I wasn’t married last year when I started cancer treatment, but I fall among the fifty percent of relationships that kaput after cancer. Last year, I had what I guess you call a “partner” and I have to say, the betrayal resulting from the way he treated me during my cancer treatment has been one of the most challenging post-cancer realities I’ve had to face.
The other day I went to Organic Alternatives to get some edibles. During treatment, I used CBD products to counter body aches and nausea. Now I use it to manage the overwhelming anxiety that accompanies survivorship. While I was waiting for my budtender, I flicked through the merch and was violently attacked by a few painful memories of how little a priority I was for this alleged partner during cancer.
On May 30, 2018, I had a double mastectomy. At the time, my partner and I and our then year-old twin boys lived together in Glenwood Springs, which is about three hours from the Denver hospital where I had my surgery. The plan was that my partner would drive from Glenwood to Denver on May 29, have dinner with me and stay with me at my sister’s house so that we could all go to the hospital together in morning. The boys would stay with my parents. What happened—and I still look at texts from this period in time, which I’ve saved to my computer because it’s so mind blowing—is that he never showed.
On the afternoon of May 29, the excuses started. He didn’t think he could get enough work done. He didn’t know if he could afford the gas to get to Denver, etc., etc. With hindsight well in-tact, the financial excuse is extremely tough to swallow. After we split, while we were sorting out custody of the boys, I learned that this person gets $4,000 a month from his mom. This explains so many things, including how little he works, but it does not explain how someone couldn’t put the fuel in their tank needed to drive to Denver to support the “woman of their dreams.”
By the time dinner rolled around on May 29, my sister and I realized he wouldn’t show. My partner said he’d meet us at the hospital early in the morning, coffee in tow. I was hurt, but didn’t dwell on it too much. I had an amputation and major life change to work through. On the morning of the 30, my partner didn’t meet us at the hospital until I’d already been rolled back to pre-surgery prep. There wasn’t any coffee. Just a nonsensical excuse. Apparently at around 11 p.m. the night before, he decided to drive to Idaho Springs or maybe it was Georgetown, both of which are an hour outside of Denver, so he could get to the hospital early in the morning. Then, because it was so late, he got a hotel room. So the person who couldn’t afford gas, bought a hotel room, stayed there for a few hours and then “hit traffic” while trying to get to the hospital by 9 a.m. At that point, I couldn’t deal with the betrayal so I didn’t. I do remember wanting to throw up when he touched me so even though my mind wouldn’t go there, my body couldn’t help itself.
For the five hours I was in surgery, he went to a bar. He drank and said he cried his eyes out about the situation.
When I awoke, I was in excruciating pain. I don’t remember when my sister and partner were allowed to see me, but I do remember crying while the doctors worked on pain management. For reasons I can no longer remember, the docs wrapped towels and ice around my cheeks. My partner took a pic. My sister said, “Don’t you dare post that on Facebook,” but he did anyway because he needed Facebook to know what a loving support he was for me during surgery. Yet that night, instead of staying at my sister’s, my partner decided to stay with friends. Well the universe must have shutdown all GPS signals that evening because he “couldn’t find his friend’s” house and ended up sleeping in his truck. We all have theories about what really happened, but no one bothered to press him on his whereabouts because at that point in our relationship, the quantity of lies were simply too great to untangle. But because he slept in his truck, he arrived at the hospital late and pissed off that he hadn’t been able to shower.
I spent two weeks recovering at my parents’ house in Fort Collins. They and our nanny took care of the twins for the first week. The second week, my partner “watched” the boys, a verb he seems to believe means sloughing them off on my parents and putting them to bed hours early so he could go to the bar. It was at this point in my treatment that my family stopped being silent. “You have to leave him, Ivy,” I was told. I knew that, of course, but it’s hard to think about picking up your life when you’re still fighting for it and so I waited.
One evening, after giving this closet trust fund baby $40 to pay for some CBD gummies, he returned with my gummies and a sweatshirt for himself from Organic Alternatives. That’s when I fully understood how little I meant to him and how, if I had any respect for myself, I simply couldn’t wait until cancer was “over” to leave him. This person bought himself a gift after I had a major amputation and was still very much fighting for my life, but he never stayed with me to watch a movie. He never brought me flowers or any gift. He never brought me dinner or ate with me. He never laid with me. He never loved me. He spent less than a week begrudgingly watching our children, going to the bar and creating an image of himself as the best, most loving partner ever for Facebook.
I left this person for good on July 3, 2018. Although I was supposed to be done with chemo, the surgery revealed that my cancer had changed so I had to do chemo again. So in the middle of chemo, a month after a major surgery, with two one-year-olds in tow, I left him. I moved all of my stuff out of our house and moved back into the small loft above my parents’ garage. During chemo. He immediately replaced every piece of furniture in the house that was replaceable with the exact same furniture I had bought. At the time, I had no idea how he paid for it. Now I know. He also took every lightbulb out of every one of my lamps. For spite I guess.
The final blow with this set of betrayals happened a month after I moved out. I was getting my last chemo infusion and my ex-partner oddly texted to see if I had time to talk. Apparently, he missed talking to me, God knows why. I felt weird about it, but I gave him permission to call so he did.
“I’ve realized that I fell out of love with you a long time ago,” he said out of the blue. “But I still love you as the mother of my children.”
I was sitting in the middle of the chemo room, which is surrounded by more private partitions, crying my eyes out thinking, “What kind of a person would say something like that? What kind of a person could flip from loving me until the end of time, promising to be there for me forever, to not being in love with me?” A person who doesn’t have the capacity to show up for others, that’s who.
I, of course, have my own thoughts as to why this person couldn’t show up for me and will never, at least at this point, have the capacity to truly show up for anyone, but it’s all conjecture so I’ll keep them to myself. What I can comment on are the facts.
The facts are that he can’t show up. The facts are that he continues to deceive and lie and play games. Even though he’s been dating someone since last year, I have numerous texts about how he still loves me, how he misses me, how he’s thinking about me, how he wishes things were different. I wonder what his girlfriend might think of these? Or the fact that they’re still coming through even though I dragged the girlfriend news out of him about a month ago.
In my heart I forgive this person, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend any time with him. In fact, as I move through this part of cancer, I can hardly look at him. The way he acts, the way he portrays himself as a loving, caring, genuine person, the way he disregards boundaries I set over and over again, the way he’s deceiving this new person, makes me physically ill. But because we have children together, I have to deal with him.
Maybe fifty percent of marriages dissolve post-cancer because cancer is brutally hard for everyone involved. Or maybe it’s because fighting cancer is so exhausting the person fighting it simply refuses to take any more shit.