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Husbands Who Leave During Breast Cancer

Sunday, November 07, 2010

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We’ve all heard stories about husbands who leave their wives after they've been diagnosed with breast cancer. I heard one this week, and it’s broken the heart of every member of that family. To think you know someone so well, believing he was one of the finest men you’d ever met… Your family considered him more than a brother-in-law or a son-in-law. His children and the rest of the children in the family looked up to him as a role model. I don’t have the words to finish these sentences, to comfort this family. I am devastated for them, and I am ticked-off! <PREVIEWEND>

There’s always another side to every story. I wish I knew his side: why he left them, why he abandoned his wife and children when they need him most? Regardless of his story, there’s not a justifiable explanation for such betrayal. Today I called a friend who’s been in the same situation and asked, “What advice would you give this woman?” My friend said everyday, she asked God to hold her hand, repeating it like a mantra. “Please, God. Don’t let go of my hand. Then I had to make a conscious decision to find a way to move on with my life.”

I can’t imagine the grief this woman is feeling, but I do know, this is not her fault. Regardless of his story, she had no choice whether she got breast cancer or not. Her husband had a choice. Men, how do you justify this? What do you tell yourself when you’re alone with your thoughts? What will you tell your children or the next woman who comes into your life? What will you tell God? My husband says to tell you he doesn’t want you in the same foxhole with him. He doesn’t even want you on the same battlefield. He said if you’ll cut and run on your wife, you’ll cut and run on anyone.

Women, I know this is easier said than done, but don’t let yourself be the victim. Your grit, your will, your family, your faith in God, will get you through this. You have an innate strength and courage. Own it. Draw on it. Make it your own. Please consider finding someone to help you work through this; to help you get you through your shock and grief, and then your anger, until you’re on your way to creating your new normal.

The mind/body connection is as important as surgery, chemo and radiation. There is good science that indicates major life events like serious illness, death, divorce, a new baby, change of jobs, a move, even a promotion, can be taxing to our immune system. They can pile up, exponentially, and have a negative impact on our health. Perhaps the director of patient services at your cancer center can give you the name of a counselor who specializes in counseling cancer families.

Another thing that might be helpful is Guided Imagery/hypnosis. I’ve used hypnosis and Guided Imagery for over 25 years, and I know, firsthand, that it’s one of the best tools we have to deal with trauma and problems of any kind. Again, consider asking the director of patient services. In every way, you must make your healing a top priority.

You’ve heard this before, but drink tons of water each day and remember to eat a good diet. The simple act of walking in your neighborhood can fire up the right endorphins which can help counteract depression. All of these things will help flush the chemo from your system and make you stronger and better able to deal with this. ABOVE ALL, do not think you did anything to deserve this, because you didn’t! I don’t care what the back-story is. He had a choice. You didn’t.

If a serious illness teaches us nothing else, it should be that family is everything and with God, everything is possible. The celebrities of the month, and the media that splashes their stories so we see them on television, at the grocery checkout stand and on our computers, are sending us the wrong messages. Too many of us are listening and patterning our lives after these tinseltown train wrecks.

Marriages and families are not disposable. They are the very core that sustains us through every crisis and celebrates our every victory. We, as a country, have lost our moral perspective, and I pray each one of us stops to say, “Please, God. Don’t let go of my hand. Show me the way.”

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Previous Comments
Anonymous commented on 08-Nov-2010 11:39 AM

Qigong—Chinese mind/body exercises--helped me immensely in my successful battles with four bouts of supposedly terminal bone lymphoma cancer in the early nineties. I practiced standing post meditation, one of the most powerful forms of qigong--as an adjunct to chemotherapy, which is how it should always be used.

Qigong kept me strong in many ways: it calmed my mind--taking me out of the fight-or-flight syndrome, which pumps adrenal hormones into the system that could interfere with healing. The deep abdominal breathing pumped my lymphatic system—a vital component of the immune system. In addition, qigong energized and strengthened my body at a time when I couldn't do Western exercise such as weight-lifting or jogging--the chemo was too fatiguing. And it empowered my will and reinforced it every day with regular practice. In other words, I contributed to the healing process, instead of just depending solely on the chemo and the doctors. Clear 14 years and still practicing!

Bob Ellal
Author, ‘Confronting Cancer with the Qigong Edge’

Anonymous commented on 08-Nov-2010 04:14 PM
Brenda, I cannot imagine the pain this poor woman must be feeling. I know how lucky I have been and continue to be having a supportive husband through all the "cancer crap." I hope she does indeed realize it is not her fault and can find good support elsewhere. Also, I like the way your husband thinks!
Anonymous commented on 09-Nov-2010 03:39 AM
Brenda.. there are a variety of issues here and I now live with the knowledge that I have touched on most of these things at some time in my life. Why did I give up? In spite of this, it is never too late to resume.
Bless you and thanks for the reminder. My hypnosis tapes have come back out since reading your blog.
Anonymous commented on 09-Nov-2010 12:01 PM
Cheryl My Darling,
You haven't given up on any front!! You've had so much loss to deal with plus your own cancer. I think you've done an exceptional job at surviving mentally, physically and emotionally. Yes, there are aspects of your life you wish were different, but you're taking back your power and making changes that will benefit you and Haydn. I'm so proud of you for putting more of an emphasis on yourself. The hypnosis tapes, meditating, prayer, will all help you get centered so you can move forward and make better decisions from a place of calm. Bravo! You don't have to fix everything, today, but embrace those small changes and tweak them in for the maximum benefit. I'm proud of you! You've got grit, girl!
Anonymous commented on 09-Nov-2010 02:11 PM
My husband's a little to the right of Attila the Hun when it comes to defending his family & country. He's a great man!
Anonymous commented on 16-Nov-2010 10:22 PM
Thanks for this awesome message. I am not dealing with cancer but I had forgotten to ask for a hand to hold during my own personal trials. Thanks again for the much needed reminder.
Anonymous commented on 17-Nov-2010 11:28 AM
I have been a breast cancer surviver for nine years. My husband got depression soon after and had to take an early retirement. I sometimes wonder if the diagnosis helped cause that, and still wonder why he is negative around the house to me. He is homebound so to speak, but I can't wait to get going for my day.
Anonymous commented on 22-Nov-2010 04:05 PM
Dear Anonymous,
You've had a lot to deal with--breast cancer and your husband's depression. I don't know any other underlying causes, but please don't blame yourself for his depression. The only thing you can do is encourage him to seek help and/or medication, if prescribed, and above all, take good care of yourself. It sounds like you have a zest for life. That's wonderful! Nurture it and seek the company of others who do so as well.

Anonymous commented on 23-Nov-2010 05:32 PM
You're so right about this country's moral compass. I don't have the strength or desire some nights to listen to the news. Bless you girl.

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