Divorce vs. Cancer, by Mary Beth

I have not blogged on this site in quite some time. I just had my 5 year and 6 month check-up and I am good, a few minor problems but let me emphasize minor. The past year has been a very difficult and trying one. After 28 years of marriage I found the courage to ask for a divorce.

I have always been afraid of divorce. I am not sure if it was because I was so young when we met. If I was afraid of being alone… which is a funny concept because I have felt alone for much of my marriage. I was afraid of what others would think. I was afraid of the kid sharing. I was afraid that once I asked for a divorce he would not support us. I was worried about money, which is also a funny concept because I was worried about money with him too….probably more so. I was afraid because he was my first love. I was afraid to have to try to meet someone else to spend my life with and now even more so as a cancer survivor, with a double mastectomy. I was afraid because I love the idea of marriage and family and I desperately wanted to have a long-term marriage and a good family life for my kids.

We had talked about divorce many times and in fact were very close in 2006 and then the cancer diagnosis. We stayed together, but in hindsight I think that was the final nail in the marriage coffin… thank goodness in was not the final nail in my coffin. I learned so many lessons from my cancer, mostly what is truly important. It changed me in so many ways. I guess I thought it would change the others close to me too. I have learned that just because we learn lessons, it does not mean everyone else does. So many times after the cancer I felt like the glorified nanny and housekeeper. There were many issues that I could not talk about then, that I hope someday I can share in case other women experience the same with their marriages.

Over the past 5 years since my diagnosis, those that knew of my marital problems would say “you survived cancer, you can survive divorce”. I heard what they were saying, but I just could not find that courage. I felt cancer was different. I had a team of doctors that I trusted. They said “do this” and I knew I would do it and follow their directions to the letter. There is no trust in divorce… another funny thought because there was no trust in my marriage either. I was not blessed with being able to trust those who are supposed to love and protect you.

I was so afraid of asking for a divorce and then having my cancer come back, what would I do? I don’t know if my cancer will come back, but I know if I stayed it definitely would. I found the courage. Divorce is hard, but cancer is harder.

On the tough divorce issue days I think of the other Mothers on this site who are fighting their cancer daily, hourly and by the minute. I think of the women that we have lost and their valiant fight, they remind me everyday what is truly important and then I remind myself… “if I survived cancer… then I can survive divorce.”

Please say a prayer or lots of prayers and healing thoughts for one of our fearless and amazing leaders, Susan, she has been having some breathing and pain issues and was admitted to the ER on Tuesday.

18 Responses to Divorce vs. Cancer, by Mary Beth

  1. hye..very informative about breast cancer tips….lets visit mybreastcancertips too..

  2. sarahdeesart says:

    Mary Beth, you go girl! It will be good, it will be better! I’m so proud of you for taking this important step. I’m a colorectal cancer survivor. I have a daughter, Cari. We left her dad in 2005. Cari asked me to divorce him. She gave me the strength to leave, or I probably would have lived in such a bad relationship even longer. I was married to her dad almost 18 years. He was always angry, yelling, emotionally abusive. I was faithful, a good mother and hard working wife, taking care of our home, doing all the housework and working full time and doing the child care. He did his job then came home and yelled at me. Finally, at us, Cari too. He was just a miserable person. Nothing I could do would please him. So, we divorced after one first false start when I tried to leave him. It was messy, horrible and long. It included two years of hostility from him after the divorce, and I didn’t even leave him for anyone else, just left to find a peaceful way for me and Cari to live. Like you, I had been lonely within the marriage for a long time. I’m here now to tell you that life has been good being divorced from him! Even though I went through cancer treatment in 2006-07. I still feel the stress of that marriage is partially the cause of my cancer. I have dated a couple of guys on and off. I am still alone, but open to dating now and new possibilities. At least, I can be, see, because I got all that bad stuff behind me. Over the years he has calmed down, we have managed to co-parent our daughter, who is now 16 and visits him every other weekend. He’s still an angry person but I don’t have to live with it now. Cari and I have lived in peace, in a joyful, harmonious way. We are very close, and love each other. We are mutually supportive. Cari has thrived in spite of the adversity we have faced. I just published an article about her. You can read more about this. I know she would not have thrived as she did if she had stayed in that angry home. I’m happy, I’m cancer free, and life is good. You are welcome to contact me if you need support. I want you to know things will be great for you! Freedom is good. Sarah Dees
    Caregiver daughter helps mom through cancer, excels in school, volunteers

    • Thank you fr your response. The article was lovely. my daughter went to an Early College High School program also. It is a wonderful opportunity. I am also an artist and I have found art to save and help through many difficult situations.

  3. I found your post through Susan’s facebook page. I have been going through a separation with my STBX, and many of the questions you asked yourself were similar to the ones I’ve wrestled with (although I have not had to deal with cancer). Being scared of aloneness but being alone in your marriage…worrying about finances as a single mom but not being able to address them in a marriage…it all rings true. I applaud your bravery in trying to live a life that truly works for you. It’s not easy, but you WILL survive it. And you will live your life with integrity, in line with your values. Sorry if I’ve overreached with this comment, but I wanted you to know that you’re not alone in this struggle either.

    • I briefly looked at your blog and I love it. I think you actually say what many people are thinking. Thank you for your comments. It took me so long to find the courage and I am happier, yet sad that it had to end the way it did.

  4. stressmagnet says:

    Wanted to thank you. I’m currently undergoing treatment for a breast cancer recurrence. I desperately want to leave my husband, but the timing isn’t right. Not yet, but soon.
    Thank you.

