• To Single Cancer patients-How did you react emotionally to your diagnosis in terms of a romantic interest?

    Asked by Mikeysgirl on Saturday, March 16, 2013

    To Single Cancer patients-How did you react emotionally to your diagnosis in terms of a romantic interest?

    My fiance & I had been dating for 2 yrs when he was dx w/colon cancer.He was stage lll w/1 cancer cell in 1 nearby lymph node.There was also a spot (size of a dime) on his lung just above the tumor site.PET scan indicated that it was most likely scar tissue from a childhood injury.He had surgery & 6 mos of chemo which was finished last summer.Two follow up CAT scans, 3 mos apart indicate that the spot is bigger each time.He just got the news from the 2nd scan & was told it needed to be biopsied.He doesn't know if he is going through w/the biopsy.His reaction to the news was to prompty tell me he no longer wanted me in his life.Says he still loves me very much, but he is not going to put me through "watching him die".I need to get on w/my life without him.I have not seen/talked to him in 6 weeks.I'm devastated, scared & worried about him.Has anyone else reacted this way?Will his survival instinct kick in?He does suffer from depression normally.I don't know what to do for either of us.

    17 Answers from the Community

    17 answers
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar
      AlizaMLS

      Dear Mikeysgirl,

      Hi, I'm Aliza. I'm a Breast Cancer patient. I'm also a Medical Librarian (retired) who does research for people here on this site and elsewhere. I'm engaged too. I became engaged last Spring and my fiance and I (we're both 54 [2nd marriages for both of us]) were supposed to get married last Fall. Problem - I got diagnosed with BC in August. My fiance is a widower whose 1st wife died from ALS. I had Stage I Breast Cancer, but I knew my fiance had gone through such an awful time with his wife that I told him to "run like XXX" when I got my dx. I understand exactly why your fiance did what he did as awful as you feel and as sad as he must feel.

      My fiance wouldn't go. He stayed despite my telling him repeatedly to leave and finally I stopped. I had a mastectomy and he stayed. (I'm being treated at Sloan Kettering in NY where they do "instaneous reconstruction" so I have an expander in place to get my "breast" ready for an implant. I'm not flat-it kind of looks like a breast (sans nipple). My fiance is fine with that.

      We both just read your very sad story and I told my fiance that if I'd had Stage IV breast cancer I'd have shoved him out the door (maybe paid for his train ticket on Amtrak online, printed and handed it to him) and my daughter and brother would have had to pitch in more. I wouldn't have wanted him to watch me die either. It's a horrible feeling of guilt that no one wants, to think that you're dying and you're making someone else suffer, especially since you weren't married for 20 years and didn't have kids. I'm not trying to upset you. The time element of my relationship is about the same as yours.

      It's hard for me to offer you advice (you're not my daughter), but I think since you were your fiance's caregiver, I would recommend that you give CancerCare a call. The Social Workers there offer counseling only to Cancer patients and their Caregivers. You were his caregiver. I have a feeling that they'd bend the rules a bit considering what's happened to you.

      You asked whether your fiance's "survival instinct" would kick in. I'm guessing you mean whether he'd fight harder. That's very hard to say, but signs from the time he told you to leave don't point to that. You'd need to verify what's happening with someone who's seen him recently.

      The other thing I'd suggest is that you seek some counseling from a woman's center (at a university perhaps).

      There are hard realities here - your fiance has the (legal) right to have his medical records be private from anyone he chooses including you and he has the right to restrict who can visit him as well. If you're worried about him, perhaps you can call a member of his family or a mutual friend to see how he's doing without upsetting him. If you're worried about him because of his depression, you can call the psychiatrist at the hospital where he's being treated and let her/him know what happened re your relationship and that your fiance has a history of depression and should be evaluated. You can always call a physician to tell them something about someone (your fiance may be mad as heck at you for doing this [it's possible the doctor will tell him that you phoned]) but the HEPA laws will prevent you from finding the outcome through the hospital or doctor. I'd recommend that you not use the hospital as a means to insinuate yourself back into his life.

      Please realize that this is a very difficult situation for yourself and for your fiance as well. I think everyone deserves the right to choose how they want to die. I'm sure he loves you and I'm sure he wants to protect you and in an extension himself from thinking he made you go through a horrible experience.

      Make no mistake, this is a horrible experience for you anyway (he won't see it like that [he can't be that clearheaded at this time]). I certainly understand that and hope you get whatever support you need to get through this.

