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Divorce After Cancer

Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2011

I am a five year breast cancer survivor, and last year I had a double masectomy with bilateral reconstruction because of being BCRA II.
I am looking to connect with some people that may be going through the same things emotionally that I am right now.
I am not feeling the same about my marriage as I was 5 years ago. I just don't feel like I am on the same page emotionally as my husband and just am looking for some guidance or someone to talk to. At this point I am feeling that I don't want to be married anymore, and I know that I have gone through a huge change and am not sure if that is why I feel this way.
Any help woul be appriciated.

bluerose's picture
Posts: 1102
Joined: Jul 2009

I am sorry that you are conflicted about your marriage now but you aren't alone in reassessing your life after cancer. Many of us do that with many aspects of our lives and in many ways it makes sense that after such a life threatening diagnosis we seem to be able to see a little more clearly what direction our lives have taken. Pro and con.

The incidence of divorce/separation is unfortunately quite high after one partner has been diangosed or is in some stage of dealing with cancer - I guess reassessment goes both ways in a relationship and some can't handle all the stresses and strains that cancer can bring. Big challenges they say can either bring you closer together or tear you apart and that seems to be what happens sometimes with a cancer diagnosis. It's not easy on anyone in a family.

I think though that there can be a rush to change that maybe has not been thought through thoroughly so I would suggest that perhaps you seek out a good marriage counsellor for either just you or you and your husband together to discuss the stress of the cancer on your relationship and if either of you wants to give your marriage another try. I don't know anything about how your husband is handling it all, you didn't give much detail about how he feels about the marriage and your cancer.

Emotionally you are in a different place after having the cancer yourself but that doesn't mean that your husband can't listen to what you are feeling and perhaps help you through your changes but maybe you had doubted the marriage prior to the cancer so the structure of your marriage was shakey anyways and this added stress is just pushing you over the edge on it's survival. I don't know. Only you can look back at it all and see how important it actually is to you and whether there is still enough love there to try to work it all out with a counsellor.

I am a survivor of over 2 decades and I asked my spouse to leave thinking it would probably be a separation only and he turned around and quickly took up with someone else. Guess I had no idea what he was really thinking after all. It happens.

So you aren't alone in a marriage failing after cancer appears in a couple's life but again, unless there is some abuse going on in the marriage, you really should think about seeing a good marriage counsellor to explore other possibilities. If you want to that is. Go alone first to discuss this with the counsellor if you like, I have no idea whether your husband realizes you are so unhappy or not.

Cancer isn't easy on anyone in a family but relationships can survive with some work on both parts.

All the best.


pattyanny's picture
Posts: 544
Joined: Jul 2009

I am sorry to hear about what you are going through, besides your battle with cancer. I was diagnosed in 2008, and filed for separation in August 2011. I begged my husband of 20 years to come to counseling, rebuild our marriage, but to no avail. I had begun to get my strength back (physically), and had 2 teens. I waited, but he just wanted to continue on his path of destruction. Two weeks after I filed, a new number appeared on his cell phone bill. Yep, a lady from his job. He had already left the marriage, but wanted to have it all. As bluerose said, I too had no idea what he was thinking. The Cancer battle gave me the strength to make this huge decision, which I thought would be a wake-up call for him. Now that he has been with another woman, I do not want him back. I am in remission, but emotionally on a roller coaster. Life is peaceful now.
Bluerose said it best, and I have nothing to add but my prayers. Hopefully, you both can work it out. Don't rush into anything, you have been thru so much already. I wish you well, and know you will be in my prayers. Please keep in touch and let us know how you are doing.
Love & Prayers, Patty

Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 2011

Blue Rose,
I thank you for you insight and suggestions. I do have an appointment on the 29th to start counseling, I am going to the first session by myself and then see where it goes from there.
My husband realizes that I am unhappy but I don't think he compelety understands why, he always tries to tell me that he understands what I have gone through and I tell him that he is not suppose to understand but just be there to support. He was wonderful during all my treatment and through my surgery last year and I love him for that. But not a year later I just don't think he compeletly understands what I have gone through emotionally and physically.
I did not metion in my first post but this year has been very difficult for me, with having such a huge surgery which was a big decision in it self and then I had my dog who was my life and my child lose her battle with cancer so that was very hard too. Then just a month ago I lost a very close friend to cancer and she was my age (39) I think that is where these emotions began to surface more and come to the top because I realized even more that life is too short not to be happy and pursue your dreams.
I know I did not metion this either, I have no children of my own because of health issues prior to my cancer and my husband does have two children. We have been togethr since 2000 and I really thought that when we got together that I would have a different relationship with his kids than I do. They are just not close or supportive to me like I wished they had been and that is hard too for me to deal with.
I can't really say if I had these feelings before my cancer maybe they were there and just did not come to the surface until after everything has settled down a little. I do feel that I have a little post traumatic stress syndrome.
I hope that going to the counselor will help but we can only take it one day at a time.

bluerose's picture
Posts: 1102
Joined: Jul 2009

I am very glad that you realized a counsellor was needed at this point, it shows that you are still willing to work at defining your relationship with your husband and it will turn out the way it is meant to but you will have the input of professionals which is important at this stage I think and obviously you do too so good for you to have realized the need.

Yes you certainly have been through alot with losing your dog and your friend. I have two cats and I would be lost without them for sure so I know how important an animal is to our survival and well being. Sorry for the loss of your pet and of course of your friend as well.

You mentioned that you can't believe that your husband can understand how you are feeling but that actually isn't possible for anyone to understand - no one knows what the other person is truly going through unless it has happened to them. It's like anythng else - you have to walk a mile in the shoes of a person to truly understand all they are going through. I don't know either of you of course or how you got along before the cancer but from what you have said your husband seems to be doing all that he can to support and understand you, at least that is how I read what you have told me. Remember that cancer is hard on the whole family and so he may be having a very difficult time with it himself and the counselling could do him alot of good too, actually same with his kids - they may have some reaction to your health situation too but are hiding it. They may well need counselling too to drag out some of the feelings they may have so that's something you might want to talk over with your husband too.

I don't know why it is but I really think I need to say once again, don't give up on your husband too fast. I totally agree that cancer gives us a whole new appreciation for life and how short it truly is but that appreciation - especially when new - can also distort our direction. I myself made a couple of real whoppers of mistakes and one was with the relationship with my ex too that too late I realized was even my mistake at all.

One other thing I was wondering about in your case was what medications/rads you received. I say this because I also realized, very late, that some of my treatments affected my moods and emotions. I know now that that did have an impact on my family but I was totally unaware of it at the time. Time clarifies many things and I wouldn't want you to look back and realize that it was your changes through treatments that caused issues that were now damaged. Have a chat with your GP or oncologist and see what drugs/rads might have altered your emotions and mindsets. If you had certain drugs you might want to see a neurologist and get tested for issues that might have changed your brain to some extent. I am not talking of huge changes most likely just saying that there are CT's of the brain that neurologists have found in survivors who have had certain treatments for cancer that can produce changes in mood and memory/confusion. Again I am not sure of what treatments you have had so this might not even be an issue for you. Doesn't hurt to check it out though.

In the end and after you have seen a neurologist if need be and have talked with the counsellor for a time then I think you will be in a much better position to make a decision on your relationship. Be easy on yourself but also think of the impact your treatments and diagnosis have had on your family, your hubby included and maybe just thinking of that will make a little bit of a difference too. Still even having said all of that if you come out of all the testing and counselling and still feel that you may have to move on then there is plenty of time to think about that later. Know what I mean?

I have totally been where you are so I feel I can throw some of these ideas out to you but like I said I might not be on the right track taking into consideration the actual treatments you have or haven't had.

Step by step, no quick moves is the best decision you can make right now, in my humble opinion.



jimwins's picture
Posts: 2111
Joined: Aug 2011

I think blurerose and patty brought up good points.
I suppose a question would be were you having some of these
feelings before you cancer experience?

I think dealing with a diagnosis of cancer can certainly magnify
certain feelings we already had as well as create new feelings of
uncertainty due to dealing with cancer itself and mortality.
It could be a combination of both. Counselling would probably
help you with that.

I've been "cleaning house" as a result of my diagnosis and experience.
I still have the broom out - but a little unsure of what to sweep out next.
I think this is a very normal response - wanting to get rid of the
"BS" in our lives and reaffirm the things that are important and meaningful.

I wish you happiness with the "house cleaning".



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