up to me and asked what was going on. I said confidently, “I’m leaving my husband.” I’ve heard the fights between her and her husband in the condo next door, so I know all is not well in their relationship. She looked at me with admiration and hope and said, “Maybe I should leave my husband, too.”

She is 80 years old.

After the movers leave, I sit on my couch in shock, but I know I had to leave such an unhealthy marriage. A relationship that grew even more dysfunctional with my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. My husband did not support me, and I went to medical appointments and treatments alone.

Within only two years, I reflect, I’ve endured breast cancer and the end of my marriage to the only man I’ve ever loved.

Adapting to single life is rough. I cry whenever I’m in a grocery store because I know I’m cooking for one. I usually settle for a dinner of Doritos. In fact, I’m not eating healthy at all, opting for fast food, junk food, and anything-but-real food.

I justify my poor food choices by telling myself I got cancer despite a healthy diet, so I might as well throw caution to the wind and eat unhealthy foods now.

I watch a lot of television to escape from the reality that is my life. Everywhere I go, I see reminders of what I once had. Couples walking hand in hand. Elderly couples that remind me that I won’t be growing old with my soon-to-be ex-husband.

I feel like a failure. Divorce is a failed marriage, and is a type of death. I mourn the man I fell in love with — though he no longer exists.


Eventually, self-pity gives way to glimmers of happiness. My friends keep me so busy on weekends, I have much less time to feel sorry for myself. I’m a bonafide social butterfly for the first time in my life. I’m making new friends and am starting to host dinner parties. On weekends, I stay out with friends until the wee hours of the morning.

A caregiver for so long, I am finally learning a vital skill: how to take care of myself.

My new friends take me clothing shopping, a foreign concept to me. When I was married, there was no time nor money to purchase clothing. My relatives would buy pieces for my shabby wardrobe. Now, for the first time in a long time, I start noticing things like nice shoes, nice clothing, nice purses. Oh, and the beautiful jewelry. I start getting massages regularly. I am eating healthy again. I am running regularly and feel great. When I was with my husband, the world seemed painted in black, gray, and white. Now I’m seeing the world in color.

My interest in art is reborn. When I was married, my husband wouldn’t allow me to oil paint. He threw out all my paintings. He forgot I was an artist. And, even worse, I forgot.

I hang out at the local Hobby Lobby shop and buy oil paints and canvases. I don’t know what I’m doing, but all of a sudden I’m painting novice apples, vases, flowers, cups and saucers. I grow hungrier for art. And, then, a miracle: oil painting classes are beginning soon at the Hobby Lobby. Monday nights. I learn the basics of painting through semi-private lessons.

I paint several times a week. I have stacks of canvases — from landscapes, to birds of prey, to all kinds of animals, to still lifes. I can’t stop painting. And I never want to.

I feel happy.

Now that I’m taking care of my physical and spiritual needs, it is time to be a caregiver again.


Grappling with chemo-induced menopause has not been easy. For a long time, I dreamt of having children one day. But when my ovaries died, so did that dream.

Until I cross paths with a new friend.

And I confide in her that I won’t be having kids.

And she tells me she adopted her daughter and encourages me to consider adoption.

Once my divorce is finalized, I apply to adopt a baby from China. But I am scared, as I think I have two strikes against me: I’m single, divorced at that, and I’ve had cancer. What agency in their right mind would approve me?

My agency did.

My daughter and I have made a wonderful life together. I think that mover was right: my life has turned out to be the happiest ever.

Ari in one of her favorite colors. Her other two faves are magenta and pink.

Ari in one of her favorite colors. Her other two faves are magenta and pink.

Please feel free to share the new beginnings you experienced in life.

Has an illness caused an upheaval or change in your relationships?

