HOW TO BREAK UP WITH SOMEONE DEALING WITH CANCER

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Having cancer is like being an X-men, well, without the cool powers and the fancy school.I get plenty of people judging me though, there it is! I knew I could link the two! I win… nothing.

In all seriousness, I have missed out on several relationships because sooner or later, I have tell the women I date, I technically still have cancer. Most of the time the conversations play out like an old Abbot and Costello routine.

I realize there are no real answers for this question, but I can offer some Advice. Keep in mind there are no rules or guidelines for this, there’s no handbook for the recently diagnosed. ( beetlejuice!)

1. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, if the relationship is seriously getting continually punched in the face, by a metaphorical Ivan Drago. Talk about it

2. Write down how you feel so when you approach your partner you have key topics to talk about, Break ups are never easy, especially in this case. So before the conversation derails and the arguments and finger pointing begins, make sure you are clear and concise about the why.

3. Do not make it about them as a person, ( unless it has affected who they are) but the cancer or the disease itself. Do not take them to your favorite restaurant, wine and dine them and then breakup with them. Well, actually, do wine and dine us, but have the conversation at their apartment, so you can leave at anytime.

4.  Be a supportive friend if you can. They’re going to need support now more than ever. Only do it if you can, don’t let them guilt you into staying in a relationship. Trust me, it’s going to be a hard for them not to.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with cancer, the girlfriend I had at the time broke up with me during chemo. She came in, crying, with her head looking down at the ground.  She looked up at me and said “Keith, I can’t do it anymore, this is killing me” I reply ” This is killing you?  Great, because this is physically Killing me, High Five!” Granted, she cheated on me when I was in and out of chemo, so she was hardly a keeper.

A girl I was involved with, texted me on Easter than she couldn’t do it, fair enough, she owes me nothing. I just love the Juxtaposition of the text ” Happy Easter, Keith!! I can’t date someone who may die on me, I’m sorry, Have a great day!”  How can you not laugh at that?

There was girl who told me  the day after my birthday, that she thought I was special and I deserved someone, but she just wasn’t strong enough. Fair enough. I’m not sure how strong you have to be… I don’t know, maybe able to lift 50 pounds.

I could go on, there are so many other examples, but these will do for now. My love life is like an episode of seinfeld… a lot of talk but not much going on.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about giving up on dating, It’s been a roller coaster ride of toxic shame.Maybe I should I pin a C on my chest so people can know? I’m not ashamed of it, I just wish I could find someone who isn’t ashamed either.

 I’m not condemning these women, they have the right to Not date me because of it, I totally get that. I just wish there was some way I could educate these women, instruct them in the ways of dating a 20 something person with cancer. Sometimes I wish there was a film that could educate and explain things a little clearer, like roots!… I did it again…

Thanks for reading!

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20 comments

  1. Hi Keith, I feel for you and do hope you find someone that can be there for you and love you as you deserve to be loved.

    I have a personal situation, I met an amazing guy, all was amazing and going so well , until he found out he was having a relapse of Leukemia, he says that he doesn’t feel like he can give me his all right now, (I totally understand his point) but I have told him am not giving up and am going to be here to support him all the way. He knows how I feel about him, he feels the same but guess doesn’t want to tag me along through this process…. I know it will not be easy but am ready to have him in my life. No matter what the consequences are I’d never forgive myself for not trying. I care about him that much.

    So this is just to let you know that do not give up, you’ll find someone that will love you just as much. Those that don’t it’s their lose.

    Cheers Lorie

    1. Oh my gosh I’m so sorry for getting back to you so late, Lorie! Please forgive me! Hang in there! Be careful though, he’s going through a lot & doesn’t want to hurt you.

      Also… Can I get an update? How is he? How are you?

  2. Hi Keith,

    I guess I’m experiencing the opposite. My boyfriend was diagnosed with NHL in June. We had previously broken up due to his challenges getting sober and not being able to show me the love I showed him. He got himself sober, and we decided to give it another go. Shortly after, he was diagnosed. At first, our relationship seemed stronger than ever. Then at some point, it changed. The six cycles of chemo worked very well, but it didn’t completely eliminate the tumor. He started radiation two weeks ago, and that’s when things completely fell apart. I’ve been doing everything for him–cooking, cleaning, paying bills, showing him every day how much I love him–while he withdrew from me more and more each day. It got frustrating, showing all this love, and not getting much in return. I feel guilty about this, because I know he needs to focus on himself, but it really doesn’t take much to make me feel loved. A hug, an “I love you.” We went to counseling for a couple weeks, and he’d sit in there and say he wasn’t trying like he should. But then he’d get home and say he’s doing everything he can do. “Why should I tell you I love you or give you a hug, when you’re constantly doing it?” he’d ask. On top of all this, I didn’t feel very supported by his family, and when I attempted to talk to his mom about it to make things better, something he told me I should do, I was completely iced out of the family. He told me he didn’t want to break up with me bc that would “make me the victim.” I felt I had no other choice to do it for him. I’m devastated. He won’t even respond to my attempts to ask him how he is doing. If I’m completely honest with myself, I know that we probably wouldn’t have made it anyway, as the problems we had in our relationship existed before cancer. But I can’t help but feel guilty, like I was asking someone who is sick for too much. And now I’m the gf who broke up with the guy who had cancer. I just wanted to share this with you. I don’t know why.

