Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Your Turn: “My Boyfriend’s Cancer is Coming Between Us”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

I have been with my boyfriend for ten months and it was perfect at first — a few arguments here and there which normal — but we’ve been having problems for the last three weeks. He was diagnosed with cancer six months ago. Since I live in Canada and he moved to the US for his treatment, our arguments increased due to the distance issue. However, he would always accommodate me and would come see me here and there and, of course, we talked on the phone regularly. Due to the medication that he has been receiving, his blood pressure is extremely high so when I met him three weeks ago, we got into a heated argument but made sure to resolve it before he left a day two later. He also had a huge fight with his parents regarding personal issues.

Ever since than, he has been distant and stonewalling me. He blames me and his parents for emotionally and mentally abusing him because we fight and argue with him. He says he is disgusted by the thought of me and his parents. He does still talk to me on the phone (not as often though) but hardly speaks. He says he doesn’t know what to say. I tried apologizing for my immaturity and asked him for another chance but all I hear is: “I wanna be left alone.” I give up. I don’t know what to do. I have become extremely depressed because we were very close emotionally.

The more he distances himself from me, the more I nag and act needy. We were so happy. He even admits to the fact that we had a perfect relationship but somehow blames me for always arguing with him. He says I have lost him and he doesn’t feel emotions for anyone at all and that he has to “bear” my voice when he talks to me. Please let me know what I can do to help him (he says there’s nothing I can do to help him because he doesn’t need pity, care or love from anyone) and what I can do to help this relationship and get back the person I fell in love with. — Sick of His Cancer

96 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Desiree May 25, 2011, 3:10 pm

    Oh, goodness. I almost don’t know what to say. Here goes: your (essentially now ex) boyfriend is going through a traumatizing and expensive experience. You only had four normal months together before your relationship became long distance AND experienced a major challenge. You didn’t have the foundation built to handle this. Moreover, your boyfriend has checked out; you need to start referring to him as your ex. It sounds like, in addition to your arguments, he is projecting his stress onto you and the relationship. The only thing you can give him now is the space to get better. For what it is worth, reading between the lines, it sounds as though you two were perhaps not compatible enough to start.

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  • avatar

    spanishdoll May 25, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I’m so sorry, LW, this doesn’t sound fun at all, especially since you’re working so hard to support your boyfriend! I wonder if the treatments and you know, having cancer, paired with the high blood pressure is making him a little irrational. It sounds like he needs a little bit of time to himself to get a grip on this new phase in his life, and that it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you or the strength of your relationship.

    I would suggest a few things here….first and foremost is that he talk to his doctor about this new medication, and see if maybe he can try a different one. Sounds like he may be having a rough reaction to the medication, and perhaps it’s making him stressed or angry. Second, I would suggest to him that he might want to see a counselor in his area, as isolating himself will only do more damage. And third, I would have an open discussion with him about whether he needs some time apart from the pressure of a long-distance girlfriend…not necessarily a break, but maybe a week or two without communication so he can get his head on straight and figure out what he needs from you.

    I don’t know if that suggestion works for you or your relationship, but he may really just need a few days where he doesn’t have the pressure of having to verbalize his emotions. Maybe he just needs to process everything internally for a bit?

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    • avatar

      spanishdoll May 25, 2011, 5:39 pm

      Oops, didn’t realize they had only been together 4 months before the move…I thought they had been together for a few years 🙁

      Yeah, I guess I agree with everyone here that says it’s probably best to back off completely, since you never really had the time to create a long-lasting bond. You will never feel satisfied by having to support him miles away, and he doesn’t seem invested in your future as a couple.

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    • avatar

      HM May 25, 2011, 6:35 pm

      I actually like your initial comment. Just because he is going through a terrible ordeal and they haven’t spent a significant amount of time together, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need her support. There are all kinds of thoughts running through his head right now and we don’t know why he is saying what he is. I know some people tend to isolate themselves when something terrible happens in order to protect those near to them. The fact he is stating similar thoughts about his relationship with his parents makes me think it could be something deeper than just the fact the LW and he haven’t been dating that long.
      I agree that you should have a talk with him and/or write a letter detailing your remorse for the fight, your concerns, and your long term intentions. If you feel prepared to be a supportive figure as he battles this, state that and then give him some time to mull it over. He may want to cut contact. Or he may take your advise. Or he may confide more in you. There is no way to know but the best you can do is be honest with him in a non-confrontational way and then let him decide what he wants. Just be sure you are also true to yourself and you wants/needs.

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      • avatar

        spanishdoll May 25, 2011, 6:58 pm

        Yeah, I was also trying to view the situation from *her* point of view., as if one of my best friends asked me for advice with this problem. I know everyone wants to jump on her back and say she’s being selfish or that he never wants to hear from her again, but we don’t know whether that’s the case. Either way, he’s reacting wildly to the very real stress in his life, and she needs to find out how she fits into the equation.

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    NOLAGirl May 25, 2011, 3:14 pm

    As much as I hate to say this LW, I don’t think you can do anything. He’s made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to be with you. If he didn’t have cancer, you would just MOA. I think that’s the same thing you have to do here. You’ve offered to change, but he’s made it pretty explicitly clear he’s not having it. If you want to give it one last ditch effort, you may be able to explain that you’ll respect his wishes, but you still care for him and if he needs anything to call then pack up and MOA.

    Then it’s seriously time for you to move on. I don’t think that pushing to be with him will do anything but cause him more stress and pain and make you seem a little clingy/crazy (as in “what part of no does this chick not understand”). Maybe his treatment is causing him to withdraw from people? Or maybe his cancer diagnosis made him re-evaluate his life and where he is and what he wants. Regardless of it, he’s made it clear he does not want to be involved with you right now. The simple fact of the matter is: cancer or no cancer, you can’t make him want to be with you. If he’s pulling away, you can’t do anything but let him go. Maybe things will work out down the road, maybe they won’t. The best you can do is offer him your friendship and an ear when he needs it – then to pack your proverbial bags and move on.

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  • avatar

    cmarie May 25, 2011, 3:15 pm

    So he’s the only one who had been making an effort to see you in person? Have you ever gone to visit him instead of forcing the poor guy with cancer to travel and see you? No wonder he’s feeling burned out and stonewalling you! The guy has cancer, do you understand that? He’s tired and sick and scared and he has to deal with you nagging him. The fact is, you will never get the guy you fell in love with back. That guy is gone and the man who is fighting cancer has replaced him. Emotionally, physically, he’s obviously not healthy enough for this relationship. You want to be there for him? Why don’t you actually try being there. Go visit him and instead of arguing be supportive. Try going to his doctor visits, sitting with him in the infusion (if that’s what he’s getting) room. Be supportive, don’t nag, don’t argue. Tell him that you love him and you’re sorry for the way you’ve acted. You’re lonely and you miss him and you’re scared that you’ll lose him. I’m guessing that’s the real reason why you’re acting up, not because of the distance, but because you’re scared. Remember that so is he. Give him space if that’s what he needs and reassure him that you’re there for him. Most importantly, if you can’t be strong enough to be there for him and forgo you own neediness for a bit then you need to let him go. He can’t concentrate on getting better while taking care of you at the same time.

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    • avatar

      Amber May 25, 2011, 3:23 pm

      I so agree with your comment. That’s what stuck out to me in the letter too. She’s mentioning what her bf with cancer is doing to support her but not he other way around! And I agree going and doing something sounds like a lot better plan than continuing to talk. The way the letter was written it doesn’t sound like she’s even sent the guy a care package.

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    • avatar

      DramaQueen224 May 25, 2011, 3:30 pm

      I agree. When someone is in the middle of a serious and scary illness, their needs take priority over other people’s needs. I know that a 3 paragraph letter can’t explain the entirety of your relationship, but it’s sounding like you’re giving your own needs equal or greater priority than your boyfriend’s. If you want to get through this, than that needs to stop immediately. Stop arguing with him and stop insisting that he talks on the phone with you when he’s told you he wants to be left alone.

      I would recommend apologizing, telling him that you love him and understand he needs some space and that you’ll call him only once a day/every other day/week/whatever and if he wants to talk he can pick up, and if he doesn’t you’ll understand and just leave a message. Be sure to spend most of the time talking about him and things he likes to talk about during these phone calls.

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    • avatar

      jessielyn May 25, 2011, 3:37 pm

      This is exactly what I thought too. I see her saying he doesn’t visit me enough, he doesn’t want to talk on the phone enough. If I was going through something like this and my bf was nagging me about the fact that I don’t visit enough, I would push him away too. If you really care about him and want to make it work LW, you need to make more of an effort. Go visit him, maybe take him some special things from home that he can’t get where he lives now. Get him out of the house and doing something fun. Be supportive when he wants to talk about his illness, and be understanding when he doesn’t.

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    • avatar

      Bethany May 25, 2011, 4:01 pm

      Perfectly said!!

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    • avatar

      PFG-SCR May 25, 2011, 4:11 pm

      I agree – right now, all of his energy should be spent fighting for his life, not on fighting with her. More than anything, he needs a friend in her, and she really needs to put her desires aside and be the best friend she can possibly be to him based on what he wants and needs. 