      Make sure you have good friends to lean on for support at this time and do make sure to get counseling! If I can be of help to you in any way, please feel free to message me or email me privately.

      Wishing you the best in a difficult situation,
      AlizaMLS

      almost 4 years ago
    • carm's Avatar
      carm

      Mickeysgirl,
      Unfortunately, this happens more than you know. I am an oncology nurse and I see this often. It is his journey and he has a right to ask this of you. However, you need to remind him that sending you away is not going to make you care any less. You have invested your heart into him and that doesn't end when he puts distance between you. He needs to understand that you are not that shallow, and if the roles were reversed, you would never think that he would want to run when the going gets rough. He isn't doing you a favor, he is doing himself a disservice. There is an old African proverb that I mention often on this site and it might do well to mention it to him. It is, "If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together." Best of luck to you, Carm RN.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar
      Clyde

      Cancer is very personal. No matter how many support groups you join, every journey is singular for the most part. He wants to go through this on his own for his own reasons. If you hold any hope of him letting you back in, you must respect this. Whether he is right or wrong is for no one else to decide. For myself, until I have a better idea of my future, I won't seriously date. It feels selfish to bring another person in at this time.

      almost 4 years ago
    • ElizaM's Avatar
      ElizaM

      Any stage of cancer is no longer a death sentence although I completely understand the reality of facing the ultimate end we all get to look at, sooner or later. To be proactive and work towards survival, and not see it as an automatic death sentence being a defeatist attitude, is a choice. He must be super overwhelmed and stressed by his diagnosis - as we all are. It's an education none of us signed up for, and joining this not so elite club was not on our bucket lists - it is work, but a sense of humor and great attitude can help tremendously. Maybe you could find research papers that support and prove "amazing" recoveries, and send them to him to show him that it is not an automatic death sentence - there are different paths to take to improve the quality of one's life and attitude is major.

      almost 4 years ago
    • CAS1's Avatar
      CAS1

      I spent 8 years helping my sister fight for her life with advance stage cancer and then 6 months with my Mother. It was very very hard and it may have brought about my own cancer because I did not handle the grief very well. but I will say this: Life is about Love, faith and family. Its about riding the good and the bad times together with your loved ones and its about feeling all that life offers you. Its not about running away from life or its feelings. In fact grief and gratitude can make you feel more alive than anything else because of the renewal effects that come from both experiences.

      He is your Father. He is the only Father you have and he is important in your life. Hold onto him and put his life and his needs first. I don't hink you will regret it. This experience may be a time for you to grow. To put him first and formost. Giving bring more joy. Supporting him will offer you more blessings than "moving on" so to speak. Listen to your heart. Do the right thing.

      Your Father may be in shock and he might need time to process this. But keep in touch with cards and phone calls. Tell him you will wait until he is ready. But you WILL NOT TURN YOUR BACK ON HIM. End of conversation.

      The ACS and the NCI offer many pamplets on how to "support" someone going through cancer please visit or order from the NCI web site. Try another publication" When life becomes precious"
      He has to learn to deal with his dx and you can learn ways to support him and help him.

      He still has lots of options for life. There are many treatments, there are many options. If he is in good shape he may qualify for surgery to remove the tumor or radiation or systemic treatments.

      With all due respect to Carm...I had many professionals at MSK and NY Pres. try and tell me "Move on" your sister is terminal..My responce was:

      "Without Hope we have nothing". "Without love and sacrifice life is an empty shell" . My sister lived 7 years longer than expected and it was because of the love of my family.

      God bless you and your Father.

      almost 4 years ago
    • CAS1's Avatar
      CAS1

      Forgive me..I read Father and not fiance..But the same holds true in my responce. We are always tested in life. Remember this..

      Clyde, I don't agree with you at all. I think you have everything to offer someone in a relationship. Any one of us can get run over by a car or bus tomorrow. None of us know who long we have. Don't cut yourself short on life today. Live it and live it as well as you can.

      almost 4 years ago
    • ibcarolek's Avatar
      ibcarolek (Best Answer!)

      There is a fatalism that can come with a dx of cancer. The treatment to either prolong life or better, make the body cancer free is difficult at best. Given you've already committed to each other and you really love each other, remind your fiance that you love him - and that's in sickness and in health. The fact the dx came now v. the day after the wedding shouldn't matter. That's what love means and it happens regardless of a wedding date or a piece of paper. I'd tell him he's stuck with you.