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32 Responses to Moving Out, Moving On

  1. EAK13 had this to say about that:

    Beth you can look at divorce as a failure and many do or you can look at from the angle it is giving you a new start. We so want that support and love we have supposed to have without conditions After all it is in our vows. If you are not receiving but giving it is one sided and you are left out. You will find things new and challenging scary daunting with a lot of tears but the tears turn into other things. You have your daughter you will be her example. Things will be alright… Love Alli XX

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


      Thank you for your support! For a long time, I viewed divorce as a failure, but it is more complex than that. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership, but if only one partner is stepping to the plate, it’s not really a sound marriage. I appreciate your insight and am glad that I will be my daughter’s example!

  2. Renn had this to say about that:

    Beth, I love the happy ending! Great writing. I want to read more!

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

      Thank you, Renn! Yes, happy endings are really nice; of course, I feel my life is just beginning. :)

  3. had this to say about that:

    I love how your creativity was reborn after being stifled for too long. Like, like, like this post!

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


      Thank you! After the separation, it was amazing how my creativity was fell into place piece by piece. I’m so glad you like this post.

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

    Thanks for following up with part two for us. I’m sorry for all the heartache you went through, but you are as they say, still standing! Mostly, I’m thrilled you are happy now, my friend. And what a precious photo! xoxo

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


      Yes, it was a harrowing time, but like you say, I’m still standing and I’m happy. Thank you, my friend, for your support.

  5. Jane had this to say about that:

    Wow Beth, what a metamorphosis! Ari is beautiful, and she smiles just like you. Your embrace of all that is good in life is inspiring. Thanks for the fabulous update.

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


      Metamorphosis is the right word. Thank you for your kind words about Ari. She is a delight, and I’m so glad that she is part of my life. She is my life.

  6. Heidi Bright Parales had this to say about that:

    Beth, how wonderful you are living your life now and are no longer under someone else’s thumb. This, in itself, is deeply healing. Congratulations, including for the courage to adopt!

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


      It’s amazing how far I’ve come. My aunt once remarked to me: “Since you got your divorce, you have done a 360 degree turn in your life.” And I have healed. Thank you for your congratulations. :)

  7. Facing Cancer Together had this to say about that:

    I’m so glad to read the second half of this story. Wow, it’s just incredible how much things changed for you. Beth, I’m happy for you, and for your daughter who has a wonderful mom. Thank you for sharing your story with us. :) ~Catherine

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


      Thank you for reading my story and your compliment on my being a mom. This means a lot to me. I was happy to write Part II of this story, as proof there are happy endings, and now, happy beginnings.

  8. Susan Zager had this to say about that:

    Beth what a beautiful story about adopting your gorgeous daughter. It’s hard to know when you were going through so much change and huge stress (breast cancer, divorce, and moving)…that there were incredible things that were going to happen. Thank you for sharing such a special part of your life. It’s amazing what we go through and so incredible how wonderful it is that you can be yourself. You must be so proud and it’s great to see how much you realized how fantastic your life is even though you have been through so much. Our lives have so many ups and downs, but it’s so important to treasure the glorious moments. xoxo – Susan

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

      Thank you for your comment, Susan. Yes, life certainly has its ups and downs, and when things were really rough for me, I couldn’t see how good things would get.

  9. Idelle Davidson had this to say about that:

    Wow, Beth, I am now just catching up with your blog and I am stunned at all you’ve gone through. What strikes me is how intelligent, clear headed and understanding you were about your need to get out of what obviously was a very unhealthy — and one sided — relationship. I so admire your strength and positive energy and I’m so glad you are making a more fulfilling life for yourself and your daughter.

    Hugs to you!


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

      Idelle, thank you so much! It took a long time to realize how unhealthy that marriage really was, but once diagnosed with cancer, we really have our eyes open to the stark realities. Life was definitely too short to waste it in an unhappy marriage.

      My life with my daughter is very fulfilling, and I’m lucky.

  10. Tracey had this to say about that:

    Your story is one of inspiration and love. I could not stop smiling when I saw the picture of your daughter. Beautiful. What an amazing life you created when you found yourself!