    I hope you’re doing well, and even though I don’t know you, I have no doubt that you will find the person with whom to share your life, including the scarlet letter “C.” You’re a hero, and you should know that.

    1. Dearest Abby, Have you seen Aladdin? One of my favorite parts was how the Genie gave rules for what he couldn’t do; making people fall in love with you is one that always stood out as a big WOW. Take from Genie Abby, you can’t make anyone love you.
      To be honest, he could be pushing you out in order to “protect you, a ploy that I have done as well.
      I know you’re scared, I know you are plagued with an overwhelming sadness, but remember your feelings matter just as much as his, you went to therapy, you were doing the work to make this work, but if the other person is not willing to help you push the heavy rock up the hill, it’s going to roll back down every time and that’s just not a parable that’s actual science. ha ( could’t help myself) But going back to your feelings, it’s so damn important that you receive the love you deserve. Take a look at all the things you were doing for him: Cooking, cleaning, paying the bills… you are amazing, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. True Story.

      After the results of his last treatment it’s understandable that he’s angry… trust me; like him, I was angry too and I admit I took it out on people, but I was fortunate enough to have friends intervene and say ” Hey, we’re all on the same team here! Don’t take it out on us” It didn’t take long to understand the importance of asking for help.

      I can assure you Abby, you were not asking for to much, you shouldn’t have to beg for the affection of someone you’re in a relationship with. Cancer or no Cancer. Also, it doesn’t matter what they family thinks or wants… It’s about you two. Keep in mind though that this is a pattern, before he was sick he wasn’t showing you the love you deserved either. You need to think about this; will this happen every time he faces a crisis? You deserve a partner. I hope this helps. Thank you so much for your kind words. Unfortunately I’m still having problems in the dating world….I’m actually going to be writing a new post about that soon.

      Thank you so much again for taking the time to read this blog and for your question.
      -Keith

  3. My boyfriend lives three states away. He has leukemia. Hes constantly sick. Constantly throwing up or in pain or with a way too high fever. I would be happy to deal with this in person. We’ve talked about me moving there. But he refuses to let me help and hes hardly strong enough to work. I’m not completely sure what to do. I love him with all my heart. But hes so far and so sick with no intentions of letting me help in any way. I’m at such a crossroads. I’m willing to move me and my son three states away from anyone I know to be with the man I love without knowing how things will end.. i know he loves me as much as I love him. It’s in the daily calls and pictures and shared I love yous. My parents are to the brink of kicking me out because I want to move so far away. And if they do and he won’t let me I’m out on my own. Do I end the relationship, or talk to him calmly about letting me come and help..?

    1. This is a tough call, Jasmine. I remember when I was sick I didn’t want anyone helping me either. Seriously, even when I was homeless and eating out of Garbage cans it took a while for me to ask for help. He may be genuinely afraid of you seeing him in that state or believe himself to be less of a man because of something he can’t control. Hell, it could be a mixture of both.

      The thing is you can’t really force him to accept help, he has to want it for himself. He could also be afraid because he thinks by accepting your help,that you could grow to despise him. Being a caregiver is difficult, definitely not for the faint of heart; he’s probably thinking about your son too.

      I would definitely suggest talking to him calmly, the thing is, he might not understand that even though he is sick, cancer knows no bounds and affects everyone in its path. You should explain to him your situation at home; I’m definitely not a fan of ultimatums, but there needs to be a stern conversation between the future of your relationship; if you both can’t find common ground then you may have to leave. A big part of relationships ( All of them) is that there all about compromise. Best of Luck Jasmine and just be open and honest about what scares you.