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    • avatar

      Britannia May 25, 2011, 3:24 pm

      THANK YOU. I was hesitant about saying these things because I was worried they would be too harsh on someone in a very sad situation, but I really think that this girl is being incredibly selfish and unhelpful. The LAST thing someone needs while dealing with cancer is a nagging, self-centered person stirring up drama for them.

      If she can’t be supportive, and put his needs first while he fights for his life, then she needs to get out of his life. I really hope that she can figure out how to be there for him in a positive way.

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      • avatar

        MAC2011 May 26, 2011, 8:57 am

        Well said! I couldn’t agree more. She should be more supportive of his needs at this time in his life. I think he probably needs some time to just come to terms with his illness & was probably looking to her for some support but she was too concerned about the distance between them. I mean this poor man has cancer, his bp is out of control & he’s had to move far away from his fam & friends and if that’s not enough his gf is arguing with him! I’m depressed just reading about it!

        I also agree that he should try & speak to someone.

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    • avatar

      dude May 26, 2011, 2:59 pm

      what stuck out to me in this letter was: “me me me” “why doesn’t he pay attention to me”

      guy has cancer, still comes to visit this … woman….and he argues with him about some shit.

      listen woman, you got huge problems, you need to go see Dr. Phil or something.

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  • becboo84

    BecBoo84 May 25, 2011, 3:17 pm

    First of all, I am so sorry that you and your boyfriend are dealing with the cancer. You don’t say what type it is, but regardless, that has to be extremely scary for not only your boyfriend, but for you as well.

    However, girlfriend… your boyfriend is dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Cut him some slack. The last thing he needs to be dealing with right now, on top of everything else, is a needy girlfriend who fights and argues with him. Not only is he dealing with cancer, but he’s dealing with it all by himself hundreds (or potentially thousands, not sure of the exact locations) of miles away from his support system. If you want to hold onto this guy, you need to get it together. Right now, your job is to do the best job you can supporting your boyfriend. If that means biting your lip sometimes instead of expressing your irritation about something, please just do it. The medicines he’s taking could also be impacting his mood, so that could contribute to the increased irritability. On a final note, I am not sure why your cancer stricken boyfriend is always the one coming to visit you. Depending on his condition, travel could be quite difficult for him, and he would probably appreciate it if you sometimes came to visit him.

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  • avatar

    Amber May 25, 2011, 3:17 pm

    He is probably pushing you and his family away because either he a) has no capacity right now for drama/arguements, or b) he doesn’t want to be a burden.

    He is also lilkely depressed, stressed, and god knows what else.

    Also, you did not really have a solid foundation before this happened – you were only together a few months.

    I would back way WAY off, and follow his lead. Be a friend and an ear when he needs it, and try not to put any of your own expectations/needs on him. He clearly has enough on his plate (that doesn’t give him permission to be an ass though). Wait until he wants to talk about restarting the relationship.

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    • avatar

      The_Yellow_Dart May 25, 2011, 3:33 pm

      I definitely agree with this. The thing that struck me most about the letter was that the letter-writer and her boyfriend had only been together four months before he was diagnosed with cancer (ten months together now minus the six months since the diagnosis). That is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a new relationship! I think Amber’s advice, especially here, is quite good: “Be a friend and an ear when he needs it, and try not to put any of your own expectations/needs on him.” Best of luck to you and your boyfriend!

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  • avatar

    LolaBeans May 25, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Cool it, lady.
    It sounds pretty selfish of you when you say that “he would always accommodate me.. etc”… why should he accommodate YOU?!… Sigh.
    shouldn’t you be making his life a little easier? I’m not say treating him differently than you normally would if he didn’t have cancer.. but damn. cut him some slack.
    if you don’t, you see how your boyfriend reacts. he has some really big issues to resolve, painful treatments… this added stress is probably very bad for his health.
    i’d say you should back off.

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  • avatar

    Theenemyofmyenemyisagrilledcheesesandwich May 25, 2011, 3:31 pm

    Hey LW,
    I don’t really know where to start, because if I were your boyfriend I don’t think I’d have the energy to fight either. I think all I would be able to do is think about what this diagnosis may mean; whether I would be able to fight and survive it (and how I would deal with the life-long specter of it coming back) or whether I would need to prepare myself for the possibility that the next year/months/weeks are all I have between now and death. So if your boyfriend has had counseling to deal with this change in his life, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not taking it well, and it bleeds out into other areas of his emotional life.

    I know you were very happy, but that changes even in relationships untouched by disease. I would venture that what might have been a small fight between you otherwise could be a relationship ending fight when pushed through the lens of “cancer.” If you want to stick it out and get back “the person you fell in love with,” you should realize that things get shitty when people are thrust close to their own deaths. People don’t stop needing the love and care of friends and family, but they may push that away as they attempt to cope with their own feelings of bodily and emotional vulnerability.

    At the same time, you can’t force someone to share that vulnerability, even though you may be a benefit in the long run. So I see a couple options: 1) you can move on. Caring as you do for him, this seems unlikely. 2) you can go on as before, but this obviously isn’t working. 3) you can take a step back and make a declaration (to him) that you will be a supportive partner if or when he needs you to be, but you will give him the space to process what he’s going through, even though that process may involve bouts of depression and hopelessness. Then you can try and get in touch with a counselor who deals with issues like cancer diagnoses, for you. This can’t be easy on your either, but your support center to deal with your grief over this diagnosis needs to be someone other than your boyfriend at this time. They may help you to see ways in which his behavior might fall under common reactions to life-altering diseases, or to see that his behavior is unique, which is something to consider as the relationship moves ahead.

    Good luck.

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  • avatar

    BoomChakaLaka May 25, 2011, 3:35 pm

    I don’t know too much about cancer/medication, but I am pretty sure no bodily condition or medication causes you to be rude to someone. Really? He has to “bear your voice” when he talks to you and he has “no emotions for anyone.” I understand he is going through a tough time, but again, that doesn’t give you the right to project your anger/depression on those that love you the most.

    I noticed that you wanted to know what to do to help him and make things better and are clearly not considering leaving him. That’s fine and dandy, but you do need to tell him that if you are going to remain in his life, he’s going to need to fix that attitude. Just as this diagnosis is tough on him, its going to be tough on you too. Communicate that you’ll be there for him, actually listen to him when all he wants to do is rant and complain, BUT do not accept when he belittles you because he’s upset at his life/current situation.

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    • avatar

      Desiree May 25, 2011, 3:41 pm

      Actually, cancer treatments can induce mood changes. Not to mention the emotional issues of a (presumably) young man facing illness and possible death.

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    • avatar

      Amber May 25, 2011, 3:47 pm

      Perhaps the emotional toll having cancer takes on someone is causing him to react differently than he did before. And he’s saying this after a fight, after he’s said he’s done, while it might be an unkind way to get his point across maybe it’s the only way he feels he can get his point across. And other than phone calls from her the letter makes it sound like he’s doing all the travelling and supporting of the relationship.

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    • avatar

      BoomChakaLaka May 25, 2011, 4:24 pm

      Ok, mood changes, fine. But should cancer and/or related treatments be a vehicle for someone to be rude and disrespectful? Not really.

      I think he still needs a stern talking to to let him know that yes, things are going tough right now, but that doesn’t give him permission to be a bad boyfriend/person. They are still in a relationship and just as much as she need to respect the fact that he is going to need space, time, and understanding to process this life changing event, she’s also going to need him to cooperate.

      I’m sorry, but I refuse to let a diagnosis, terminal or otherwise, be used as some sort of portal to disrespect. For me, his vocabulary is a bit overboard. There’s a difference between “I’m having a bad day, please leave me alone” and “I can’t stand the thought or sight of you right now. Go away.”

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      • avatar

        cmarie May 25, 2011, 4:32 pm

        He’s being a bad boyfriend??? He’s been traveling back and forth to see while going through chemo treatment and believe, than in and of itself makes him the best boyfriend in the world! Trust me, chemo is exhausting, painful, emotionally and physically draining. The fact that he’s managed to be there for her as much as he has is amazing to me. Right now he is physically and emotionally raw. And yes, some chemo meds can turn you into a completely different person. Some patients even end up on steroids. Combine all that with the fact that he is literally fighting for his life, against his own body to boot, and I’d say he has an excuse for telling her she’s too much for him. And, she’s the one calling him, not the other way around. He has made if very clear that she is taking too much out of him and he doesn’t have any more to give. She is the one who refuses to accept that. He isn’t being rude, he is being a guy going through the most difficult thing he will ever experience miles away from home, his friends, his family, all the while trying to keep her and ,it seems from the letter, his parents happy. He is making all the effort to be a “good” boyfriend to her, but he just doesn’t have anything left for her.

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        Britannia May 25, 2011, 4:38 pm

        He’s been traveling back and forth to see while going through chemo treatment and believe, than in and of itself makes him the best boyfriend in the world!

        No one has addressed the fact that this girl seems to be completely ungrateful for the fact that the boyfriend actually got onto a plane MORE THAN ONCE while he has DANGEROUSLY HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. Honestly, emotional stress plays a big, big role in the way someone recovers. I’d venture to say that this girl is actually making it harder for this guy to fight his disease, not only because of the constant emotional berating, but also because she’s forcing him to put her first and to do dangerous things in order to make her happy.