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

      Tracey, thank you for your sweet comment! Yes, I am so glad I finally found myself. It’s so important to follow our hearts. Cliche, but so true. And thank you for your compliment regarding my daughter.

  11. Marie had this to say about that:

    Diagnosed May 2014
    Been married for 6 years. We were a loving couple
    No children & we seldom had arguments. I thought we had a great marriage .
    When I was diagnosed with cancer we were devastated . My female cousin visited me from USA who was also in having marriage trouble . I found out later
    That they started chatting & see each other & cheated on me . My own cousin & husband. I tried to save the marriage . Just this Dec while I had a vacation in my country, he booked a ticket to see her & are having vacation too. Life is so unfair at times . But life has to go on

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

      Marie, I’m so sorry about the tragedy that befell your marriage, and for all your pain and suffering. It must be agonizing. Whatever decisions you make regarding your marriage are yours alone to make.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting.

  12. Lynn had this to say about that:

    This story really touched my heart. I am going through a rough time right now, but reading this gave me hope. Thank you for ministering to others, you are a blessing.

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

      Hi Lynn,

      I’m so sorry life is hard for you right now, but I’m glad this post gave you hope. Truth is, there is always hope, no matter how bad life seems to be.

      Hang in there, please. And thank you for your kind words.

  13. Jim had this to say about that:

    Of a husband to a breast cancer survivor, and a husband to her for 21 years that is currently going through a separation, way to stick in there and fight for what is yours. “Till death do us part”. Now I do speak out of line. I do not know what actually happens behind your closed doors, but coming from a husband, the constant fear of losing her was overwhelming and I had no one to turn to. I cried every night for her and yet no one saw this. Now afterwards, a month ago, I get told that she had three different affairs on me, all after the chemo. Yes, I will still take her back, a fool playing a fools part right? I am glad you survived, but I think you should have fought for your marriage. Stacie, (my wife) beat the cancer, but lost to the chemo… And I do apologize for the choppiness of this paragraph; I am a little emotional and hurt after reading your story. Bless you though…

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

      Hi Jim,

      I don’t think you are speaking out of line; you are sharing your personal experience as the caregiver of someone with cancer. You really pointed out how difficult it is for many carers; our society focuses on the people with the disease, but the disease also affects those who love the people with cancer.

      I’m sorry about what happened in your marriage. I’m sorry for all the hurt and pain you’ve endured.

      Regarding my marriage, a lot was going on that I won’t divulge here, but I fought hard to save it. Needless to say, in my case, my then-husband cared more about himself than about me.

  14. Anna Deni had this to say about that:

    Reading this was like reliving what I went through 19 years ago! My ex-husband supported me until I decided to go through chemotherapy, which was the beginning of the end of my marriage, or so I thought; he started the end before I was diagnosed, and the cancer diagnosis was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I am so much happier now taking care of myself, doing things that make me happy, and enjoying my family, which my control-freak ex cut me off from. We are here on this earth for such a short time, and during this time, we learn, and from this learning we grow!

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

      Anna, it sounds like you’ve been through so much, and I’m sorry for all the grief you’ve experienced going through chemotherapy and not having the support you needed.

      It sounds like we have a lot in common. For me, cancer was the straw that broke the camel’s back in our marriage, as well. Your last sentence says it all.

      I hope and wish that you continue to have a beautiful life. Life is short; we must live it to the fullest.

      Thank you for your comment.

  15. Pammiesue had this to say about that:

    I’m so proud of you, sweetie:) What an inspiration you are! You’ve evolved to a butterfly. Enjoy your new life with your precious daughter<3

  16. Becki A. had this to say about that:

    I have Stage 4 Metastatic cancer and if I did not have 2 kids I would leave my husband. I admire your strengh and happy ending!

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


      I’m so sorry you are struggling with Stage 4 metastatic cancer and a poor marriage. I’m hoping your children give you much joy during these most difficult of times.

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