      So, now you are together. I would also recommend that you don't marry and rely on that love to carry you through. That's the financal planning advice we found. When my bf got his 'stg 4, can only prolong' we looked at whether it would make sense to marry - have my health insurance, family leave etc. We talked to accountants and lawyers, and universally the answer was DON'T! This will keep you financially viable to help out but not be responsible for. Hopefully your employer will be as generous as mine and allow you take sick days when needed to care and adjust work schedules.

      Cancer can take along time. People will forget he's sick, and the effects from chemo aren't visible although they are just as real. He's going to need someone to love him.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Mikeysgirl's Avatar
      Mikeysgirl

      Thank you SOOO much for all the responses, they are very appreciated. Since the common thread is to stick by him, I will admit that's what I want to do...he just won't allow or accept it, and I not know how to convince him or what to do. I have been criticized for every attempt I have made. He is no longer responding to any of my attempts to contact him. Because of that, I did talk to one of his 2 best friends last weekend and let them (him and his wife) know everything that has happened. I told them, I did not want Mikey to know I had spoken to them because I did not want to make him feel betrayed or jeopardize their relationship since he was going to need them in the future. He did find out I talked to them and sent me an angry text telling me to stay away from his friends, that they were loyal to HIM. At one time we were 1 of 3 couples that took weekend trips together several times a year, we "girls" socialized somewhat and e:mailed regularly. It's as though I no longer exist, or ever did.

      AlizaMLS: I am sending you a private msg. Thank you

      Ibcarolek: I agree wholeheartedly that "he's stuck with me", he just won't allow or accept it. I went to his house right before he stopped talking to me to try and figure out what happened, as well as tell him that very thing. He is not buying it. I told him it was not just his decision whether I stayed or not and he replied, yes it was....to reinforce his decision, he has decided the best way to make me leave is to "make me hate him", his words. He has gone out of his way to tell me all of my faults, and how he has decided they are no longer tolerable from his viewpoint. (When he saw how hurt I was, he immediately apologized and admitted what his "strategy" was). He said he was trying to make it easier for me to get over him.
      The financial aspects are something we have discussed, and had not made a decision to actually formally proceed with marriage. We did agree to the same type of commitment however. And like you, I am fortunate to have an employer that would allow me to adjust me schedule as necessary as well as a very generous sick, personal and vacation time policy.
      Your comment that he is going to need someone to love him, rips my heart put because I know that too. Besides me, he has no one else. His father is very frail and elderly, his children are too young and irresponsible and have their own issues, of his 2 best friends, one lives out of state and the other one still has his own family etc.
      The ironic thing is, I don't think his cancer is "can only prolong". From what I have read there is a lot of reason to believe that with timely treatment, he can be "cured". He has just always have a very fatalistic attitude since the original dx.

      Carm: I liked the African proverb....but again I have done everything I can think of to let him know I want to stick by him, he just is not buying it. He has even asked me within the first week after we "broke up" if I was already dating....and went so far as to tell me he is checking out dating web-sites everyday to see if I am on there....??? I am not!!!! Maybe you can answer this question with the little information I have. Assuming the spot on his lung is cancer, (he hasnt even had it biopsied yet!!) and it is the only one, doesn't he have a better chance of surviving and even being cured, rather than not? He told me he needed the biopsy now...BUT he told his 2 best buds, that even after 2 CAT scans in which the spot was bigger, they were going to watch it for another 6 months and if necessary biopsy it at that time. That did not make sense to me, that would make it almost 1 year since he finished chemo, and 1 yr of allowing a potential problem to continue growing. Is this normal? If it were me, I would want the darn thing gone ASAP!!! But that's just me.

      Clyde: I can understand your decision to not date seriously at this time. Unfortunately, in our case we were already very serious. Literally just a few days earlier I was his "beautiful blond ball and chain" then he told tell me that his future was too uncertain to involve anyone else, especially me. We were even beginning to plan a long weekend away, just the two of us to celebrate chemo and all the holidays being over...I have told him that none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, and in fact 2 weeks after we quit seeing each other I found out I need a couple of surgeries, fortunately they are very common, but was still a surprise!

      ElizaM: sending him research papers is a thought, thank you! I agree on the benefits of a positive attitude, I am more a PollyAnna to his DebbieDowner, something that I tried to have when he was going thru chemo the first time. I have actually been thinking about sending cards. I did send him a humorous one and left it unsigned to give an air of mystery, suspense (he would know who sent it by the written address) but he accused me of being too lazy to sign it...then he accused me of not being flirty etc...this is not the person he had been.

      CAS 1: You are correct, Life IS about Love, faith and family and riding out the good and the bad times together. And we are always tested in life. Thank you for your insight and thoughts!

