Wives + cancer = increased divorces
by Fiona Finn —
It is a sad and upsetting fact that almost 21 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce when the wife is stricken with cancer, compared with nearly 3 percent when the husband is the cancer patient. Getting diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is bad enough, but when the one you depend on leaves, it is downright heartbreaking.
In the summer of 2010, I unwillingly became part of the above statistic. In mid-December of 2009, I awoke from a colonoscopy only to be told I had stage III colon cancer with a 40 percent chance of survival. Looking toward my husband of almost 10 years for support, I witnessed pure terror in his eyes.
Within five months, on Father’s Day, my spouse moved out, only to serve me with divorce papers less than one month thereafter. Indeed, I was shocked by his unexpected and untimely departure. At first, I felt the enormous impact of losing spousal support. I was hurting, crying, having a difficult time dealing with my illness and raising our children alone.
Abandonment during cancer treatment is an insidious phenomenon. For me, it created chaos within our family and, ultimately, left me feeling like a desperate housewife. Instead of focusing all of my energy on my battle with cancer, I refocused it on trying to save our marriage. Like many other women in similar circumstances, I did not complete my therapy and thus, had a higher rate of hospitalization.
As I forged ahead toward remission, I realized I had found a cause worth fighting for. Even though the stats show that 79 percent of husbands stay with their wives, married women need to be informed of the disproportionate rate at which men leave.
Fiona Finn is the author of RAW: One Woman’s Journey through Love, Loss and Cancer. Since remission, she has become a leading advocate for women dealing with spousal abandonment after a diagnosis of a serious illness. As one of nearly 14 million cancer survivors, she gives motivational speeches on life after cancer. fiona-finn.com.
Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 5, October/November 2014.