Almost every week, I feel like I hear about someone I know getting diagnosed with breast cancer. It's a horribly scary feeling, and I find myself feeling so awful for what the person is about to go through-surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, pain, stress, exhaustion, losing their hair, losing their breasts and the worst: fear. It's devastating and sick and I hate the fact that no one has found a way to prevent this epidemic.
A friend of mine, who is married, recently told me about a girlfriend of hers who is divorced and who right around the same time she began a new relationship was diagnosed with breast cancer. My friend said this: "Can you imagine having breast cancer and not even having a partner to help you through it?"
This got me thinking, do I feel sorry for the girl? Or, is she lucky she ended up divorced? What I mean by that is, I truly believe that having the wrong partner by your side during an illness is much worse than having no partner at all.
This woman will lean on the support of friends and family, along with the love from her children to get through this extremely difficult time. She will recover and she will move on to better, happier, healthier times.
I always say that no one needs a man (or a woman) and I believe that goes for illness, as well. Now, if you have an amazing spouse who wants to take care of you and support you during an illness, then that is a blessing. Consider yourself fortunate in that regard. But, a spouse who can't handle it -- who is panicky or gets angry or even cheats as a way to cope isn't good for anyone. So, given the choice, I have to believe anyone would rather be alone than with a partner who can't cope.
My friend also asked me for dating advice on behalf of her friend. Apparently the woman had gone on two dates with a guy right before she was diagnosed, and they really hit it off.
"How should she handle it? Should she tell him? Should she continue to date him?" my friend asked.
"Hell yes!" is my answer. Handle it with honesty. Full disclosure. A couple things: First of all, this is not a terminal illness. She should have faith that she is going to fully recover and live a wonderful life. She will be her normal self again (even better and stronger.) But it will take some time. Secondly, she will find out what this guy is made of in a split second. If he decides to walk away, no big loss. I do want to add that two dates doesn't obligate anyone to care for the person if he/she becomes ill, so if he does decide he isn't up for being the supportive boyfriend during this time, that is no reflection on his character. Only he can decide if it is right for him. That said, if he stays, she knows she has a gem, and that the man sees real promise in the relationship. And, it will mean the world to her. The bottom line is, she can't lose, but she has to be upfront.
Furthermore, she should continue to date (if this guy decides to walk away.) I have a friend who met her now husband in a Starbucks 20 years ago while eight months pregnant with her ex-husband's child! Her husband had cheated on her and left her, and here she was, alone and pregnant. Her now husband fell in love with her and raised the boy with her. They also had more kids. There are princes out there. Trust me.
I will be wishing this woman all the best for a quick recovery and great health moving forward.
I'll leave you with this:
It still constantly amazes me how life throws these curveballs, and that nothing ever turns out how you expected it to. Some "surprises" that life brings are awful and upsetting, but then there are others that are delightful and fresh and beautiful, and you say, "I can't believe I got this lucky." In other words, if you pick yourself up from off the floor, someone will be there shortly to grab your hand."
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.