Human beings have been given a free will. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, your ability to choose remains – however, your options in life are significantly reduced. Amongst many others, two major aspects will be concerned: your relationship and your job. Is it necessary to settle in an unhappy marriage and safer to compromise? Should cancer warriors stay or go?
Naturally, I am not able to answer this complex question for you. There are so many sides of the story only you will know and only you will be able to judge. I can give you my ideas, though.
I am a mother of four children and divorce will always be a last resort for me. I would try anything to save my family. If you have googled yourself through to my blog entry and you are a cancer patient, I guess you will have tried everything already – otherwise you would not consider divorce.
Till death do us part
When I was diagnosed, I mentioned our marital vows during one of the first conversations with my husband. You are young, you are in love and you promise to stay together “till death do us part”. Suddenly, you are not even that old, death becomes real for one of you. I am going to be completely honest. It felt I had lost power in our relationship. Before, the scales were balanced. Now, I was the one who had less to offer. The one who needed to be cared for, the weak one. The one who was going to take and not give back. I did not like this feeling at all. I believe in equality in a relationship – yet, somehow, I thought I was not equal anymore. I wanted to have a husband and not a caregiver.
After a while, “till death do us part” became an issue for me in a different way. I felt restrained. I am a freedom loving and independent person. I don’t like to be kept on a short leash, which does not imply that I am unfaithful. I simply cannot stand being fenced in. My cancer diagnosis does not change this essential part of my character. In marriage, even though I don’t want to get out, I would like to have the possibility. It is my choice to be married and it should not become a prison.
I often ask myself how I could possibly deal with a major marriage crisis in my current situation. It would be a disaster in many ways: for my husband and me, the children, stepchildren, our families, finances, logistics, insurances… and finally for my health. If you ask me, if I would risk a divorce my answer is straight: I would never divorce my marriage lightheartedly. Yet, if there was no other option, I would do it. Definitely.
Knowing that this decision is more than risky, I would be very concerned about my children’s wellbeing, which is why I would need a viable solutions. I would need more support than other single mums: I might not only need help in the household, but also an au pair and maybe even a permanent caregiver in the future. When divorcing, my husband and I would have to discuss what happens in case my health deteriorates. We would figure out what to do if I could not take care of the children anymore.
Who would care for me? I don’t know. Nevertheless, I am certain that someone would be there for me. It doesn’t have to be a partner, it could be a nurse, a mentor or other members of my family. I have always thought that it is better to be happy and alone than unhappy and together. I still do. Marriage is about love and loyalty for me in the first place. I doubt safety works as a priority when there is nothing else left. For both partners.
Studies reveal that husbands are six times more likely to leave seriously sick wives than wives are to leave their husbands who have fallen ill. Actually, I read an article titled “After breast cancer comes divorce” with shocking numbers. Psychologists believe that the stress factors which come along with cancer make the negative sides of a relationship even more apparent. There are those who divorce after diagnosis, those who divorce before or during treatment and those who divorce when they have overcome cancer. Yes, as a matter of fact cancer survivors divorce, because they find out that they are not the same as they were before. They need adjustment for their “new normal”.
Just as I couldn’t have presumed that I would end up with leukemia one day, I cannot presume that my marriage will last forever or that it will save me from what is going to happen health wise. You are never on the safe side, even if you stay in a disastrous union. I think that staying in a teetering relationship would damage my life in even more ways than leaving it and coping with my disease on my own. Therefore, my answer is: YES. Cancer patients should risk divorcing a truly unhappy marriage after careful evaluation; just like everybody else.