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Marriage crisis after metastatic diagnosis

solvi Member Posts: 3

Hi all wonderful women in here,

I was wondering if going through marriage crisis is common among breast cancer patients. If so - how do you deal with it?

I was diagnosed first time in 2012 at age 45. At that time I had three children under age 10 and a good job and career in the financial industry.
I went through surgery, chemo, radiation and 5 years of tamoxifen. After the tough treatment I thought I was going to get my life back. Not so much. I suffered from substantial after-effects and fatigue. My employer had initially been supportive and said all the right things, but slowly replaced me with other people and undermined and even started a bullying campaign. My physical and mental health was detoriating to a point where I had to accept a «compensation package» and left.

During this time, my husband was not supportive practically or emotionally either. My focus was on my health and children and keeping my family together. A steep hill struggle…

Immediately after I left my job, I started taking some courses and prepare for my next job, but just months after - I was diagnosed with bone metastasis. Needless to say, I was devastated.

I adjusted to the new treatment and diagnosis, but could not take on any work. I had insurance to cover all medical treatment and basic living expenses, but had to rely on my husband for financial support after a while.

He refused to support me, as he said it was my fault that I had got myself in a situation where I was between jobs and «got myself a new cancer diagnosis». I was in shock and didn't know what to do. I have always taken care of myself and my children and couldn't believe I was in this situation.

I was suffering from depression and heavy fatigue, but managed to take on some (less paid) part-time work while going through the first two years of treatment (Ibrance and Femar). Then I got better and was able to start working as an independent consultant within my previous field of work. However, covid-19 set in and business was not there. I told my husband I needed more time before I could contribute more financially in our household. I did almost all housework etc and my husband is - and have been for a long time - a high-income earner.

But he did not like to support me this time around either. He told me I could not use my cancer diagnosis as an excuse for not working harder and get a «real job». He said I didn't do enough in this area and downplayed my contribution to our home in general. He even said this stuff in front of the children, which broke my heart. He said he felt that I USED him and that I couldn't just go around and expect him to provide for me. He made it very clear (telling) that I just had to contribute more financially - or it «wouldn’t work».

I decided to apply for a job in another part of the country, where my mother grew up and we still own a little farmhouse. I got it and am living and working here now, just visiting my son who is still in high-School (my daughters have left home) and husband occasionally. I am too tired to have a social life or hobbies as all my energy is consumed by work and I miss my son.
At the same time; I know that my life expectancy at this point is very limited, which all makes it even more ...sad.

I am still trying to process what has happened to me. It is almost 5 years since I got the first metastasis.My husband calls sometimes, but we have nothing to talk about except the kids.
Needless to say, we do not have intimacy and he hasnt shown any interest since 2011.

I feel that I have been abused - and maybe it is still going on.

Thank you for reading my story if you have come this far.

Does any of this resonate with any elses experiences snd is there anything I can do to move forward in any sense?

Grateful for any input


  • rah2464
    rah2464 Member Posts: 1,192

    Solvi reading your story is breaking my heart. You do not have a husband or partner. He (and a lot of people are this way) is incapable of understanding the physical and emotional toll a cancer diagnosis places upon you. It also appears that he is completely uninterested in trying to better understand your journey. I think you have done the wisest thing which is to remove yourself from his orbit. His behavior is certainly abusive by belittling your experience.

    Please reach out to a mental health counselor. Have a conversation with your oncologist, there may be available resources for free, at least a few sessions because I would think you would also want to work with someone who understands the impact of metastatic cancer on your psyche. You are obviously an extremely strong person to have managed all these difficulties so far, but a medical professional can assist you to resolve your feelings so that you can move forward in a healthy frame of mind. God bless you.

  • parakeetsrule
    parakeetsrule Member Posts: 605

    I don't have any experience with this myself but if it helps, from what you've described you are far better off without your husband. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to deal with cancer AND a person like that deliberately tearing you down. It sounds like this was his excuse to break up with you. I'm sorry. :(

    This is not uncommon though. I've seen many, many stories of wives who don't find out they can't depend on their husband until the day they actually need to. I'm glad to hear you had the ability to move and being to rebuild your life.

  • mara51506
    mara51506 Member Posts: 6,174

    Solvi, your husband just has no idea what these drugs, stress about our health and regular do to us. I was never married but have a younger brother who would always tell me to get a job even after dx with a brain met. I think he did that just to trigger a reaction. The best thing I did was tell him he would no longer hear from me again and it has been 3 years of peace.

    I cannot imagine the loss of probably what must have been some good years in a marriage but at the end of the day, you must look after you. Sounds like you don't need his support in the changes you made. It is sad but if could not support you, distance and infrequent calls regarding the kids is probably for the best. Again, I am sorry you were abused that way, total emotional abuse.

    I do think you need someone, a social worker, good friend or therapist to talk to, online, in person or whatever. I also want you to stop believing you will die soon as well. Extra stressor you do not need. Live with cancer and treat symptoms. If you think of it as living with it, your mind will feel lighter. Enjoy your time as much as possible. If you are doubtful his behaviour was abusive, it most definitely was and you need to stay far away from that. Hopefully you get enough visits with your kids as well. Perhaps set up a zoom call when they cannot be there in person or eat dinner with them virtually.