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      • avatar

        LolaBeans May 25, 2011, 4:33 pm

        maybe she is just nagging that much, that these statements are the only way he can get across to this girl to get out of his life.
        seems to me as much, anyway.

        and yes, i do think that a terminal illness does give you a pass when it comes to your attitude and what you say. it can cause depression, it can cause imbalances in your life.
        its not like you now have this illness and your body, head, mind, spirit feel as they do before. maybe there are no good days.

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      • avatar

        Britannia May 25, 2011, 4:35 pm

        It sounded to me like this guy has tried very hard to accommodate the girlfriend and be a good boyfriend, and she just hasn’t been appeased. It sounds to me like she’s already forced him to the end of his rope, and the only way he can get his point across now is to be rude.

        Try imagining being diagnosed with cancer, and going through chemotherapy, and then having to go home and be bitched at by your long-distance girlfriend that you’re not doing enough for her. It’d be pretty damn hard to NOT be rude in that situation. This guy has been a saint… this girl is causing him drama, and hurting his relationship with his parents (who, presumably, are helping take care of him through this ordeal), and being completely unsympathetic to all the stresses he’s been dealing with. I would’ve dumped her ass a long time ago.

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      LTC039 May 25, 2011, 4:47 pm

      Ehh, If I was the LW’s bf, I probably would’ve already broken up with her. From her letter, she seems unsupportive & even uncertain of how to handle this situation. Like everyone is saying, they barely have a foundation to begin with. It is well proven that invasive treatments & meds alter your mood & behaviors. Everybody’s different, some people cry at the drop of the hat, some people get angry, some people are very peaceful.
      Maybe his words were rude, but in this situation, are well meritted seeing as he is, like @Amber said, a young man facing a very serious diagnosis that could possibly be fatal, & he clearly has people in his life that are not getting what he is going through.

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      • avatar

        BoomChakaLaka May 26, 2011, 9:08 am

        Ok, well it seems as though I’ve been told. God forbid, if I’m ever in this situation where someone I love is going through something like this, and I find that they are getting crabby, I think I’ll just take a step back from my relationship with that person rather than telling them to re-think their attitude. It might lead to a more fruitful ending anyway.

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      • parton_doll

        parton_doll May 26, 2011, 10:05 am

        I get what you’re saying, although I don’t agree … I see where you’re coming from. And please don’t think my response is a criticism, hopefully it will bring somewhat of his point of view to light a little more.

        Two years ago, I suffered through a debilitating blood disorder that completely tore me down. I could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom I had so little energy. And the meds they had me on made me so sick, I couldn’t think about food without being sick constantly. All my energy had to be used to survive. I clearly remember not being the nicest person … telling my fmaily that I wanted to be left alone, not wanting to talk to them on the phone, getting angry and overreacting at little things … because I just didn’t have the energy. It’s so hard to deal with yourself when you’re that sick much less anyone else.

        I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their understanding, because where there was and is no excuse for my behavior, I honestly couldn’t help it. My life was hanging in the balance, I didn’t know IF I would get better and all my energy had to be devoted to me. Every rare moment that I felt well, I would apologize profusely and tell them how much I love them. Luckily, my husband, parents, and siblings and I all have enough history for them to know that it wasn’t really me being horrible to them intentionally … it was me fighting to be well. When you don’t have that history, it’s harder to tell if it is that person’s personality or if it is the sickness.

        Again, I didn’t mean to criticisize … just offer some additional insight. I don’t think most sick people intend to be ugly. My family did call me out when I was being too much (and I agree with that) but it wasn’t my intention to be horrible. And the fact that they did it with love and not being demanding made all the difference.

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      Sarah May 26, 2011, 4:39 pm

      I just wanted to point out that some medications DO cause mood swings and changes. My mom is being treated for lymphoma right now, and she will be the first to tell you that she is a crazy person on the amount of Prednisone she’s on. If the boyfriend is going through chemo, then he’s having huge amounts of poisonous drugs being pumped through his system— he’ll feel like crap frequently, exhausted, and drugs that will cause him to feel emotional and frustrated, and he’s probably scared. I absolutely have to cut her slack when she’s being crazy, because I know that she’s sick and worried.

      I don’t want to sound preachy, but the LW should realize that these drugs are completely transformative (and not in a good way) and the onus is on her to support him and make accommodations for him.

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  • avatar

    Desiree May 25, 2011, 3:38 pm

    I just don’t see how there is hope for the relationship. Maybe if she had sought to change the status quo two months ago, but not now. If he can’t stand the sound of her voice, seeing her in person probably isn’t going to do much for him. I suspect that much of his reaction is because of his illness, but they just don’t have the foundation to weather this. Four happy months, during which they were just discovering what lay beneath the typical dating facade, will not carry them through what could be years of battling cancer.

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  • avatar

    cdobbs May 25, 2011, 3:39 pm

    i don’t think your first concern should be how to get the relationship back on track, your boyfriend has cancer. not sure how serious the diagnosis, but i’m sure he is terrified right now. your only goal right now should be how to help him get better, even if that means leaving him alone and not stressing him out (which is the worst possible thing for your immune system, which you need to fight the cancer).

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  • Budj

    Budjer May 25, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Why didn’t you go visit him?….he was the one with cancer and it sounds like you put too much stress on him during this ordeal without realizing how you were affecting him. He has checked out and is projecting on to you, pushing you away, or pushing you away by projecting on to you. This is a tough one to walk away from, but I think that is your best option in the short term.

    I would let him know that you are sorry for how your actions affected him and that you will be, want to be, and hope to be there if he needs anything or changes his mind…only if you mean it…and let him get through this.

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  • avatar

    Handy May 25, 2011, 3:58 pm

    I was with my dad as he died of cancer, and with my mom as she went through treatments, so I know what cancer and cancer treatments take out of a person.

    So, I’m going to play a version of Wendy’s “If He Asked” and answer this from a cancer patient’s perspective….

    If he had written in and said, “I am fighting the fight of my life and the treatment is taking everything out of me. To add to the stress of this, I’m far from home and my parents and my girlfriend of 10 months argue and fight with me. It’s bad enough that the meds are messing with my blood pressure, the girl friend seems to think having a heated argument is somehow helpful. She wants me to travel up to Canada to be with her and basically wants me to be who I was before I got sick, but I can’t now. I just can’t.

    I wish I could have support from the people that I would have thought would “be there” for me during this, but honestly, they are draining what little the cancer and the cancer treatments have left me. It’s bad enough dealing with my parents, but the girlfriend keeps calling me, acting as if she’s the needy one and the wronged one, and frankly I just am to the point that I can’t bear her anymore. I’ve told her she disgusts me, I’ve told her I want to be left alone, I’ve told her I can’t even bear her voice and yet, somehow, the calls keep coming in.

    What should I do?

    To which I would reply….”Don’t answer her calls anymore. You need to get well and having people draining you with drama and fighting and neediness right now is darn near unforgivable. You’ll have to decide how to handle your parents, because the parent/child relationship is a foundational relationship in life. It’s probably best that you keep clear of them until you are well, and then perhaps some therapy will help you in how to deal with parents who dragged you down when you most needed their support.

    But, a demanding girlfriend of only 10 months who is expecting you to meet her needs and toe her lines when you are dealing with cancer? Heck, get a restraining order if you need to, but get her out of your life! And, many prayers for a full recovery from the cancer and a future filled with love and laughter.

    That’s what I would say, if it had been him who had asked…to you, I say…Leave the poor guy alone!

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    • avatar

      Heidi May 25, 2011, 6:44 pm

      A thousand thumbs up to this!

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  • avatar

    Theresa May 25, 2011, 4:01 pm

    My husband died of pancreatic cancer 8 years ago. Like the boyfriend of the letter writer, my husband became angry and hostile. He blamed me for his illness, saying that it was because I did not cook him proper meals. His family also blamed me for not feeding him enough. He completely withdrew and refused to see anyone, not even a priest. He flew into a rage when friends visiting us pulled out the Bible.

    I tried very hard to be supportative, but it was very difficult with all this pressure. I finally lost my temper when the dietian scolded me for being selfish when I said that I did not have time to spend all day making him milkshakes because I worked full-time. In a similar fashion, some readers are condemning the letter writer for being selfish when she brings up her concerns to her boyfriend and reacts to his verbal abuse.

    I am very sorry that your boyfriend is being so difficult and that you are going through such a difficult situation. You and his parents are trying very hard to do the right thing for him and support him during his illness, but he is rejecting all your overtures. I know this is heart-breaking for you. Since he does not want to talk to you, I advise you to stop calling him and instead communicate via e-mail or letter to avoid arguments. Because you love him, not having communication will be very difficult for you and you will need the support of family and friends.

    Maybe you can continue your relationship if he recovers and feels better. Unfortunately you are now learning that your boyfriend’s way of dealing with stress is to lash out cruelly at the people closest to him, which makes a future relationship with him problematic if he does recover.

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      jessielyn May 25, 2011, 4:06 pm

      This is different though. It sounds like she is demanding that he come visit her and make time for her on the phone. You presumably were there for your husband and didn’t try to make him do things to prove that he appreciated you.