      Mikey'sgirl

      almost 4 years ago
    • ElizaM's Avatar
      ElizaM

      From your comments in response to "our" responses I think Mikey has a load of problems liking himself right now. He is probably very angry that his life has changed so drastically and that his dreams are not going to be fulfilled the way he had imagined and worked towards. I suspect his own disappointment and anger is coloring the way he is treating you - you could be a "target" for him downloading his resentment and bitterness. I suspect you are a tough cookie and will tolerate it all because of your love for him, but at the same time you do need to care for yourself. Maybe sending him weekly "journals" - not "Dear Mikey" letters but as though you are copying your own journal and wanting to share it with him as he is still a part of your heart - of how you are feeling betrayed by him, how stressful this situation is, and emphasize how stress is cancer building and reducing it can help heal; what you are doing to move forwards with your life, your own struggles with all the changes, etc. This way you could feel you are still connecting within the parameters he has set forth and that you are respecting! In your own heart, just releasing them with no expectations that he will respond you will feel relieved to have shared your deepest and most earnest feelings - basically do this for you, and the ripple effect may just be that in time he will be softened enough to open his heart again and let you in. Patience is hard to come by, I know, but sometimes it can work like a charm. Honesty and the truth will truly set you free. Blessings to you in a very frustrating and painful situation. Let your love illumine your own life and those you touch and it will come back to you and bring you peace.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Mikeysgirl's Avatar
      Mikeysgirl

      ElizaM,
      You are right, he is very angry and scared. As he has told me often, his reaction to fear is to lash out in anger...and I am the current and probably safest outlet for that. He certainly can't lash out at his employees, elderly father, other family members or even friends with the same venom and not suffer some pretty significant and in some cases permanent consequences. I suppose (or maybe hope) that somewhere in his head, he might be thinking that unconditional love means that the consequences of using me as the whipping post will be less severe, but who really knows. Maybe I really am the one person in his life that was the least important and most expendable.

      Patience for me is not one of my virtues, it is something I know God has been trying to teach me for a long time, but I just can't grasp the concept...:) I have a much easier time with believing "that which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger", and I try to live that. To me it also equates with finding something good in all things! Thank you for your kind words of compassion!
      -Mickeysgirl

      almost 4 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar
      Clyde

      CAS1 You are so wrong in your opinion of me. I'm using all my available energy to fight this thing, don't feel I can spare any, certainly don't want to drain anyone else's and I will not start a relationship on the basis of my need for a caregiver. I like my own company and would rather be single than involved just for the sake of being involved.

      almost 4 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar
      AlizaMLS

      This is addressed to Clyde -

      I agree that anyone (whether they're a Cancer patient or not) has to be in a place (emotionally) where they feel ready and comfortable if they're about to embark on a relationship. If you're not in that place and you know it, more power to you because if you to do that just for the sake of being in one, you'd make your partner unhappy (as well as probably yourself). I think you're great Clyde because you know where you're at relationship-wise, and that's a good thing! No one should feel that they must be in a relationship.

      There have been periods in my life where I didn't want to be in one (for four years after I got diagnosed with Lupus-I didn't feel well, didn't feel charming (which you need to be to go on dates [it's different going out with friends who already know and love you]), didn't feel like being glamorous, and didn't feel especially sexual. I'm being very frank and open here.

      It's a very romanticized notion for anyone to say that someone is a wonderful person with wonderful qualities (and that may be true), but it's a different ballgame to say that and say that (just) because of that, that that person should (underline should) be in a relationship. That is just not true.

      There is a quote by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that sums up nicely - “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

      Only Clyde (or each of us as individuals) know what is right for himself (herself).

      Clyde, I hope you're comfortable and happy with friends and family.

      Warm wishes,
      Alicia

      almost 4 years ago
    • FROG1210's Avatar
      FROG1210

      I have reacted exactly the same as he has. It is very hard to watch the pain in the eyes of people you love as they try to handle their own emotions and watch as you fight for your life. I would do anything to spare my mother and children from having to watch this He believes he can spare you the pain if he just lets you go. Its crazy logic but at some point in life we are all crazy lol I am very sorry for your hurt I am here if you just want to talk or cry I am here

      almost 4 years ago
    • geekling's Avatar
      geekling

      It seems there is immaturity on each of your parts (isn't there always?). Were you actually engaged you would each know that the promises you intended to make to each other in public were to cover circumstance both "in sickness and in health".

