I can't believe this story, myself so I will understand if some of you do not either. Our story begins before her diagnosis, so please bear with me.
I am a 49 year-old male who was dating a woman for 11 years. Neither of us wanted to be married for different reasons -- we both like our space. We lived in adjacent towns so we saw each other when we wanted and had our alone time too or time with friends. We had an open relationship - either of us could pursue others if we so chose but our love was for each other. We had an agreement to disclose those arrangements with others.
In this (sorry for the long) post, she is Sabrina. We began our relationship when she pursued me after a common group of friends traveled and attended an event together. She was in the process of divorcing at the time and was divorced soon after we met. I helped her move and get her away from her abusive husband who controlled every dollar, etc.. for years. I took care of her.
We had several years of what I would call bliss. I am careful with words and I truly mean that. There were times where I was incomparably happy with Sabrina and our relationship. I never experienced joy like I had with her. I am a stoic, sarcastic personality and at times with Sabrina I would laugh in absence of humor but for joy alone. I truly loved Sabrina more than I ever thought possible and more than anyone I had ever loved. She professed her love for me and I know she meant it.
Fast forward to about a couple years ago. I faced a difficult abdominal surgery and recovery but I did OK - I was back on my feet in a few weeks and "performing" (trying to be family safe here) as well as one might expect. I still cared for Sabrina in every way that I could. Soon after, a close family member of mine was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of cancer. I made every effort to cross the country several times to help with his family and to see him and care for him. Sadly, he passed within a year of his diagnosis. During this time Sabrina was understanding that I couldn't be there for her as much as I had been and she encouraged me. Between travel costs and pay cuts I had experienced at the time, I was not able to treat Sabrina and I to our weekends or trips we normally took. I felt bad but she understood.
Then about 16 months ago, Sabrina was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, stage 2. I promised her I would help her in every way and would be with her every chance I got. Since her family is far away and they were not close (emotionally), I took that role for myself, to her relief. I would help with appointments, driving, research, comfort, cooking, etc. as much as I could. Sabrina seemed distant, which I suppose is to be expected.
Just prior to her surgery, my other close family member died, leaving me with grief for him and care of Sabrina, who again said she understood but I did my best in both roles.
After her chemotherapy she was to have a lumpectomy to remove the tumor. I attended her every minute. Cooking, pain meds, drains, assisted moving and bathing. Anything for her.
We got results of the surgery. No clean margins. More chemo. More tears and more despair.
Within just a few days of testing and scans, stage 2 became stage 3, then 4. No doctor would say it. Sabrina wouldn't see it.
So I took that role, too. I had to tell my love she was going to die. The doctors wouldn't give a window. From my reading I knew she had 6 months at best. She had no plans for anything at the end of her life.
So I took that role. I (gently) pushed her to find more treatments, immunotherapy, trips to Mayo. I pushed to organize her life a bit and see that she had a Will. And then I asked her to move in with me so I could care for her. She accepted.
During her last treatments, I essentially carried her, to and from. When they admitted her instead of giving her chemo one afternoon, I saw a glimmer of understanding. I did NOT ever want to scare her but she had to know the truth.
She wanted to die in my home but her condition was so poor that had they discharged her, I am not sure she would have made it there, so we stayed.
One hospital kicked her out (transferred her to another for as yet no viable reason, either spoken or on paper). Sabrina had no money of her own and poor credit so I think it was about money. I cannot prove this but it makes sense.
The second hospital also tried to discharge her but since I was PoA by then I denied it. While fighting with the hospital I stayed with Sabrina through her last days. I summoned all of her family who were able and coordinated her friends and co-workers from her bedside.
When Sabrina had deteriorated and her breathing became erratic, I picked her up and held her to my chest, whispering in her ear that everything was OK, I was here, she was safe and it was OK to go. I said this and, "I love you." More than once. I received a muffled, "I love you too," through her mask and when I said, "it is OK to go" she said, "OK."
That was her last word to me. She died shortly thereafter.
Strangely, I did not cry though I had many times before and since. I consoled her family and friends and told them we are together and everything will be OK. One by one I sent them home and eventually was alone with Sabrina again. I waited to sign her out and sat with her for about an hour, marveling at how much better my life was that she was in it. It seems an odd emotion to have, but I did.
I was morose over the next few weeks. Everyone involved - her family, friends, co-workers all thanked me for caring for her and helping her and getting everyone there. It was of some consolation to me that everyone told me I had done the right things. Everyone told me how compassionate I was. I at least had the comfort that Sabrina had died in a circle of loving family and friends, warm and safe. I did everything I possibly could have done.
Or so I thought. I was her everything, executor, inheritor, etc. but we never talked about accounts and passwords so I had to wait for legal processes to pass. I couldn't access her email, etc. but she had no assets to speak of so no big deal. I set her phone aside.
A month later after I had cleaned up her affairs I turned the phone on again, just to wipe it clean and perhaps give it away or sell it. Her email was open. I did not open it nor did I request that anyone do so. It was then that I saw the messages.
Between Sabrina and him.
The affair had started right about the time I was with my other close family member just prior to and during his death. Sabrina was not distant because of her illness. She was distancing herself because she had been seeing another man, one she did not tell me about (even though she had permission as long as there was disclosure). Our intimacy had been lighter, less frequent and shorter because she was sore, but not just from illness.
To say that I was devastated is a colossal understatement. I literally collapsed. I cried out. I didn't understand and still don't. It has been a few months and still I wake with a start and tremble at night. My anxiety attacks are fewer of late, only about 2 per day instead of 10. My counsel (who has been amazing) tells me this is one of the most trying situations she has ever witnessed.
Tremendous grief and loss are now overshadowed by anger and embarrassment. I ask questions for which no one has the answer. I will never know why. I will never be able to confront her. She even had permission and we had joked about bucket list items like this and I had said, "well you had better damn well go for it if you have the chance!" And she did. Silently, secretly.
I started to remember details of other times when Sabrina made excuses to stay home, not have me over, etc. and those corresponded with the messages. I had even thought something was wrong more than once but I let it go. I pushed it aside. I was naive. She couldn't possibly have the energy to cheat much less the will, right? She was sick!
Then I found more emails. Telling him how she could not have done this without HIS support. How HE helped her decide to do all those things that I did. Things that he did literally none of. He couldn't because I was there and would have seen him...
I am lost. I don't even care about the sex as we had both had other partners. I was rejected. All she had to do was ask me for help or tell me she was missing something. But she stayed silent.
As I said above I am sorry this is so long but I swear it is true as well as I am able to convey it. My dearest love and dream girl effectively dumped me after her death. I am trying to not drown in guilt. I know it is not my fault but it is so tempting to blame myself.
I wanted to share with someone but I don't want to tell her family or mine. I cannot find any stories like this "out there" so I am posting my own. Advice is welcome. I know it does not compare to confronting one's own mortality and having cancer but it is a great struggle in its own right.
Thank you for reading.
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