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      • avatar

        Amber May 25, 2011, 4:11 pm

        I’m very sorry for your loss Theresa, but as Jessielyn had said the way you told your story it is coming across very differently than the LW’s. While the LW might be supporting her bf the way she wrote her letter it comes across that he’s doing all the travelling, etc and she admitted to acting immature and needy. I think the reason people are saying things the way they are is because that is how the letter was written. If she had wrote in and said that she’d been doing as much for him and the relationship as he had and this is how he reacted it would have been different. And perhaps it is, it’s just the way the letter was written that is not the impression people are gettting.

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    Mandy May 25, 2011, 4:02 pm

    I had a non-invasive cancer at 19. I had a friend who made a very rude comment about me after my first surgery, and I immediately stopped talking to her. If someone isn’t there to support you 100%, then it’s really easy to think “I’m sick, you’re not standing by me, forget it”. I think that’s what your boyfriend is going through.

    I understand that arguments are part of a relationship, but please realize that he needs space at this point. Just offer a friendly ear and keep in touch with him at this point – when he’s recovered or in remission, then think of tackling a relationship again.

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      Britannia May 25, 2011, 4:41 pm

      It *is* very important to have people support you, and even put up with a little bit of your bullshit, when you’re going through something traumatic like this. When I had my spine destroyed (and hip broken, etc etc) last year, some people just completely faded out of the picture, while others unexpectedly came up to bat for me. Going through the recovery, and having people show “their true selves”, really changed my relationships… some have dissolved completely, while others have become incredibly strong. I think that when times get tough, people get real, and have realigned my relationships accordingly.

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      • avatar

        Mandy May 25, 2011, 4:58 pm

        It’s pretty amazing how that happens, I think.
        I had friends that stuck by me so strongly – a friend who I knew three months took the 2 hour drive to visit me after my surgery, while a friend I had known since 1st grade didn’t even bother to call.

        And I totally agree with your last sentence, by the way. 🙂

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    TheGirl May 25, 2011, 4:05 pm

    O.k., here goes. I haven’t really read all the other responses, but I do have some experience in dealing with a partner receiving life altering and stressful news like this. My husband has an incurable disease that is slowly destroying his brain function. It can make him moody and difficult to be around and, quite frankly, if I didn’t have the six year relationship base before his diagnosis, I don’t know if we would have made it.

    I think the hardest part of dealing with something like that is dealing with how everyone around you reacts. Parents want to fix it, but there is no fixing it, so they often lash out. They can’t handle the fact that their baby has something horrible wrong with him that they can’t fix. They grasp at straws and worry and just generally add stress. Its hard for them to just sit by and watch. Everyone else they talk to has pity in their voice and asks, “How ya’ feeling?” Like they’re 5 years old or something. Its condensing and frustrating. So, what I’m saying is that your boyfriend needs support, not nagging and definitely not pity. He needs someone who is willing to GO to the US and stand by his side. To get him lunch, and do the little things without patronizing him, making him feel like an invalid or making him feel guilty. To stand next to him at the doctors office and ask questions.

    To be honest, it just sounds like its too late and like you weren’t ready for that as a relationship. And, I think that’s o.k. You were only together for four months before his diagnosis, so there’s no shame in sitting back and letting him work through this. You probably don’t even KNOW each other well enough for you to provide the kind of support he needs. At this point all you can do is send him a simple, short message recognizing that you put stress on him at a difficult time, that you’re sorry and that if he ever wants to talk about anything to just let you know.

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      Quakergirl May 25, 2011, 9:56 pm

      First, I’m so sorry to hear that about your husband. That must be absolutely heartwrenching.
      And second, you give a great insight into this type of situation. Everyone around a person with a serious illness reacts, and often badly. People can sometimes be very absorbed in their own lives/feelings/reactions, which is normal, but when a loved one needs you, you pull it together and focus on their life, their needs, and their feelings. And, I will say, you’re right that they may not even know each other well enough for her to support him the way he needs it. Having been the sick person, I agree that it’s really tough to deal with the kind of social graces and whatnot that go along with people who are essentially strangers trying to be your immediate support team. I’m not saying it wasn’t nice to have people around to help, but most of the time, I preferred to have my best friend in my hospital room so that I didn’t feel guilty if I fell asleep midway through a conversation because I knew she didn’t care, or my mom cleaning up my puke so that I didn’t feel embarrassed. It’s tough enough being sick without having to worry about how you’re coming off socially.

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    Meg May 25, 2011, 4:07 pm

    Two things-
    1) It sounds like he might be dealing with some depression issues, which is completely normal for someone who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis/treatment, especially if the treatment has involved uprooting his life and leaving his support system behind in another country. Regardless, he should be getting some therapy to help him cope with that.

    2) This is going to sound harsh, but the way you are behaving right now doesn’t sound very supportive to someone going through cancer, depression, or both. Maybe that’s because you didn’t have enough of a foundation before the diagnosis for your relationship to weather the storm. If that’s the reality, that’s ok. But spare yourself and him the pain and MOA. If you do want to make it work, then you need to start being the supportive partner pronto. Be patient with him, travel to see him, and let your own needs take a back seat for a while. While you do have the right to expect him to be kind/respectful to you, you cannot expect him to “accommodate” you, do all the traveling, etc. His focus should be on beating his disease. Honestly, it may be a lost cause. I’m sure he feels like those who should have had his back through this process haven’t thus far, and is understandably resentful. But if there is any relationship left to save (and be honest with yourself- if you are invested enough to work to save it with as short a “good” period as you had), you are going to have to show him that he truly can lean on you through this major rough patch.

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      moonflowers May 26, 2011, 6:01 pm

      Agreed!

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    MiMi May 25, 2011, 4:13 pm

    As a cancer survivor and having gone through the utter misery of chemo and other treatment, I can only say that you soon discover who the energy vampires in your life are. It becomes very clear who is a taker, and dealing with the illness and the treatment doesn’t leave you with a lot of resources or an interest in putting up with any kind of bullshit behavior whatsoever. The man is facing a major life crisis – and apparently without the help and support of his girfriend or his parents! When he says you’ve lost him, believe it. This is not all about you, so have some dignity and pull yourself together and leave the man alone.

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      Britannia May 25, 2011, 4:42 pm

      Perfectly said — this girl really does sound like an emotional vampire.

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        SpaceySteph May 25, 2011, 5:36 pm

        I think thats a little harsh on the LW. I think people write these letters to Wendy in a state of melodrama that leaves them sounding a little more drama queened up than they really are. It doesn’t change the advice that she should probably bow out, but maybe the name calling is a bit harsh.

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        Britannia May 25, 2011, 6:03 pm

        This isn’t name-calling. ‘Emotional vampirism’ is a phrase used by psychologists, it’s a very colorful phrase but it couldn’t be more accurate. Read “Emotional Freedom” by Judith Orloff.

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      • katie

        Katie May 26, 2011, 1:50 am

        i dont think its harsh at all. this girl sounds very immature, and is acting like a needy high school girlfriend to a person who’s life could be ticking away right as we speak. this girl needs to get her priorities straight, grow up a little and figure out that cancer will always trump feelings

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    Theresa May 25, 2011, 4:14 pm

    TheGirl is so right about how it was more difficult to deal with people’s reactions than with my husband’s illness. To escape people’s pitying looks, I hid in the balcony during church services. I was also to ashamed to admit that my family and in-laws were refusing to help me. The most painful comments were from people who said that I was distraught because I lacked faith.

    I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult situation with your husband. I also hope that the letter writer can receive support from her family and friends. She is probably not there in person with her boyfriend because she cannot afford it.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph May 25, 2011, 4:22 pm

    “Please let me know what I can do …to help this relationship and get back the person I fell in love with.”

    Harsh and sad as this is to say, you need to move forward with the assumption that that person you fell in love with is gone. IF he beats this, and IF he recovers, that person MIGHT come back; more likely, your boyfriend will be permanently changed by this experience emotionally. I’m not saying that he will be like he is now forever, but try to imagine what it might be like to have your life turned upside-down and having to fight for your life in what is a long, painful process.

    You are clinging to a situation that no longer exists and probably never will return- the loving, carefree start of your relationship. And it sounds like you are not interested or welcome in the current situtation. I think the only thing you can do is respectfully and compassionately tell him that you want him to get better and you are clearly not able to help him in his fight. Tell him that you are available as a friend if he needs a shoulder to cry on, but cannot go on being his girlfriend. You dated the guy for four months before the situation changed drastically, you don’t owe him devotion as if you were his longtime partner or wife. You aren’t helping him and he isn’t giving you what you need either. Leave quietly, and as nicely as possible, without causing any more drama.

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  • avatar

    LTC039 May 25, 2011, 4:29 pm

    I know you love your boyfriend, & this situation is aboslutely awful…but, if you really really care about his feelings, you need to break up with him. He is telling you over & over again he wants to be alone, & with everything he must be going through right now, I understand him.
    Look, this situation is WAYYY tough, but at this point, there’s nothing you can do. The longer you stay in this relationship, the more damage will be done. I’m sure your boyfriend is undergoing some kind of side effects from his treatments, but if his parents, as well as you, are giving him a hard time that’s going to make him go off the wall.
    You need to have a serious talk with him. Tell you love him & because you love him you are going to end your romantic relationship. Let him know that you’ll be there if he needs you, but that your relationship is obviously causing more stress to his already terrible situation.
    I know from several people that cancer treatment is a long, tedious, & really painful process, add in constant fighting with parents & you s/o, I’m surprised he’s still sane! I’m sure the emotional stress is not helping him stay positive & stress-free in his treatment process. At this point, the line has been crossed, staying with him will make things worse. You can’t go back & undo everything. The only chance you have right now of ever saving this relationship for any possibilty of a future with him (God hoping) is to break up with him, right. now.
    Be strong, LW, I know it’s going to hurt like hell, but it’s what you have to do, for HIS sake. Good luck to you, I’m so sorry you’re going through this but I guarrantee ending this relationship will bring a LOT of positives in his life & yours (& hopefully reunite you two one day).

