Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Marriage & Cancer: A Fairy Tale It Ain't

6 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Elizabeth Edwards is living every cancer patient's nightmare.

Just as little girls dream of a gauzy, silken, floral, tiered, blue-sky wedding, when a woman hears the words "you have cancer," she begins to construct another sort of fairy tale.

No matter what kind of schlubs they were before our cancer, we imagine our husbands will rise to the occasion. After all, we too have no experience with cancer, and yet we must still prepare for surgery, shop for wigs we don't want and somehow manage to put one foot in front of the other.

In our fairy tales, our men are visibly crushed. They fall all over themselves, cooking meals, running errands and whispering the sweet not-so-nothing of "Let me do that for you, honey."

We imagine they will imply by their words and deeds that we are so precious to them that, should we succumb to cancer in the end, they will prostrate themselves on our graves until they, too, wither and die.

What we imagine they WON'T do is go numb and silent. Or retreat into work and pastimes. Or look off into space when we're talking to them.

Where the hell did we get this idea? Some bad TV movie we all saw?

In 2001, a few months before my own diagnosis of ovarian cancer, I came across these chilling statistics: Three out of four men leave their female companions within one year of a cancer diagnosis. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the stats for women were reversed. Three out of four women stayed with their sick men.

Not a happy thought to take with you as you're wheeled into surgery!

Two days after my surgery a somber doctor brought me the bad news that my cancer was "Stage 3." My mother couldn't be there, so my husband was left with the near-impossible task of consoling me.

I look back on that night and wonder why I didn't ask one of my girlfriends to come sit with me so my husband could go home. He was in the grips of the fight-or-flight instinct, and flight was clearly winning.

About three weeks into chemo, when my incision still hurt, I was bald, and, in the middle of the night, the infamous nausea had finally arrived. My husband and I held on to each other and cried.

This is our new life, I thought. This. I was certain that things would only get worse, and I watched for signs that my husband had already begun the process of checking out.

Overall I'd give him a B-. He was a little distant, but he didn't cheat on me. Then again, he didn't need to. PTSD and my imagination took care of that.

In our first post-cancer dinner out, I looked around the restaurant and found myself envisioning another woman sitting in my chair. I saw a vision of a year or two after my death, when my husband had "moved on," as they say in soap operas.

My poor husband. He had not done a thing, and yet I felt betrayed.

Cancer makes you feel vulnerable. And why not? The disease is literally trying to kill you. Since it's inside you, you can't run away. You're a hostage. You want to escape, but instead you have to humor your kidnapper. Negotiate. Hope. Pray for ransom.

The idea of your husband yukking it up with some babe in a hotel room while you bargain for your life with a homicidal maniac is just...so...wrong.

But nature is a cruel mistress. Animals often reject the injured, weak, deformed and sick because they're a magnet for predators. Not good for the group.

Some would argue that men are hardwired to abandon sick women, who are poor choices for passing on one's genes. But some would argue that men are hardwired to rape too, yet the vast majority resist that urge.

When I told my oncology nurse about the statistics of men abandoning their cancer-stricken wives, she was skeptical. She said she'd seen the opposite--couples getting back together.

As for my husband and me, we did finally emerge from the fog-bank of cancer and its insidious physical and emotional effects. A bit battered and bruised, but together.

When I hear stories like that of Elizabeth Edwards, I never lose sight of the fact that there but for luck, a great doctor and a marriage certificate that--wonder of wonders!--was indeed worth the scrap of paper on which it was written, go I.

Which is something women can't know that on their wedding days. We find out later. Sometimes much later, and at the worst possible time.

Filed Under: Woman Up
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including CNN.com, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly

80%

Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
GE
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
CEO
Click2View
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Co-Founder
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director
WCG

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily


  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>