When Nic became ill I was the only person who took her seriously. Even her mum and sister thought she was exaggerating and her symptoms were so vague our doctor quickly ran out of patience.
When we’d married I came out of the army into a good job so money was never an issue and we were happy. I worked long days after our first son was born but Nic was really keen to be at home with the children and she did a great job, supervising homework, taking them to sports and organising big parties or barbecues for us at the weekend.
That first year of Nic’s illness we were still a team – I went to the unsympathetic doctor with her and demanded more tests. It was a terrible shock when she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer as she’d had it so long the treatment was drastic. Everyone rallied round and I think some felt very guilty for not believing Nic at the beginning.
At first she was relieved to have been diagnosed but then she got really angry and lost faith in the doctors, although she went through all the treatment recommended. She spent hours researching obscure treatments and suddenly announced that she was going to the US for a holistic cure costing thousands of dollars which her parents would pay for. I got time off work, our mums looked after the kids and her sister and I went with her to America to try an untested cure based on drinking herbs. I came home after three weeks to work and be with the kids, who were between five and 11 in age at the time. They were thrilled when Nic came home five weeks later.
The cancer was in remission but Nic was still obsessed with eating organic, drinking these noxious herbal concoctions and fighting with me over everything. She told everyone I wasn’t helping her as I found out when my sister asked me why I wasn’t being supportive. We had a cleaner, all the washing and ironing done and a local catering company supplying dinner every night, but Nic told everyone I expected her to get on with everything herself. I thought she was so distressed she didn’t really know what she was saying so I took her away for a weekend to try and sort things out, which turned into a disaster.
She said I’d stifled her creatively by making her give up work and that I had no idea of the anguish she was going through. I said I’d do anything to help her feel better but she said she wanted me to be ill instead of her as children shouldn’t lose their mother. Over the next two years she spent most of her time with her girlfriends and nothing I did was right.
I was also worried sick about the kids since we had become so distant so I told Nic I wanted us to have counselling or I was leaving. She just shrugged, totally distant and uncaring. I left for six months and saw the children every weekend until Nic’s sister told me the cancer was now terminal. I was shattered and moved back the same day, really trying to help Nic but it was too late. We were polite, the children were glad we were together, but over the next year we never reconnected.
Chemo gave her some time with the children and I had months of compassionate leave so we were together as a family and that was good for the children. She said I was a good dad so she wouldn’t worry about the children and I said I still loved her but she bitterly repeated her wish that I was ill instead of her. When she died three years ago I tried to make everything right for my children.
It was a terrible thing to happen to someone so young but I still don’t know why she blamed me and I can’t let the kids know how hard she was to live with. I said I left because I was a coward but came back because I still loved her and she forgave me so we’re very close but my sister’s my only friend. Even my parents are upset with me and although her friends keep in touch with our children I’m the unwanted extra. Guys who were friends nod at me at sports and we get invited to family functions but no-one goes beyond a cool greeting and I’m never invited anywhere alone.
I can’t explain that cancer turned Nic into a self obsessed tyrant, though if I’d thought she was going to die I would have stuck it out. What would all those people who judge me so harshly have done in my place?
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