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    oldie May 25, 2011, 4:39 pm

    The bottom line may be that LW and her BF may not have gotten close enough in 4 months to handle the tremendous strain of cancer on top of a LDR. It would be easier to offer advice if there were more information from LW with regard to what she and her BF’s parents have been fighting with him about. It certainly sounds as if he is aggressively fighting his cancer and trying to have a future. If he were planning to just roll over and die, he would have stayed in Canada and gotten treatment that he viewed as less likely to succeed (although all my Canadian friends and in-laws are highly complimentary toward Canadian healthcare.) If you and his parents are arguing that he return to Canada for threatment, than whether or not you are right, you are trying to push him in a direction that he feels does not give him the best chance of survival. Or perhaps you are both pushing him to visit more frequently, which is too much for him, or he views you as too pessimistic or too naive about his prognosis. Can’t tell without more info.

    Do know that cancer treatment can quickly kill one’s libido, cause irritibility, and personality changes, at least during portions of the chemo cycle. My wife’s chemo hasn’t caused too severe symptoms, but does drastically disrupt her sleep for one out of three weeks. A friends husband gets irritible and seemingly annoyed with her at times and she has had to recognize that this is all part of the chemo cycle.

    I think the consequences of a partner with cancer are a lot easier to deal with, when you are already committed to each other, have the understanding that comes from a history together, and are living together. Not sure how I could handle it on a long-distance basis. Extreme worry would set in and the imagination would make things far worse than they are.

    The best you can do is try to be supportive, although things may have gotten beyond that point. I’m sorry for what you’re going through.

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  • avatar

    Elle May 25, 2011, 3:59 pm

    Your boyfriend has a cancer diagnosis, he moved to the US for treatment, which means he left behind all his friends and family to see doctors and nurses all day, and YOU are depressed? Gee, didn’t know you’d take it so hard.

    I think your boyfriend is very depressed, and you and his parents are not giving him the emotional support he needs. It’s easier for him to withdraw than to fight with all of you AND fight his cancer.

    I would have said to cut him some slack, but I’m afraid it’s too late for that to salvage your relationship. You could try to understand why he’s fighting with you (hint: cancer, depression…), and not argue with him like you would with a healthy guy.

    You might also want to google ‘culture shock’. US and Canada are very close culturally, but not identical, and whenever you move to a new place, you need some time to adjust to your surroundings. I don’t know which of these things (depression, cancer, culture shock) have a greater influence on how your boyfriend is acting, but the combination is definitely not conducive to happiness.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom May 25, 2011, 5:03 pm

    I’m sorry he’s been diagnosed with cancer and is away from home and the emotional support he probably needs to get the treatment he needs. My husband had cancer ten years ago and luckily was able to receive all of his treatments in our local community.
    Facing cancer is a stark moment in life with questions of mortality and long term side effects from the treatments if you do survive. Sometimes you’re given various treatment options, their side effects and probable rate of the cancer recurring if you choose that option. You can feel like your life depends on choosing the correct option and it can be an agonizing choice.

    You say that after his treatment started he accomodated you but you don’t say that you did anything to accomodate him. When your partner has any serious problem you need to be their soft place to fall, their anchor. They need to be able to count on you but it sounds more like he was trying to take care of you but not getting much from you in return. I’m guessing that at some point he didn’t have enough emotionally to face cancer by himself and to handle you and your wants so he gave up. He is probably disappointed and disillusioned with you because you didn’t come through for him when he really needed it and so he is moving on. At this point I think you’re done because he isn’t going back to what you had.

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  • landygirl

    Landy May 25, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I am guessing that when the update arrives, we’ll get a lot more information about what is going on than we did with this letter. It’s difficult to give a truly unbiased opinion if you don’t have all of the facts.

    I will say that the LW needs to stop making his cancer all about her, which is what it seems like from the letter. Just the signature “Sick Of His Cancer” says a whole lot about how she is approaching this. This isn’t about you dear LW, this is about him facing his own mortality (if in fact this is the case, which it seems to be). Cut the guy some slack.

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    • avatar

      Laurel May 25, 2011, 8:29 pm

      Wendy usually chooses/creates the sign-off signature.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie May 25, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Cancer and it’s treatment take a horrible toll on the one afflicted, as well as the family and friends of the patient. My wife’s had breast cancer twice, my mother, aunt and uncle all had cancer. Four of my close buddies died from lung cancer. Each patient deals with it differently. Some accept it as just another disease to cope with, some never get over the anger and project it to anyone handy. You can’t change the way you feel about him anymore then he can change his feelings about himself. I’m sorry for you both and hope you’ll find a resolution.

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      SpyGlassez May 27, 2011, 1:48 am

      And some people get angry because they see what they are being “cheated” of – they may blame or lash out at a friend, a spouse, a significant other, an adult child. They may not have been that way in their old life, but the disease has become the new life. Some people get bitter at their diagnosis, and some don’t. Everyone reacts in their own way.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark May 25, 2011, 6:21 pm

    Egads! This letter is perhaps the alarming yet. Let’s break it down into the most simplest and basic subtext….

    My boyfriend may be dying of cancer, BUT WHAT ABOUT ME!? WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS?! WAHHHHH!!!

    Okay, that may be a bit harsh, but seriously, he is under a great deal of stress here, cut him some slack. The last thing he needs to do right now is deal with somebody who by her very own description is being whiny and naggy. Seriously. He is angry. Very angry. He’s probably mad at the world right now and lashing out at it. (Notice he is also lashing out at his parents, and not just you…) I totally get it. I would be VERY angry if I were in his shoes. It’s not fair. It sucks. He is facing death, possibly. He needs to be afforded the luxury of sorting through his feelings and to hopefully get well. This simply isn’t the time for him to be saving what is for all intensive purposes a fledging relationship.

    Tell him you love him, but that you understand that he needs time and space. Tell him he can call you whenever he wants and then BACK OFF. Seriously, back off. And maybe take a big step back and do a little self examination about just how easy it was for you to go and make somebody else’s cancer all about you… Seriously, this whole letter astounds me. Simply astounds me.

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      Theresa May 25, 2011, 6:44 pm

      Our culture expects people to always be noble and sacrificing. This ideal is true in Hallmark specials, where violins play as the unselfish family rallies about the ill person, who is ever so grateful for their support. In Hallmark-land, dysfunctional behavior magically disappears when disaster strikes. In real life, illness intensifies whatever dysfunctional behavior was there beforehand.

      People like this reader, who may have never been in this kind of situation, are quick to condem others who do not conform to their ideal of noble behavior. Since my husband’s death from pancreatic cancer, I have become very guarded with my feelings because people are so quick to condem.

      The letter writer admits she is being selfish and immature, but she is trying hard to improve her behaviour so she can better help her boyfriend. Counseling might help her overcome whatever personal issues she does have and learn more about cancer can affect relationships. However, he is not letting her support him. I do not know this for sure, but I would not be surprised if the boyfriend is deliberately goading her into behaving badly so he can feel justified in his anger.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark May 25, 2011, 6:51 pm

        He may also simply NOT be in the mood to deal with her drama. Furthermore, he may simply NOT have the energy. People grossly underestimate how weak chemo can make somebody. How physically exhausted they can become. You probably know this first hand, and I am so sorry for the loss of your husband, but to compare going through this with a spouse versus a barely there relationship is really doing the apples and oranges thing.

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        Britannia May 25, 2011, 6:59 pm

        I think it’s very presumptuous to say that the boyfriend is engaging in “dysfunctional behavior” simply because the LW is unhappy with the relationship and he’s having a rough time. To quote the LW:

        “…we’ve been having problems for the last three weeks. He was diagnosed with cancer six months ago.”

        Which means that he’s been diplomatic and presumably putting up with LW’s bullshit for 21 weeks. That’s a really long time to deal with someone being a shrew to you while you’re dealing with a disease that has a high likelihood of killing you. He’s already given her the chance to support him, for the last 5 months, and she has not done so. I see no reason to pity the LW or think that she is in any way not to blame for her boyfriend’s newly developed lack of tolerance for her emotional abuse.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark May 25, 2011, 7:12 pm

        I agree. Moreover, you don’t need to have a history of dysfunctional behavior to react badly to a cancer diagnosis. To even mention this struck me as very judgmental. I’m sorry, but if anybody I know ever goes up against cancer, I am not going to expect any Hallmark crap. Side-story, when a casual work friend of mine lost her brother in a horrible drunk driving accident — the very first thing I blurted out in sheer nervousness was, “I can’t think of anything to say except that, damn, you must be pretty pissed off right now.” She was stunned. Simply stunned. She put her arms around me and sad, “Thank you. Thank you! If another person comes up and tries to tell me that he’s in a better place right now. Or that God just had to call him home, I’m going to fucking scream!” I returned her hug and said, “Hey, I get it. Not everything happens for a reason. Call me if you just want to scream at the world.” And she did. Boy, she sure did.

