I went through aggressive chemo for six months. Tom never came to any of the chemo sessions with me despite the fact that I had asked him to spare a day off work to come. Tom never lost sleep when I was in pain and needed help. I had swollen feet from neuropathy and would crawl to the toilet while he was deep in his sleep. When I told him the next day, he never asked me to wake him up if I needed help. He never broke a sweat. He never spent a single night at the hospital all the many times that I was hospitalized. He would only come see me for one to three hours. He wasn’t interested in learning about the cancer even when I gave him material to read. I would ask him to massage me sometimes since I had chronic muscle pain, and during the only time he tried I asked him to apply more pressure and he said I was going to make him break his fingers.
Tom and I shared all our bills equally, but I was out of work for four months and he never chipped in. Towards the end of each month, he would always remind me to transfer the rent money to his account. I blew up my savings and sometimes my family sent me funds from overseas. At that time I was bothered by this, but I was more focused on staying strong, keeping the faith, and positivity and fighting the cancer to get better. At the end of the day what mattered to me was that he never left.
I finished chemo at the end of February, and I’m still in recovery but happy to say I am cancer-free now. Almost two months after my finishing chemo, the perfectly healthy and athletic Tom developed an upper back and neck pain for a whole week straight. That same week I was sleeping in the guest bedroom because I was ready to leave him due to the fact that we were having relationship issues, including his cheating on me twice, our lack of communication, and his selfishness. By the end of the week, his pain was getting worse and he developed other symptoms, such as urine retention, spasms, and muscle weakness, so I rushed him to the ER. A few hours later he was paralyzed and still is almost four months later.
It turns out he suffered a spinal cord injury from a mass that was found in his spinal cord. I can’t imagine what he’s going through, but I don’t know what quality sleep is anymore. I have spent so many nights at the hospital bed by his side, and I have missed work numerous times. Tom was discharged from rehab and he continues to be cared for at home. I am his sole caregiver because he has no family in our state. His mom lives in a different state and has been coming to visit and help on and off. I have had to hire private caregivers to help Tom while I’m at work since he is 100% dependent on care. I use a hoyer lift to transfer him in and out of bed. I work twelve-hour shifts, and when I get home, I pick up from where the caregivers left off.
Tom has to be turned every two to four hours every night. By the time I’m done caring for him, it’s midnight and I’m then expected to turn and re-position him until I have to get ready for work at 6 a.m.. I have post-chemo side effects among which is chronic insomnia and chronic fatigue. The doctor put me on sleeping pills, but I cannot take those because I have to be awake to care for Tom. It hurts me that I give 300%, but he never appreciates it. He gets so mean and disrespectful and doesn’t understand that sometimes I need to rest. When I ask him if he can let me try and sleep and reposition him after four hours, he says I need to re-postion him every hour.
Tom doesn’t want to do the exercises the doctors have instructed he do to prevent complications and bed sores, and when I remind him to, he says that I like arguing. His lack of concern has led us to the emergency room several times and all this is affecting my job. I’m afraid it’s going to get worse and I will lose my job. I have no life between my job, school, my numerous doctor appointments, his doctor appointments, caring for him, cooking, cleaning, coordinating his care, etc. The list is endless.
His mom has been in denial since the injury, and every time I have tried to talk to her about the situation she just shuts off. I asked her to come visit and help me so that I can catch up with some sleep on my off days, and she is flying down tomorrow. I have decided that I will ask her to take responsibility of her son and to make arrangements to take him back home. At home he will have more people to care for him and they care share the responsibility.
I believe that Tom is not worth my sacrificing my whole life considering the fact that I was ready to leave him before the injury and that he has always been selfish, was never there for me when I needed him, and my immune system is still very week and the stress and lack of sleep weakens it more. I need help on how to approach his mom and ask her to take responsibility and how to approach him as well after I talk to his mom. I know I will still be there for them, help with the transition and move, and help get them situated. I know I have to do what is best for ME and for him as well. Please advise! Thank you! — Cance-Free and Ready to Move On
Actually, no, you don’t need to “still be there for him” or help him get situated. You’ve done far, far too much already. Why have you invested so much in someone who showed/shows so little care and regard for you? This is something I’d suggest you explore with a good therapist. In the meantime, make a list of all of Tom’s needs and how you care for him and print that list and put it in an envelope and hand it to his mother when she arrives, along with a letter explaining that you are no longer in love with Tom, haven’t been in love with him in over a year and a half, and have realized that you’re over whatever misguided sense of obligation you had to him, especially considering how very little he did for you when you needed him, and also that you worry about your own health (rightfully so!) and have to focus on taking care of yourself. Give Tom a similar letter, along with your key to his home. Have your bags packed before his mom arrives, and have place to stay, and then when she gets there, wish them well and adios on out of there.
This will feel really foreign and weird to you because you are used to being some sort of martyr, but you should not feel the teeniest bit weird about prioritizing your well-being — while recovering from cancer, no less!! — and finally leaving a relationship that broke down a long, long time ago. Make sure you let your support network — your family and close friends — know what you’re about to do so you have some support as you leave this coo-coo alternate universe, re-enter reality, and start a new life for yourself.
And I’m serious about therapy. With the year and a half you’ve had, and the months ahead that you’ll be transitioning out of this shit-show, talking to someone about your feelings will go a long way in making sure you’re in the head space you need to be in when you’re ready to start dating again.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.