    • I think the hardest part was actually finally making up my mind. Once I did there was no going back… even on the hardest days. My biggest advice is make sure you have plenty of money in your name only.

  5. Heather says:

    I just suffered a recurrence diagnosis of my stage 4 cancer in October,and I know it’s because of the hellish summer my husband put me through. However, I’m not employed–I stay home with our four daughters who are 5, 8, 10 and 12. I have no economic currency, and I desperately want a divorce.I’m terrified of what he might do–take the kids? I asked him for a separation, but he wants me to leave, He refuses to leave the house.I feel completely trapped.

    • Heather, I prayed, wished… you name it for so long for someone to tell me what to do. Ultimately only you know what is right and when it is right. I wished I would have planned my exit better, but I was always hoping he would change and trying to work on the relationship. My ex always said he would support me and the kids. We were his family and the most important things in his life. He has not paid one penny in support and is already 4 months in arrears and we are only on temporary orders. I guess this is why I felt I needed to write this post. There had to be more women out there struggling with these issues.

      • Heather says:

        You are so right–the answers lie only with me, and that is, frankly, terrifying. I’ve asked for a separation twice in the last two days, and the answer is the same. He’s “happy” to get me an apartment closer to the cancer center where I receive treatments, which is an hour away. I couldn’t believe he would suggest that. He followed it up with “I know you need to heal, and being around the kids is really stressful. You could be away from all the family pressures, etc.” I replied that HE was the one who stressed me out, not the kids. I’m looking into how I need to proceed, whether with a legal separation agreement, wherein the judge would award me the kids (I don’t give a flying fuck WHERE I live, but I’m not going without my kids) or just dive in for the divorce and let the health insurance chips fall where they may. Rubbish, all of it.

  6. kel says:

    Dear Mary Beth-
    Thank you for this post. I knew many marriages couldn’t survive cancer, but I find strength reading about other women who faced the same.
    Briefly my story goes like this: Girl meets guy, 3.5 years pass, marriage, soon after baby, sooner after boy isn’t at work nor college as expected. Boy pawns most anything he can sneak out of the house when headed to “work”. May separations and gallons of tears. Girl fights cancer. Girl can’t afford reconstructive surgery because boy is still pawning, stealing and working for minimum wage.
    Girl is out of town for a week to visit family. Girl comes home, boy leaves!! (what a relief) Girl finds evidence of many extra-marital relations and is tested for STDs. Girl gets lucky.
    Boy gets crazy, girl calls cops. Girl moves 1500 miles away. Girl gets cancer again. Boy moved 1500 miles with new wife to “be there for the kids”. Boy still bring antagonism, hate and fighting to every encounter.
    To women fighting cancer and a bad marriage- God bless you. Be smart and careful in ending your marriage- but if it is right Just Do It. You will find a way. Find a supportive groups of friends and family.
    I thought cancer was easier to fight than the problems from divorce, but divorce is very antagonistic in nature and many cancer treatment centers are filled with support and love. That said, life after the marriage ended is much happier for me when I can be away from boy. I am a happier person, I enjoy family more because I don’t have to fight to get him to join our family outings, and I am a better mom without all the stress and pain he caused.
    Heather & StressMagnet- best wishes to you as you work through all your challenges. Thoughts and prayers for all who are struggling with these problems.

  7. Kel, Thank you for your response and sharing your story. I am glad that you have found happiness and I hope you are healthy.

  8. Jenster says:

    Thank you for your courage and transparency, Mary Beth. It seems to me that cancer is a make or break deal. Either the marriage makes it through and becomes stronger, or the cracks that were already there widen and crumble. Sadly, so many women stay in the marriage even though the walls are tumbling down around them – whether it’s by choice or because they don’t have a choice at all.

    Best to you and your daughter!

  9. Amanda says:

    Here through Susan. I applaud the courage you found do face a fear and stare it in the face until you knew what to do. I cringe at the money element, so hard with loose ends like that. Wishing you resolution, health and new beginnings.

  10. Wow. This is kind of what I needed to read. I have been on the verge of divorce for several years but keep pulling back because I am so scared of the unknown. I loved that you wrote that you were scared to be alone but felt alone in the marriage anyway. I totally get this because I feel the same way. Cancer really tore use apart because he couldn’t deal with it and pulled away (and cheated) and wasn’t there for me or for the kids. He says he wants to stay married but shows no signs of realizing what he did was wrong or apologizing. I appreciate you sharing how difficult it was but that it was worth it. That is something I needed to read. Good luck to you! Hopefully soon I can gain the courage to make a move, as you did.

    • Thank you… I felt that I kept so much of it hidden for so long… trying to work on things and hoping either what i thought was not true or he would change. The courage will come when it is right for you.

  11. Thank you for this post. I found the courage in June to ask for a divorce and have not had the courage to write about it yet…you have given me that courage. Cancer teaches us many things…one of which is that life is short and we deserve to be Happy. Be happy MaryBeth…I know I will be too.

  12. lynda says:

    Marybeth, good for you! my sister was diagnoised with IBC 30 months ago, was married 28 years, would have divorced him had she lived,maybe? she thought he would be there for her… he did not support her, he was not there for her in the end…..sucked…..can’t even begin to say… he bought a new corvette 4 months after her death.so happy not only you are a survior, but had the courage to find your own life, I will follow you, just because I am so happy for you,,,,not to say it’s not been a hard road for you, I just so happy you are alive and taking controll of your life thank you for sharing your story. god bless you..

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