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        cmarie May 25, 2011, 7:26 pm

        Where were you when my mom died? The worst thing in the world is hearing over and over again how everything happens for a reason and God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I call BS.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark May 25, 2011, 7:29 pm

        Yeah. It’s always amazing to me how so many people don’t realize that sometimes empty words are just that… empty. Nothing is worse than being hard hit first by tragedy and then a endless slew of tired cliche’s…

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        TheGirl May 26, 2011, 1:18 pm

        I also hate the ‘it could be worse’ stuff people say and then proceed to list a whole bunch of terrible diseases that are worse. Yeah, I KNOW it could be worse, but does that mean I have to put on a happy face all the time just because my problems are making you sad for the 10 minutes you are talking to me? Does that invalidate my feelings in some way? Not to mention the fact that they’re always the ones that brought it up in the first place.

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        Crazymary May 26, 2011, 12:35 pm

        I love you bittergaymark. You said exactly what your co-worker needed to hear. I really hate the “they are in a better place” bs. I get it, but really, when my husband died that was not what I wanted or needed to hear. I knew that people were trying to be kind, so I never held it against them or grimaced when they said, it but the words were just so empty to me…

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        Theresa May 25, 2011, 7:26 pm

        We really do not know enough about the situation to make any judgements such as the LW is a shrew. She may be creating unnecessary drama or she may have politely brought up her concerns. We do not know. We also do not know about the relationships between the boyfriend and his parents or how the boyfriend acted before becoming ill.

        It is commendable of the LW that she wants to change her behavior, if she is in fact being immature and selfish. But the fact that she has the audacity to mention her own needs does not necessarily make her selfish. That she might not be able to meet his needs (especially when he refuses to talk to her) does not make her a bad person.

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    • katie

      Katie May 26, 2011, 1:54 am

      My boyfriend may be dying of cancer, BUT WHAT ABOUT ME!? WHAT ABOUT MY NEEDS?! WAHHHHH!!!

      this is exactly what i see this LW as too!!

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    Julzie May 25, 2011, 6:46 pm

    I agree with a few above comments that point out that 4 months is not enough time to have a solid foundation to deal with something this big. No matter how close you may feel emotionally, the fact is that for the first few months (and in some cases years) people don’t date each other, they date each others best selves, their “representatives”. That’s one reason the beginnings of relationships feel just SO awesome! So there’s really no way to know that your relationship was “perfect” after just a few months. It takes a lot of time and experiences (good AND bad) to know a relationship’s true dynamic and for people’s true selves to come out. The fact is that you guys came to a major hurdle, you couldn’t meet each other’s needs and couldn’t clear the jump. It happens. Think about it, all but MAYBE 1 relationship (if a person is so lucky) in EVERY (poly’s aside ;)) person’s life will fail.

    Also, my mother always told me the best way to apologize to someone is to make absolutely effing sure it doesn’t happen again. You’ve apologized for your immaturity and not supporting him properly, so show him you mean it by respecting his wishes and not hounding him for what YOU need. Leave. Him. Be.

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  • avatar

    Spark May 25, 2011, 8:33 pm

    As Wendy always says, “When someone tells you who he is, listen.” This isn’t the cancer. It’s him.

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      sarolabelle May 26, 2011, 12:27 am

      huh?

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie May 25, 2011, 7:43 pm

    A lot of people are jumping on her which I feel is unfair. My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago which had invaded her lymph system. It came back 5 years later on her ovaries and had another surgery. She takes a heavy duty hormone suppressant that has serious side effects. Every little ailment triggers another PET-SCAN.

    It’s something we both live with and it’s hard on both of us. Her life is at stake but I have needs that will not be fulfilled as a result. The whole thing migrates to escalating unrelated issues compounding the situation. We’re committed to working through them an almost daily basis but sometimes I dream about what if would be like to be with someone that wasn’t so handicapped. The LW’s been in that relationship for 10 months and facing the reality of it going on for a lifetime in it’s present form. It’s not selfish to consider what that means and very reasonable to consider the worst case scenario. She’s the only one that can answer what to do and what fits her needs.

    I’m surprised that some contributors who are so supportive of women being treated badly by men aren’t in this case. The fact is that he isn’t treating her good at all. He may not be able to do otherwise at the moment and perhaps not in the foreseeable future. One could even argue that he’s holding back to give her the emotional space to move on. I applaud her for hanging in there for as long as she has.

    Living with a Cancer Patient

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      Painted_lady May 25, 2011, 11:51 pm

      Awesome perspective Fast Eddie.

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      Amber May 26, 2011, 8:51 am

      I think my problem with the LW is that the way the letter is written she lists all the things he’s doing to support the relationship (i.e. accomodating her, visiting her) yet she doesn’t say if she’s done anything to reciprocate. I guess we’re supposed to assume she is? I agree that cancer is a terrible disease and often comes between loved ones (whether it be significant others, children, parents, etc). But, the way the letter is written it just comes across as she’s saying he’s not doing enough for me right now. Which he might not be able to do if he’s sick and receiving treatments. I think that’s where the fact that they had only been together for 4 months when he was diagnosed is coming in to play. Relationships aren’t always going to be each person giving 50/50, it would be ideal, but there are certain things that happen in life, like illnesses, that keep us from being able to give as much as we would like to or as much as our partner might need from us. But, when you’ve been with someone for longer I think you’re in a better place to deal with those life events and you know that they’ve been there for you when you’ve needed more from them and now you can be there for them. To me it just seemed like even though he was the one with the illness he was the one doing more of the work (at least the letter made it seem that way) in the beginning and maybe by the time she realized she wasn’t supporting him enough it was too late.

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      cmarie May 26, 2011, 11:12 am

      I’m not supportive of a woman being treated badly by a man, I’m supportive of a man fighting for his life not having to deal with any unnecessary drama. She’s not being treated badly. Until their argument, according to her, he was doing everything to keep the relationship together and support her needs. He was making trips to see, talking to her everyday, essentially doing everything a healthy BF would do. What has she been doing for him? From the letter alone it doesn’t seem like she’s been very supportive, it seems like she’s been too concerned with having her needs met. While it’s not selfish to have needs and to assert those needs, it is selfish to expect him to bend over backwards for her while she does nothing for him. I’m truly sorry about your wife, I know the toll cancer can take on a family. However, it seems like you, as the healthy one, are taking the steps to support your wife while she doesn’t seem to care that much. You know who else is sick of his cancer, HIM. He spent 5 months being there for her before finally snapping and now she’s concerned about what she can do to help him? If she decides to end things with him I would say that is the most unselfish thing she had done for him. Relationships, even ones without major illness, require a give-and-take from both partners. Going from the letter alone it seems like all she’s been doing is taking.

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    Quakergirl May 25, 2011, 10:13 pm

    Okay. I’m going to try not to yell this out into the universe, but I’m going to put it in all caps so that maybe, maybe, maybe it’ll get through: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Your boyfriend has cancer, and you’re worried about a 3-week-long issue in your new relationship with him? I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you do really care about him and that you’re concerned about the cancer. But honey, you sure aren’t acting like it. What are *you* doing for *him*? Picking fights, arguing when you know he has a blood pressure problem, having him travel internationally even though he has CANCER and is undergoing treatment? That isn’t helping. In fact, it’s probably compounding his feelings of isolation and depression and pushing him further away from you, and further away from a healthy recovery.

    So here’s what you do: apologize, profusely, for the stress and hurt you’ve caused, and tell him that while you don’t think you two can be in a romantic relationship anymore, if he ever needs a friend, you’re always around. If he wants to talk, you’ll be there. If he wants you to visit him, you will. If he wants you to hold the phone up to your radio so he can hear the morning talk shows, you will. But if he doesn’t, accept that that’s fine, too. The best thing you can do for your relationship, and for him, is not to force it.

    Look, I know you want this to work, but if you choose to continue this relationship, you have to really be okay with the fact that right now he has nothing left to give. While I didn’t have cancer, I was extremely ill for about two years (wasting away kind of ill). During that time, I couldn’t even begin to deal with the kind of drama you’re bringing to this situation. I wouldn’t have had the energy to fight with anyone. There were nights that Quakerboy would call and, just like your boyfriend, I wouldn’t have the energy to have a conversation, even a pleasant one. I would literally only be able to say “I love you” before we hung up. It’s not necessarily that he’s being distant so much as he probably can’t even muster the physical or emotional strength to get two words out, especially if he knows those words are just going to lead to an argument or a guilt trip. So just apologize, cool it, and let him come to you if he wants to. It’s really the kindest thing you can do at this point.

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    SGMcG May 25, 2011, 11:04 pm

    I’m not even going to focus on the cancer at this point in time since that’s a battle all in itself. LW, have you even asked him about the fight with his parents? You mention that it involved personal issues – did they perhaps involve YOU? Have you even discussed this with him or asked him ANYTHING regarding his emotions about that? Or how he misses Canada since he’s in the US? It’s no wonder he distances himself from you regarding his cancer, what signs are you giving him that you would be an empathetic partner through the good or bad? You mention that you guys used to be close emotionally – is that closeness reciprocal? If he has no signals from you that you are there for him and he can’t confide in you regarding his concerns and worries, you don’t have a relationship to speak of.