      -Keith

  4. I’m with this guy who knew lately that he has cancer in his stomach, He told me after two months of that. Anyway, I’m not breaking up on him for that I wish I could be by his side 24/7 but he’s far from me. And I’m breaking up because of normal relationships issues. But I don’t want to break his heart as he’s already suffering. I don’t know what to do I’m so confused 😦

  5. Keith,

    I give you a shitload of credit for your situation. The fact that you were homeless, have cancer, and have had the trials of breakups–yet still maintain a positive attitude without bitterness– is incredible. You’re an inspiration. Keep sharing your story.

  6. Hello Keith,

    Hope you’re doing well…
    I’m seeking help because I’m completely lost…

    I’ve met this girl a few months ago… We’ve seen each other at her work which I go fairly often in a daily basis but we never spoke what so ever.. one day something funny happened between us and I messaged her through facebook,,, She replied to me and out of the blue we connected… a few time passed and we opened about our past and current problems, which connected us even further… She told me that her grandmother had cancer and how close they were and on top of that that her father was also in the same situation… I always told her I’d be there for her and I’d love her regardless of the problems, which she replied with the same emotion… We’re so close and in love… Fast forward to last week, her father state gets worse and her mom is in the next day diasgnosed with breast cancer, my gf shuts down completely. I’ve never cared for anyone, this is my first time in my life that I genuanely care. And I don’t know what to do, so I tried to get closer to her and ask her to hang with me, I was trying to just make her stop thinking of this kind of things, trying to help her. She calls me and explains to me that her emotions are all over the place and she doesn’t even know how she feels about us. Tells me she doesn’t want me to stay with her because her family is dying and she doesn’t know how long until she can pull herself together. The thing is, I love her and I want to help her. I don’t want to leave her nor move on, I want to stick at her side for better or worse. But she is very independant in this type of situations and doesn’t accept my help, not anyones’ for that matter. I figure I’d give her space and see how things head but I’m also going down because apparently my mom has some marks on her lungs and she is doing a CAT scan next wednesday. But unlike my GF I’m different, even tho I’m a pretty cold person, very independant I started to relie alot on her, but now I don’t have her… She told me to give up of her because sh is a lost case and she doesn’t want my life to be stuck with her I deserve to be happy but she will always be there for me whenever I need her, but at the moment she wants to spend time with her family and doesn’t have head to think on relationships. The thing is I don’t want to give up, just 2 days before she finds out of her mom we were talking about plans to the future, once again open up to each other and then that happens. I’m not saying I don’t understand her… I’m trying to give her space even if it’s hard on me, the thing is, she seems to have given up and I don’t know how to bring her up again. Her case is not like yours, but I’m sure, unfortunately, you have been here before, and my question to you is, how can I help her without putting more pressure on her shoulders?

    Thanks in advance…

    1. This is a tough one! I’m sorry your family is going through something as well. Remember your girlfriend requires something totally different than you. She has a lot going on and the best thing for her might just be some space. You can’t really help someone who doesn’t want it. There’s a saying that goes ” when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” You’re going to have to let her go and let her figure out some things on her own.
      I would suggest surrounding yourself with people who care about you while your family goes through this unfair process as well.

  7. My boyfriend is unhappy with our relationship, and wants to break up. I’ve begged him to keep me in his life, to date me casually as a way for me to prove we ARE compatible. The only reason he is even entertaining this notion is to avoid hurting me – and because this week I shared with him that I’m having a possibly cancerous tumor removed from my ovary. I have loved him for more than 20 years and I’m absolutely broken hearted at the thought of never seeing him again. In the last hour, it occurred to me that I’m being selfish to try and keep him in my life, That if I truly love him, I need to let him go and not try to cling to him via my health scare.
    As I write this, I know what I have to do. Love him enough to let him go.

  8. I wish my ex would have read this before breaking up with me. A week or two before the breakup, I was diagnosed as terminal as my thyroid cancer went into my brain as well as kidneys and liver. He said he would be there for me. We had a lot of stress and drama. One ER visit, my father was with me and texted him that the doctors said to reduce stress. My dad said we (the ex and I) should work out our issues. My ex left. It hasn’t even been a week since that but he claimed that he couldn’t put the guilt and stress on me. Yet, he wanted to be friends and be there for me. The contradiction was laughable. There needs to be a handbook.

  9. Hey there..
    There was a point in time I was willing to stay with my partner even with his cancer, which was in remission for a few months now it’s back at a lesser stage. He broke up with me 2 months ago because he said it wasn’t fair to me. I was willing to make it work. He broke up with me and shut the door. It’s 2 wks later and he says he can’t live w/o me. That I’m his reason for fighting. My love for him has dissapaited. We had future plans. He proposed then reproposed. He wears his ring I don’t. I don’t believe in giving up on the ones you love but his cancer has led him to lie multiple times. I feel it’s best he focus on his kids and brand new grand baby. At times I feel he knows it’s not fair and simply just doesn’t want anyone to have me. I’m tired of waiting :(. My patience is almost depleted. I feel even if he kicked stage 2 stomach cancers ass I’d still have bitterness. How can someone who loves you so much tell you there in another state getting treatment when there really living with their ex wife. I’m at a loss. My heart is too big and naive. I feel for you..sry for my long tangent. You seem to have a heart of gold and an insatiable wit. Good luck to you and I’ll pray for a complete recovery!!

