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I Feel Empathy for Those Who Are Abandoned During Cancer

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I would be devastated if my husband left me during my cancer experience. Unfortunately, that is a reality for some people.

“I take you for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.”

These are traditional American wedding vows.  Pay attention to “in sickness and in health.”

When a spouse has cancer, the other spouse expects that the partner will stay with them.  I was lucky enough to have this happen. My cancers lasted over 10 years, and my husband stayed. He took care of me while I was sick and cared for our child.  But sometimes, spouses, for whatever reason, leave.

This dynamic is occurring in a friend’s marriage.  My friend has late-stage cancer, and her husband is moving while she will stay in their apartment in the city.  I am trying not to judge, but it’s hard.

I guess it comes down to this: Some relationships are strong, and there is nothing that will dissolve them.  When my husband and I got married, my father-in-law gave a toast and said, “May you have a long relationship.” I guess we got what Pa wished for us.

Maybe my friend will be better off with her husband living far away.  I am not inside their daily lives, inspecting all their comings and goings.

Maybe he’s just a big jerk who is making a huge mistake.

I know one thing: if my husband were going to leave me, I’d want him to divorce me so that I could find someone else to share my remaining days with. I’m sure that there are plenty of folks willing to marry someone with late-stage cancer.

If I were dealing with cancer alone, there would be so many feelings that I may be experiencing:

Abandonment. No one expects this when they’re opening wedding gifts after the wedding or when they’re buying their first house or having their first child … or their second. One does not expect to be left alone when they need help and company the most.

Loss. Cooking for one? Is it even possible? Finding it difficult to sleep without a partner? Where is he every morning for early coffee and the morning news? Is this living?

Betrayal.I thought you were my friend. I thought I could trust you with my life.

Fear. Who will take care of me? Who will bury me when I die?

Depression. I can’t go on.

Paralysis. Now I’m really stuck.

But the cancer warrior must go on.

Desertion does happen. It’s happening to my friend.

If you’re finding yourself left alone with cancer, may I suggest the Serenity Prayer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”

I also suggest enlisting a support group.If family and friends aren’t around, cancer centers and hospitals have groups where you can express your frustration and grief and fear. Make some friends who know what you’re going through. A counselor would also be useful at this point.

Finally, be your own best friend, and know that karma will conquer. Your spouse will get theirs in the end.

Let the door hit them when they go.

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