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    Sue Jones May 26, 2011, 12:08 am

    He is under stress and cannot be there for you and your needs. He really does need to put his own needs first right now as he fights for his life. IF you or the relationship is even inadvertantly causing stress for him, that is interfering with the recovery. He needs his own space since this is his process, not yours. LEt him go with love and move on.

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    Christina May 26, 2011, 12:41 am

    He moved away from you, he told you he can’t stand your voice, doesn’t want your love, the thought of you disgusts him , he called you emotionally and mentally abusive and he told you he wants you to leave him alone.
    Dear Wendy, what can I do to help this relationship and go back in time to when it was good?
    Dear LW, nothing…it’s already over and there is nothing to be done about it. No one can go back in time. He’s done. Why would you continue to call him and listen to him say such mean things to you anyway? It doesn’t matter that you want to fix it and feel that old love again. It doesn’t matter what seat you want on a train that already left the station an hour ago.
    Cherish the times that were good and let this one go.

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    Lindsay May 26, 2011, 1:12 am

    I volunteer with a lot of cancer patients, so I see the terrible things cancer does every week. Yes, the guy is being kind of rude. But so is the LW (at least from how the story is told). He’s under a lot of stress and probably feels terribly physically and emotionally. Right now, the only thing that matters to him is getting better — not whether he’s being a good boyfriend, and that’s OK. Conversations with him should be about listening to him and how he’s feeling, not what he’s not doing right. I don’t blame the LW necessarily; it’s just a hard thing to deal with and bad timing for their relationship.

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  • katie

    Katie May 26, 2011, 1:41 am

    i would say that whatever relationship that you have or had with this guy is now completely off the table- this guy has cancer. everything in his life has changed, and the way you handled it was terrible, and he doesn’t need that in his life. for the sake of his health and sanity, you need to get over it and let this guy GET OVER CANCER. that is the major thing here- his cancer needs to heal. this is a human life were talking about, not just your feelings being hurt. mature a little a look at the big picture

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    Susan May 26, 2011, 12:11 pm

    This summed it all up for me. He moved for treatment, having know many friends and family going through cancer treatment, they should not be the ones traveling. No where does it mention she came here once to see him.

    “Since I live in Canada and he moved to the US for his treatment, our arguments increased due to the distance issue. However, he would always accommodate me and would come see me here and there”

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    sarolabelle May 26, 2011, 11:43 am

    LW, it is not all about you. He shouldn’t have to “accommodate” you at all.

    6 months ago when he was diagnosed your relationship shifted. IF you loved him you would want him to be safe, to get better and you would support him and do for him whatever he needed. Instead it sounds like you focused on yourself, paniced, questioned your relationship and his love for you. You didn’t trust that maybe he is ill and it has nothing to do with his feelings for you when he can’t be there for you. YOU needed to be there for him.

    But you weren’t. What’s done is done. You have sent him to the very end. Best thing you could do now is leave him alone. But don’t tell him you are going to do this. When/if he calls be upbeat, cheerful, ask him how he is and if he doesn’t feel like talking or the convo is awkward then say, “I’m going to go and let you get some rest. I hope you feel better.” Then wait for the next call. If he calls again then repeat the same thing. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t ask you about your life. It doesn’t matter if he hardly talks. What matters is he CALLED! Don’t call him. Send him texts if you wish of uplifting things in between. Say things like *hug* or *kiss* but don’t send more than two texts in a row without a response. If you don’t hear from him all day and you didn’t text him yet you can say. “hey, been thinking about you. Hope you are feeling okay today. Good night.” Be supportive. Don’t nag him. Don’t ask him why he doesn’t ask about your life. It isn’t about you.

    Eventually he will see that you have his best interest at heart you are being supportive and not nagging him. He will hopefully develop deeper feelings for you and will begin to call you more often. It will happen but you need to let go first. Don’t cling harder. Go do something else. Be there for him but don’t expect or demand he be there for you at this time.

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  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com May 26, 2011, 1:30 pm

    Wow. A lot has already been said but I just wanted to add that a cancer diagnosis is like having an atom bomb go off in the middle of your life. I’ve lived through it myself and will never forget what it was like.

    There are many ways a person can react but I can tell you that for me, I reduced my inner circle to a very tiny group of trusted people –mostly family. Managing a new relationship was WAY more than I could have handled. WAY MORE.

    With cancer and the treatment that follows, a person has to bunker down and strip their life to the necessities. A person has to be selfish to get through it.

    You’re absolute best bet is to move on and I do think that the very kindest thing you can do for him is to let him go with love and caring. He cannot deal with this right now. Perhaps after its over, he may come back to you. But there’s a strong chance he won’t. Cancer is like this enormous interruption in your life. It causes you to reflect and assess everything about the life you had pre-C. If and when you beat it and you regain control of your life again –you get to decide if you want to get back on the path you were thrown from or if you will carve out a new road. Many cancer survivors choose a new road…

    Bottom line, its just not about you. And I don’t say that in an accusatory fashion but so that you can see how this is really not personal —AND not fixable from where you stand.

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    dude May 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Girl: “so … my boyfriend has cancer or whatever…and he wont pay attention to me anymore”

    stupid woman.
    i can’t believe this fucking letter.

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      Leyahn May 26, 2011, 8:01 pm

      Oh, Dude, I am so right there with ya’ on this one.

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    cporoski May 26, 2011, 4:35 pm

    Oh sweetie. I have been in this relationship twice before. It is the guilt, I can’t leave and can’t stay situation. I dated a guy while he was in Iraq and he became distance and rude and used me as an emotional punching bag but everyone told me you can’t leave a relationship when a guy is at war. use the phrase or has cancer or whatever. I feel like you think you are being a bitch for thinking about leaving because he is going through so much. so i tried so hard to be the perfect girlfriend.

    Here you are, four months into a relationship, and have to deal with real weighty issues. Of course you were happy four months in, everyone is happy at that point. If the cancer wasn’t part of it, would you dump him? When I was dating the guy in the army, we stayed together until his deployment was over and he dumped me. Why? because we hated each other but felt we couldn’t break up. Mark my words, the same thing will happen with you. He will get better and you both will be running away from this.

    I feel so bad for you because this situation sucks and there is no way that it ends well.

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    Leyahn May 26, 2011, 8:00 pm

    Hmmm, let’s see, your boyfriend is suffering a life threatening illness.
    He had to move away from friends, family, home, securities to get treatment.
    He is taking serious medications to treat his cancer.
    He feels horrible.
    But yet, “he would always accommodate me and would come see me here and there”.

    Your admit that you “nag and act needy”. Really? Really?!?!?!

    What I did not get from your letter was any ounce of concern for his health and his feelings. You are so focused on yourself and your “needs” – no wonder he is fed up with you. I don’t even know you, and I am fed up with you.

    The last thing he needs, while battling cancer, is a whinny, nagging, girlfriend who is more focused on *her* feelings. And why, oh, why, are you not going to visit him? Then when he visits you, you get in a fight with him when you knew his blood pressure was high – What? Trying to kill to he poor guy?

    Wow, just wow.

    Please just MOA and let the poor man fight this battle without you.
    Because you certainly aren’t doing anything positive for him.

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    bestfriend2011 June 30, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I am really happy I came accross this thread. First of all I would like to say, ‘bittergaymarc’, you are fantastic. I am in a very similar situation myself. I have been dating a guy for 5 months and only 3 days ago, he told me he had hodgkin’s lymphoma. Looking back, throughout our relationship, he has given me some hints, but always minimalized everything. He has been slowly pushing me away and I finally confronted him the other day and asked for the truth. He told me. I don’t know what stage or how advanced it is but from the bits he has told me, he doesn’t expect to make it. As much as I want to know and want to offer my help, he has also pushed me out. He has asked me to leave him alone and to move on. And told me that if he does make it through his treatment and surgery, that he will be leaving town anyways. I have told him that I will be there in any capacity that he would want me to be. If he needs me to stay away, I would. If he wants me to come with him, I would. I let him know that I could and would be anything he wants me to be.
    I haven’t spoken to or text him in 2 days because he has asked me to respect his space and respect his wishes. Our last words to each other, in person, was him telling me that he didn’t think I was capable of listening and respecting his wishes. He has asked for a while, but I never understood why and I continued to push myself on him. He has also been rude and said some terrible things. I have as well.
    There was a message on this thread that said, “When he tells you who he is, listen”. I would like to say that 2 1/2 months ago, after our first arguement, he said to me, “When someone tells you who they are, doubt them. When someone shows you who they are, believe them”. He is important and special to me but I agree with the comments in this thread. I have been the ’emotional vampire’, I have put my needs ahead of his. I have been unfair and unkind to a man who I love dearly.
    It is heartwrenching to me that I have to accept that he may choose to never speak to me again but again, it’s not about me right now. I am a compassionate person and I want to stand by him, I want to hold his hand and be the first peson he sees when he wakes from his surgery. I want to help him through this but these things are not what he wants. I MUST give him everything he wants and needs and if that means that I never hear from, see or speak to him again, I know in my heart that he will how much I love him.