  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,085

    Solvi - Welcome to We're sorry for all you've gone through, but glad that you decided to join the community. As you can already tell, this is a wonderfully supportive community. We're thinking of you and we hope that you will stay connected here to share, vent, and let us know how you're doing.

    Wishing you all the best, and look forward to hearing more from you soon.

    The Mods


  • aprilgirl1
    aprilgirl1 Member Posts: 769

    Solvi, I am so sorry to hear about all of this. I don't have personal experience with this but cancer and a stage IV recurrence or diagnosis is very stressful for most families. Some spouses are super supportive and some, sadly are too sad/mad/narcissistic or ? to be supportive. I am not sure if you are in the US or not, or what state in the US you live in but many states have laws regarding community property. If your husband is a high wage earner, you could be better off seeking legal counsel and getting a divorce where you receive 1/2 of the marital assets and could live closer to your son who is in high school. I have seen divorces where the high earning spouse also has to carry the medical insurance for the former spouse for an extended length of time (many years). I have a friend who is a woman and was the high income earner and when she was divorced she had to split her retirement accts, home equity etc with her husband who had been a stay at home parent for 20 years (no health issues in this case but I wanted to make it clear it isn't about husband or wife but about the community property law in the State of residence). This could mean that you owe your husband 1/2 of the value of the farmhouse you are living in - I am not an attorney but please consult with an attorney, so they can give you some really important information.

    I would love for you to have the peace and time to continue to take care of yourself without the worry about working and sadness of living far away from your son who still needs you. Don't worry that your kids heard your husband's "tantrum" about your dx - that is crazy talk and kids will eventually see that, if they don't already.

    Sounds like you are doing well on current treatment which is fantastic . You are strong and deserve to enjoy your kids and life ! We are here for you

  • pupmom
    pupmom Member Posts: 1,032

    Wow, life often just isn't fair. I hope you have a strong support system, because your husband ain't it. Counseling can be very helpful. Hugs for you and your children.

  • rain88
    rain88 Member Posts: 160

    Solvi, your husband is a JERK! You brought to the world three children, took care of them while also doing your part to provide for your family. You are truly amazingly strong! Your husband doesn't deserve you! I agree with what was said before, that you should ask for a divorce from such a callous, unappreciative, hard-to-call human being of a husband, as he didn't show you any kindness or empathy when you needed it most, and as any decent human being would have done; and not to mention love, as any husband should have! Since he is a high earner (so he could've easily support the family himself!) you would get a well deserved spousal support. You would also have the time to restore yourself, work at your own pace, should you want to, and simply be done with the source of stress that you jerk of husband represents. Hugs and positive vibes! ♥️

  • denny10
    denny10 Member Posts: 421

    solvi, I was so sad to read your post, but by the end was pleased to see you have removed yourself from your husbands coersive, abusive behaviour. aprilgirl1s post has good practical knowledge. Getting some emotional/ legal/ financial support, as others have suggested, would be worthwhile, to make your life easier. I wish you the best times ahead with your children.

  • Tsohl
    Tsohl Member Posts: 24

    solvi ~ you will find much support in this community. You sound like an amazingly strong woman and I wish the very best for you. Your “husband” was one in name only

  • wondering44
    wondering44 Member Posts: 260


    I'm not sure those written words are descriptive of a husband or a partner. To have to fight a spouse to keep your inner strength and self-worth as a woman, human being, mother, and wife while you battle cancer is an incredible difficulty no person should have to endure. A spouse should help you develop an immense depth of strength and worth in all areas of life. A spouse should add to one's strengths and worth, not break it down and tear it apart.

    May you find the strength to tell him to "piss off" the next time he phones you. Or better yet, not answer his calls.

    xoxo - hugs your way

  • paknc
    paknc Member Posts: 48

    As others have said, it's not entirely unheard of for family members or a spouse to lack understanding and empathy for a wife going through what you have been through. Your husband is damaged goods and selfish, good riddance. I am a second wife to my husband, who has baggage from the first marriage about money and getting what he wants in retirement because he feels like the first wife took advantage of him. I know that if I need extensive, ongoing care at some point, I may need to part ways with him because I would not want to get this type of care in the State where we reside and he won't move, we have had these kinds of discussions already. I'm hoping it never comes to that but if it does, I'm prepared to leave if I have to. Cancer can be ugly in so many ways.

  • WC3
    WC3 Member Posts: 658


    I'm so sorry you are going through this. Your husband sounds like a selfish narcissist and you deserve better. I'm not sure where you are, but in the U.S. and many other countries, whatever your husband earns is also yours. I would consult with a family law attorney to see what, if any, support from your husband you are entitled to. You should not have to work so much at this point. You should have some time for rest and the things you enjoy. Are you able to go on disability?

