At his first chemo treatment, I was five minutes late and couldn’t meet him before he went in. I then found out I wasn’t on the list to visit and would have to wait until he was released to see him. I waited five hours in the waiting room until his mom came out and told me to go home because he had too many people. I tried to come down and visit a few days later and bring him some gifts. I spoke with him and he knew I was coming, but, when I got there, I was turned away at the door by his mother and told to make sure with her before I come.
I can’t even begin to understand how a parent feels when this happens to his or her child. My boyfriend has no strength to argue or even put up a fight for me to see him. I don’t know what to do or how to address the situation. It’s so hard going from planning our future to not even having a present. Thank you in advance for any positive help. — No Visiting Hours
First, I’m very sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s cancer diagnosis. I can only imagine the fear and sadness and disbelief you must be feeling just as you can only imagine how your boyfriend’s parents must be feeling. And I’m sure in your mind and certainly in your world, you and your boyfriend are each other’s most important person. But the truth is, you aren’t married, you aren’t living together (TALKING about these things, even seriously, doesn’t count) and you’ve only been together a year and a half. That’s nothing compared to the years his mother has loved him and cared for him. And the week that you drove your boyfriend to doctors’ appointments I’m sure was appreciated and, on some level, meaningful for you. But a week is still nothing compared to every illness your boyfriend’s mother has tended to, every sleepless night she’s endured as his mother, and the nightmare every mother has at some point now being realized as her son faces a life-threatening disease. It’s just different for her than it is for you. And I don’t mean to downplay your feelings about this, which I’m sure are intense. But it’s different for a mother, and you need to respect that, and you need to respect that it IS her place to be caregiver now.
You weren’t living with your boyfriend. And despite the week you spent driving him to appointments, you were late to his first chemo appointment. I bet his mother was there early. I bet she had been up all night worrying and praying and worrying some more and that she made damn sure to be there with him through every second she could help share and ease any of his concern and fear and suffering. You right now are barely consequential to her as she imagines the months ahead. If you want to be considered with more understanding and compassion, you have to give her the respect she deserves and seems to be asking for. Call her before you show up to her home (and don’t expect your very sick boyfriend to relay messages to her). Tell her how sorry you are for what is happening. Ask her if there’s anything you can do. Tell her how much her son means to you and how grateful you have been for the time you’ve had together and how grateful you will continue to be for whatever time you can have with him now. Tell her how much you would appreciate it if she would keep you abreast of good times to visit and anything you might do to ease everyone’s burdens, even if that thing is just giving a little bit of space right now.
And, please, mention NONE of this to your boyfriend. Don’t let him know you are upset or that you feel slighted. All his limited strength and concern right now need to go to his health and not to smoothing tensions between his mother and girlfriend. I know it feels like your present has put on hold, and that’s because, where your boyfriend is concerned, it HAS been put on hold. Cancer will do that. You need to wait it out and seek comfort and solace in your extended support system — people who are NOT related to your boyfriend and who can be there for YOU. Because you definitely deserve and need support. You just can’t expect to get it right now from your boyfriend or his immediate family. They have bigger things to worry about at the moment than your feelings.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].