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      kbabe August 24, 2011, 2:19 am

      I have very much been in the same situation. I started a long distance relationship with someone in September of 2010. In April of 2011 he found out that he had a tumor, and in May he got his diagnosis that it was cancerous. He started out by pushing me away, and becoming distant. He said that it wasn’t time to be getting into a serious relationship that he couldn’t give me anything. I told him I wasn’t going anywhere, and that I was there for him, that I cared about him, and we had got our relationship to a certain point, and we could just put a pin in it for the time being. I told him I understood that he couldn’t give to me, but I can give to him. Since his diagnosis he has made up excuses not to see me, and not to speak to me (voice to voice). He would only communicate with me via texting email etc..

      Things were additionally complicated because he was married, but separated from his wife. Their marriage was tumultuous (she had a substance abuse problem and he gave up a lot of his career and life trying to support her) and he had excess baggage from it to begin with.

      When he started his treatments I would try and say supportive things or be positive and he would get annoyed, lash out at me, bait me into arguements, and be a general ass. I offered to go to his city and drive him to treatments or help him out with anything he needed. He always refused me, sometimes he got angry with me. It seemed like I could never say anything right, anything I said made him angry and upset with me. Eventually there was only so much I could take before I lashed out back at him. Which of course lead to a large argument where he broke things off. It wasn’t until then that I realized that I loved him and I told him so. We had talked about wanting things to be serious before his diagnosis, he had said he wanted to fall in love with me. I told him I loved him and I didn’t want him to give up on me. We both had put our cards on the table and said what we wanted before the diagnosis, and I reminded him that my mind hadn’t changed. I told him I understood he was under a lot of stress, and that he was scared and angry, but I loved him anyway. I asked him to forgive me for my selfish behaviour. Where I thought I was being supportive, I think he felt pressure. I appologized to him, and told him I loved him and that I’m only human, and this is a stressful situation and that nobody is perfect. I told him I understand I was being selfish and that I would work on trying to do the right thing.

      He didn’t talk to me for a while, but I was persistant. Trying to keep things light. Eventually he came around. After that things got good, things got really good. They got so good it was almost like it was before his diagnosis. Unfortunately it was just the calm before the storm. He still avoided seeing each other face to face, and refused to talk on the phone. I made him a video, and emailed it and he seemed to like that and it brightened his spirits. I tried to stay away from overly positive and supporting comments. I think perhaps he had heard too much of it. I kept things light. Talking about movies, books, other random things.

      During his treatments I understood this as he had radiation on his head and neck so speaking was not really an option. After he finished his treatments and started some healing process he began to be open to visit with friends. I had asked if I could see him soon, and he said yes, but that he needed to be in better shape. It hurt a lot, he obviously was in good enough shape to visit with his friends, and even go to parties (photos on facebook). I was very hurt that he chose to visit with all his other friends, but when I asked if I could come to visit him he would tell me that he needed to be healthier. I tried to be very understanding, but eventually when he told me he was spending an evening with his ex-wife I did loose my temper again. I was so hurt that he kept making excuses and reasons not to see me, but that he would make time for an ex-wife that he had negative feelings for. That hurt a lot. In fact I even think he said it on purpose. In fact with his history of baiting me into arguments it felt a bit like he said it on purpose, to see how I would react. It hurt that he was going to spend a whole evening with her, when I’ve been the one who has supported him and sent him love and positive energy the whole time, and yet always being refused. To top things off since we were only communicating via text message and it’s notoriously easy to missunderstand meaning of a text message the way he wrote the message made it sound like they were getting back together. I lost my temper. I was hurt, I was depressed, I was exhausted, I was pushed to an emotional brink. He accused me of being jealous and selfish, and emotionally manipulative. And then I exploded on him. His ex-wife was the emotional manipulator and I did not enjoy him accusing me of it. Ultimately I said things I shouldn’t have. I appologized for the way I reacted, but I pointed out that what he had said, the way he said it had hurt me. I didn’t communicate with him for a while after that and he eventually came around. Since things seemed to be good, and he was done his chemo/radiation treatments and was starting to get on the mend. I suggested coming to visit him and he agreed, but said he wanted to be in better shape first. A couple of weeks later I suggested that I would come up for a visit the following weekend, and he completely let loose on me. He said that he had felt really uncomfortable after I told him I was in love with him. He said it was too soon, that it wasn’t based on much, and he didn’t love me back and wouldn’t ever. He said he didn’t want to indulge me in a relationship that wasn’t ever going to happen especially since he might not have much time left. I was very upset. I tried to get him to speak with me on the phone and he repeatedly sent me to voicemail. I was so shocked. Especially since a couple of weeks prior to this he had agreed that we could see each other again soon.

      I figured enough was enough. I should have driven up there to see him face to face earlier on and tried to force him to see me. He had been avoiding seeing me, making up excuses that he was too sick to see me. If he could say all this to me in a text he could say it to my face and then I would believe him. So I drove up, with nowhere to stay I booked a hotel room. I texted him and asked if I could see him, even if it was just as a friend. He made up yet another excuse and said that he was too sick to go anywhere or see anyone except the hostpial. Maybe it was true, maybe not, but the previous weekend he was out at parties with friends so I feel like it was just another excuse not to see me. I stayed all weekend at the hotel and then came home without seeing him at all.

      I love him so much. I would give anything in the world just to hold his hand. Or hear his voice on the phone. I have since told him that even though he has given up on me, I wasn’t giving up on him, and that I was here for him, just as a friend.

      I realize now, what I should have known from the beginning. He said it himself when he got his diagnosis he had nothing to give me and he just needed a friend. I think there are two kinds of people in this kind of situation. The people that will hold their relationships closer, and those that pull away. He is the kind that pulls away, and I should have known that I couldn’t make him change his mind on how he wanted to deal with this. He deserves for me not to judge his behaviour at a time like this. I also deserve not to have my miss-steps judged at a time like this as well, but he is in no position right now to understand that. All I can hope for is that one day he will realize that my outbursts were the result of a lot of emotional stress on both of us. Considering how much emotional stress is on him I understand his behavior and I can’t blame him for it. I deserve the same courtesy though. And all I can hope for is one day he will recognize that.

      Since then he occaisionally texts with me. It’s touch and go. Our most recent communication was when he told me they’re sending him to the hopstial to get admitted in September for a series of tests to see if the tumor is operable. I felt a lot of relief when he told me that. Like I was still important enough to him that I get the knowledge of knowing how he is doing and what is going on.

      I try and let him know i care. I still occasionally communicate funny things to him. I want him to know I”m here as a friend. I love him and I would never abandon a friend no matter how ill they treated me while they were sick like this. I haven’t heard from him in a couple of weeks now, but I try and reassure myself it’s ok.

      I can related to how heartwrenching it is not knowing if he will ever speak to you again. Some days I’m completely ok with it, because I know I’m being a good person in standing by him even if it’s just as a friend, no matter what hurtful things he has said to me. I try and remind myself it’s not in his control, that I can’t take the hurtful things he says personally, because I know deep down he doesn’t really mean it. Other days I’m so heartbroken and frustrated because I feel like I”m just holding on in hopes that he will eventually change his mind. All I know is that I love him, and I can’t walk away. So I keep on trucking. I wait in hopes for a day when he is ready to sit down and visit with me face to face, and maybe then he’ll be in a place to talk about things. It won’t be anytime soon, or it may never happen. But I guess I’m leaving things to fate a bit.

      I don’t think we should be hard on ourselves for having to learn the hard way that we have to put his needs first. It takes a while for you to realize that what you think is being supportive is actually a lot of pressure for him and is selfish. From his point of view we are asking too much form him. Which is not what we want: we just want him to let US be there FOR HIM. But he can’t see that right now, and you can’t make him see it.

      I love my friends; however some of them, although they probably felt they were being supportive to me really added a lot of stress, and didn’t provide the best advice. I take responsibility for my actions, but I will admit that I had a lot of friends that basically told me “are you going to keep taking this shit from him? He may have cancer, but he has no right to lash out on you and take it out on you”. It puts a lot of pressure on you that his behavior is innappropriate. If I can say anything to ladies, if you have a friend in this situation. The best advice you can give is just to tell your friend to follow her heart, and that she shouldn’t judge his behaviour because he is sick. No he shouldn’t make you an emotional punching bag, but he doesn’t really mean it. All you can do is stand by as a friend and hope for the best.

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  • avatar

    SameProblem February 20, 2012, 1:05 pm

    I know what you are going through. I have been with my boyfriend for over seven months now and he has cancer as well. It seems all we do anymore is fight with each other every day. The thing is that when you have cancer it changes a person drastically. And they don;t even know it’s happening to them. I know it’s hard to be supportive when they act like they want nothing from you. But deep down they need someone cause let’s be honest if it were you don’t you think that you would push everybody that you love away to only be alone so that you can be miserable alone but all you really want is to have someone hold your hand, smile and say we will get through this. I have to be the strong one for the both of us because even though on his bad days I can’t picture myself without him to help him and care for him. I’m really sorry about your situation. My advise is make a choice if you can handle the the bad that comes with the good and if you can give him a week or two and then try to just let it go when an argument comes it solves nothing and just causes hurt feelings on both sides. Good Luck!

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