      It is not unusual for people to react in this manner as did your fiance. You really need to understand what you are letting yourself in for prior to insisting and declaring your troth. Scenerios can be both best and worst case.

      http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/honeymoon-dreams-dying-man-sweetheart-true-article-1.1277497

      I know there is at least one young couple dealing with surprise cancer on what next. Be sure you understand what you are in for. If you've no patience and are unable to deal, it really is better that you not be part of his life. If you truly love him, I can't imagine why you've allowed him to tear you asunder. Despite any intentions of kindness, separation is the cruelest hurt once there is a committment.

      almost 4 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar
      AlizaMLS

      Dear Mikeysgirl,

      I think that the community onsite here be able to understand that Cancer or any such illness places an enormous strain on a relationship and one or both parties may not feel up to the task of continuuing the relationship.

      I think we should not be a "jury of this couple's peers" and "judge them" for not "plighting their troth" or for being married "in sickness and in health" (btw, this is not the liturgy used by all religions as part of a marriage ceremony). This is not (underline not) a Victorian novel. This is life in the 21st century. It is here, it is now. It is Cancer and yes, it's sad. But this man has a right to make a choice. No one should be forced into a relationship that they don't wish to be in - for any reason! It has even been shown that children who are in a household where parents are only staying together for their sake grow up thinking that miserable relationships are the norm.

      Mikeysgirl deserves much support for her role in haviing been Mikeys caregiver and it's awful what happened. I'm not minimizing that. She should probably go for counseling, but she should move on.

      Relationships often (at least 50% of all marriages fail [whether folks have cancer or not]). These statistics are not improved upon when someone becomes extremely ill. My Rabbi told me (his wife's a Hodgkin's disease patient) that they learned in a support group they attended that when a woman is ill, frequently the man in her life will split (what Carm has said is very true).

      A good friend once told me that when one member of a couple feels that either something is wrong with/or they don't want to be in a relationship, that's it, it doesn't matter what the other person thinks - it's true! Those of us who are divorced can attest to that - whether we instigated our divorces or whether they were thrust upon us. Done is done.

      It's better to move forward and look toward a brighter future.

      almost 4 years ago
    • Mikeysgirl's Avatar
      Mikeysgirl

      FROG1210 -
      Thank you very much! And I wish you ALL the best as you finish up your chemo treatments.

      geekling - I didn't leave him by ANY choice of mine. I have made numerous attempts to convince him I am / was in this for the long haul. These attempts have been met with: dialing the phone to have me arrested for trespassing when I went to try and talk to him, being called every name you can think of bc, in his words, "he wants to make me hate him bc it will be easier for me", being horribly criticized for sending him letters or cards, getting yelled at when I told him about a site i found that might be helpful (I was intruding on something I had no business researching), being ignored, not responding to texts, being told I am not to have any contact with his friends after I tried to let them know what was going on so he would have some sort of support base, if you can think of anything else I should try, please let me know. That was the purpose of the original question. However, I will not go to jail or continue to take unlimited, unconstrainted and undeserved abuse bc he is angry or wants to spare me pain. I certainly understand anger and taking it out on the one you are closest to, but without going into details, believe me it passed all boundaries, even he admitted it. At some point I have to respect that he too still has choices. He continues to go to work everyday and since he is the "top" boss, you can believe he could not treat his employees and associates this way, proving he does have some self control. I still pray for him daily, cry daily, miss him horribly, but I also know of no other options.

      AlizaMLS - I did call the counselor's as you suggested. They listened but admitted they didn't really have any suggestions, other than just do what I am doing, getting thru it...

      Thanks all....Mikeysgirl

      almost 4 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar
      AlizaMLS

      Dear Mikeysgirl,

      I think for you the idea of counseling is basically just to give you an opportunity to vent (and if you go to CancerCare [because you were a caregiver]) it gives you the opp to do so with people who understand exactly what you went through with a relationship with a Cancer patient.

      There is no magic bullet that's going to ease the pain of this for you. I wish there was, but all breakups are no fun (to say the least) and awful to say the worst! You just have to get through it. However venting or airing your feelings with someone professional is a good way not to use your friends all the time to listen to you go over and over this scenario.

      Very close friends will understand and you need their support, but after a while, it gets to be a drag if this is the only thing you can discuss. It's important to go to Counseling, so that you can have fun with your friends and distract yourself. You will feel pain (don't try not to), you will get through this experience, and you will come out a stronger person for it.

      Again, don't hesitate to email if you want/need to chat.

      Aliza

      almost 4 years ago

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