The hard lump in my right breast felt to have popped up suddenly and without warning in the winter of 2008; it was within less than a month and a half that the surgeon would remove the evil eating insidiously away at my cells and brand me forever with a jagged scar that a bra could never seem to disguise.
Chemotherapy and hair loss would not be far behind. There was little time to reflect. Round after round of needles, pain, undressing and prodding – in that order – made me a fighter in many eyes for simply following what I was told (to do) by the doctors.
The separation storm in the winter of 2016 was an entirely different beast that came about after over a year of back and forth fighting… sleepless nights where the only replenishment I could find would be in the tears that rolled down my cheeks… and the slow submission that the end had come for my 10 year plus marriage to “Danny.” One of us needed to be brave enough to move forward and act in the interest of us both; in my opinion, I had always been the one in charge of plucking the weeds that sometimes sprouted around us, and so, I carried the weight of the responsibility yet again. In this instance, he – and others – would deem me the quitter because I signed up for the pain to come. I was the one to file for divorce.
“I found that breast cancer brought forward a more sympathetic response than divorce.”
The house, now empty of the majority of “Danny’s” belongings, possessed an eerie quietness that was absent throughout my two battles with cancer (I suffered a recurrence in 2011 that required a double mastectomy). During the latter, get well cards and flowers decorated the dining room table in such a way that comfort sustained me every time I walked past. I did not have to alert any family members or friends that I was in distress; it was as if everyone just knew and dialed me up one after the other to offer words of encouragement in my upcoming battle, promising I would be better than new when all was said and done.
Upon leaving “Danny,” my phone lay quiet. I would have to deliver the news and answer the awkward what, why and when over and over again on my own without the excitement of raising eyebrows over abuse or titillating the gossip mills with the tale of an extramarital affair. Ironically, mine and “Danny’s” parting was hardly salacious. It was trite, in fact. The love we had once had for one another at 26 years old had been depleted; the two cancer diagnoses could have been to blame, in part, because each one caused me to crawl deeper and deeper inside myself, never returning completely whole. Mostly, though, I suppose what pulled “Danny” and I apart was what unraveled most couples: Life.
I found that breast cancer brought forward a more sympathetic response than divorce; no one questioned my consumption of sugar or alcohol or my genetic disposition as if I was to blame for my malignancy.
“My breast cancer was confined to one area. But “Danny” and I as a unit had metastasized and the poison began to seep into every facet of our life.”
But expelling “Danny” from my life gave way to so many critics and too often not enough condolences because, in actuality, I would miss my husband. I would miss his smell. I would miss his refusal to put away laundry in an efficient manner. I would miss his long showers and my concern over the price of the water bill come the end of the quarter. I would miss his hugs. No one thought to mention all the beauty that I gained in my marriage, only the acrimonious loss. So why leave? Why not fight for the marriage in the way that I fought for my life against cancer?
Quite simply, my breast cancer was confined to one area. But “Danny” and I as a unit had metastasized and the poison began to seep into every facet of our life. The greatest gift “Danny” gave to me was holding my hand during a seven-hour chemo stint. And so, I returned the favor in giving him a chance once again at happiness. Yes, I cannot lie that I, too, hope and crave happiness for myself, even from time to time believing that I might actually deserve it - when I’m not beating myself up for being ― like cancer ― the one to temporarily overturn our lives into shambles for a second time.