  10. Hi Keith,

    I met someone through free chat website 3 years ago. He has a bone cancer and has been struggling financially to pay for his medication and surgery. As you know it is not cheap and he has his family (mother and sister) who depends on him.

    We have been in ‘relationship’ (long distance relationship & we have never met each other yet) since 2 years ago and he has been very kind and loving to me. At first he promised me that he will undergo the first surgery in 3 months, however things turned out unfavorly and I trust him that he could make it through this somehow, but it has been 3 years and there is barely any improvement and there are no financial support to do his surgery.

    I feel very sad and conflicted. On one side I linger for face to face relationship. On the other side, I love him. There has been times where we fight and wanting to leave him because he doesnt make any progress. It breaks him and he said without me he loses his hope and goal, and considering to kill himself. We reconcile and set a new goal everytime.

    Please advise me what should I do? how should I talk to him. What should I say, I am afraid he will kill himself because I leave.

    1. This is a very difficult situation! You should never let someone manipulate you. I understand that you’re scared that he may do something, having said that, he is an adult, who has the power to make his own choices; he can’t put that on you.
      I find it very odd that you haven’t met yet, in my honest opinion I feel that in order to truly continue with this relationship, you have to go to the next step. Which in this case, would be meeting each other.
      I hope this helps and I hope you get a face to face interaction with him. All the best!

  11. This is the first time during my cancer journey that I decided to look this up, or anything like this. Its nice to know that another 20-30 something knows what it feels like.
    My ex left after I was diagnosed and I’ve noticed a trend the last couple years that it’s hard for others to have a bright eyed 20 something basically be a walking reminder of death. The classic reflexes of, “im so sorry”s, “you don’t look like you have cancer”s and timid questions. It’s interesting seeing how so many people aren’t comfortable with death… It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my journey. Especially in the “cancer limbo” game. Thank you for this! I would love a pen pal, or to talk about our experiences some more! Lol

    1. Hey Ariel! I’m always up for meeting new people and talking about our shared experiences! You are definitely not alone and I am so happy that this blog was there for you!
      Just yesterday, someone who I was seeing told me that they were no longer seeing me after I had to go to the hospital for chest pains. She didn’t even wait for the next day, she told me through text message, right after the hospital. Ha. People are funny.

      Trust me, Ariel. You are definitely not alone. This is a time where your true friends will reveal themselves and step out of the shadows I.E. Hydra or Ninja Turtles ( I’ll let you pick) and more importantly, you’ll learn how to laugh at the ridiculously absurd questions you hear every day.