  • solvi
    solvi Member Posts: 3


    To all of you who replied to my post. I an deeply touched and grateful for all your support and sound advice. I have read them many times and I sometimes cry a bit - Thank you!

    I used to be confident and outgoing and usually happy, but that has changed with cancer and my marriage problems. It is almost a year since I moved to the farmhouse and started working here. I guess I have been in a kind of «survival mode» and going through some ptsd.

    No, I do not need the kind of «support» he offers. I have used a lot of energy and done enormous amounts of soul-searching to try to understand what has happened to me and try to understand him and why he acts this way. Why dont he file for divorce when he clearly does not care about my well-being and have got to the point of abuse. Does he enjoy it?

    I don’t understand him. Period. I agree that he has narcissistic traits. And I feel much better when I am not in his orbit. This year has made me see clearer, but I still lack confidence and may still not see the extent of his abuse. I used to be so strong…damnit(!).

    i actually am on disability, but after I got better two years into treatment I started working part-time and my disability money were adjusted somewhat accordingly, but I am still better off working. The disability money is too low tto cover all living expenses, so I am dependent on my husband supporting a little if I at some point cannot work anymore, which he obviously is not willing to do. It stresses me to a point where I get anxiety attacks and siffer from sleeplessness.

    If I filed for divorce, I would receive half of our shared value, which will make me better off. We own a house together and he has earned good money for a long time. I consulted an attorney this week, and it is a fact.

    So that is what I HAVE to do if the cancer spreads further and the treatment makes working impossible.

    i do not know what I feel about my husband anymore - I am «empty».I am still grieving the loss of what I thought was liove and safety.

    Thank you again for your support. You are the best!

  • parakeetsrule
    parakeetsrule Member Posts: 605

    I think you should file ASAP. If your health declines to the point that you have to stop working and you need the money, you may not be physically feeling well enough to deal with a divorce, especially if he fights it. Better to do it while you still feel pretty decent! And then you'll have more time to enjoy the extra financial freedom.
  • denny10
    denny10 Member Posts: 421

    solvi you are strong , you may not feel it, but you are.You are living with cancer, looking after your family and working. Now you are in control, I hope your confidence improves. I think ,like parakeets, the sooner you get divorced the better. I have helped a friend through this situation, 6 years on she is thriving ,you deserve the same .

  • exbrnxgrl
    exbrnxgrl Member Posts: 4,855


    Although we may have our own ideas of what constitutes a marriage, what your husband is demanding of you in no way resembles how a marital partner treats a major and likely terminal illness in their spouse. I was married for 23 years to an insecure, narcissistic, alcoholic, liar. About a year before we separated, I had major abdominal surgery (pre-bc). When I came home from the hospital it was quite clear that my surgery had a been a major inconvenience for him. However, he was not above aging sympathy and admiration from others as he publicly made a great show of how caring and giving he was during my recovery. He managed to make it all about himself! That was a tipping point for me and not too long afterwards, filed for divorce. It was neither easy nor fun but in the end I was fine and going through stage IV bc without an awful man was far easier than it would have been with him.

    Please consult an attorney ASAP so you can protect your joint marital assets. This will help to ensure that he doesn’t start to move and/or conceal assets. This is vital!!! Remember, if you live in a community property state marital assets are jointly held but as state laws vary, this needs to be done with legal consultation. Take very good care of yourself and cut your “husband” out of your life. Your focus should be on you!

  • solvi
    solvi Member Posts: 3

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with me.

    You are right - I have to take steps to prepare myself from exiting this relationship.

    I guess I needed to hear what you and all in this bc community has said loud and clear. Living with this abusive situation has clouded my judgement and damaged my a point where I have had to dig deep to find myself again.

    I have even questioned that what he has done to me is abuse. It still ruminate over this from time to time.
    Cannot believe I have found myself in this situation. Wondering how it happened..

    Thank you again. Your support means A LOT

  • aprilgirl1
    aprilgirl1 Member Posts: 769

    Solvi, you are not alone ! I am referring to Breast Cancer, Metastatic Breast Cancer and/or an abusive relationship.

    Good for you to share your situation. Look forward, not backwards. I understand wondering how it happened but it is a gradual erosion and slide. Focus on your kids and YOUR future.

    Sending you lots of love.

  • elderberry
    elderberry Member Posts: 1,064

    Solvi: He is a shit and you need to see the back of him. Don't let being abused become your norm, losing yourself in tiny pieces. You are away from him still? In the farmhouse? Use that time to get your mind and soul cleared. To check with lawyers. To ascertain your rights. You deserve a life of love and respect.

  • prairiedweller
    prairiedweller Member Posts: 11

    What a horrible story. It was hard enough at times going through what I did and my relationship is good. It just takes its toll anyhow, chemo messes with your brain and I at my worst just wasn't me. It can be a bad time all around even if a marriage is a good one. But Solvi, you have been through a worst hell than I ever had to go through. I think distancing yourself was the best thing you could do(besides filing for divorce). He sounds like a monster. You don't treat someone you love the way he treated you. He may be a person that isn't capable of love. Keep us updated. You will be in my thoughts.