      Keep on Keeping on, Ariel! I just added you on instagram! keithwalker456

  12. My boyfriend was diagnosed with multiple myeloma a year ago, we had been dating for six months before he was diagnosed. I was having thoughts of breaking up with him at the time right before his diagnosis because of his tendency to always be half and hour to and hour late to our dates and it made me feel like my time wasnt valuable to him. I had been mulling it over in my head for a few days before he dropped the news on me that his childhood cancer had returned. It was a big shock and i felt that the right thing to do was to stay with him and support him through this time. He has a lot of problems with his older brother and sister in law who he lives with and financial struggles as an independent international uni student with massive fees to pay. Add to that the pain of daily therapies and additional cancer treatment costs, i didnt want to liad him with another stress of a breakup and i thought i could work past the issue with him. He is still highly functional and has not stopped his fulltime job but he has been struggling a lot and occasionally cries on the phone with me. It makes me feel horribly guilty for wanting to break up with him but if im being honest to myself he isnt a very nice person. Hes met all of my friends, who come to visit from another country where they live, but he never introduces me to his friends who live in the same area as us and who he has them over to his house for barbeques almost every weekend. He has never invited me to these barbeques either saying that he wants to keep his private life private. He never touches me in public, not even holding hands but always wants me to have sex with him whenever we are alone and doesnt take no for an answer. Recently the cancer spread up his spine to his shoulder but he had to skip a week of treatment because he couldnt pay for it. I didnt even know about it until two days ago. He never likes to talk about his treatment or his cancer so i dont often ask prying questions, and he didnt tell me until two days ago. I offered to give him some money for this weeks treatment but he refused and refused for days until recently he accepted and went back to his regular therapies. During this time i had no idea what was wrong and had no idea he was stressing about this and so i would get annoyed at his odd behaviour until he dropped the bomb. He often dishes out information like this as rewards or punishment when ive passed or failed a secret test hes been conducting in our conversations. And its mostly bad news about his health or family situation at home that ends up with me feeling guilty for not having enough empathy for his situation that i had no idea about. Hes always been a gym junkie and has big pride about his body but now because of his cancer he hasnt been able to workout as much and is starting to see the small changes. He stares in the mirror a lot. Before his cancer he nicknames me fat?? Whenever he calls me on the phone he would call me fat like that was my name. It was always a joking tone because im not a gym junkie like him and im a little soft in the belly but i harldy weigh 50kgs and ive never thought i was fat before, little bit chubby yes but not fat?? But nowadays hes been telling me to lose weight because “youre getting fatter” and he sort of puts the word fat before my name whenever he calls me. It never bothered me before but its taking an effect on me now because it seems kind of cruel?? I dont know. Hes always seems to be joking and whenever i bring it up and ask him not to do it he brushes it off saying its just a joke and i shud unclench. I tried to have a conversation with him about how some of the things he says a cruel and hurtful but he so of diverts the conversation to say how he says forceful things to make me more motivated. I feel to tired and find it pointless to argue with him but i dont want to hurt his feelings. Three months ago his docter gave him one month prognosis but they are trialling a more aggressive treatment which allowed him to survive this long. He is scheduled to fly back to his country to have a major surgery to remove his tumor in mid December but when this was scheduled they didnt this the cancer would spread. Im really nervous for him and i really care for him but im finding it really difficult to deal with his treatment of me. I dont think this is how a relationship shud be?? I only wish he would treat me with a little kindness but that seems to be entirely not within his nature or he thinks that his tough love is a kindness to me. Ive become drepressed and lonely. And I desperately want to break it off but his future is so uncertain and i dont think ill be able to live with myself if i abandon him especially if he might die. I dont know what to do. I know he knows that im quite frustrated in our relationship but he doesnt do anything about it.

    1. This is unfortunate, just because he’s sick doesn’t give him permission to treat you like garbage! 50 kg is like 110 pounds; that’s insane that he’s asking you to lose weight… First of all, never let a man tell you what to do with your body, second, you don’t have to stay in a relationship with someone who belittles you. You can still be friends and worry about him but the way he treats you is not okay. Relationships are not about finding someone who completes you but compliments who you are.

  13. Keith,

    I guess my situation is kind of the opposite of yours but it still sucks either way. My boyfriend and I have been together for about 4 years. He knew going in that I was sick and still decided to stay with me. We eventually moved in together but it began to bug me that he wouldn’t go with me to my appointments and treatments. He would tell me he was going to go and then never get up in the morning. He also never inquired about my health; I would have to update him when things happened. There were other little things here and there but for the most part I appreciated his support and love through this difficult time. Things began to look up; I was tentatively given the all clear and we happily began to seriously plan a life together; we contacted an agent to start looking for a house of our own.
    Everything came to a screeching halt a few days ago. A routine scan came up with something and back I went to the hospital. I sat there, alone, while the doctor gave me a 2-5 year life estimate. My boyfriend and I were going to go look at houses tomorrow. I was in shock. I somehow made it home and was unable to say anything quite yet, as it takes me a while to process things. The next morning, we woke up ready to go see the houses and I still couldn’t tell him the devastating news. I wanted today to be nice; I stupidly figured I could tell him later. But as the day wound down, I still stayed silent. Inside I was screaming but I couldn’t make my lips say the words.
    My boyfriend lost his father to cancer and it wrecked him. All I could think was that I couldn’t do that to him again. He wants a house, a family, a future and I feel as though I can’t give him any of that. I panicked and I ran. I’m not proud of it but I thought I was protecting him. I packed my things and was gone in an hour and when he stood in the doorway, asking why, I gave him a bullshit excuse about how we weren’t working out. I know it wasn’t right to take that decision away from him but I want to spare him from watching someone he loves die again. I f our roles were reversed, I know I wouldn’t be able to stand losing him. And I also want to protect myself; I’m afraid that he would agree to be there and then not be able to take it as the end draws near.
    I feel so alone because I shut him out but I feel that he’s better off without me. I’ll be alright on my own, I always have been. I don’t need to drag him down with me. Maybe that’s stupid but I just can’t do that to someone I love so dearly.

    -Talia

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