Ask Amy: Cancer Hits, Then Heartbreak Follows

By Amy Dickinson | October 28th, 2020

The woman who helped him get through cancer has suddenly chosen a new path


Cancer survivor also has heartache Image

Dear Amy,

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with bone cancer.

I went through 2-1/2 years of chemotherapy and six months of stem cell treatment.

I am now deemed to be cancer-free, and I feel great compared to how I felt in those three years.

During that time, I was with a woman (for eight years). We did everything together: Movies, dinners, road trips. Never had an argument. Never raised our voices at each other. My family and friends all loved her, as did I.

She treated me lovingly when I was sick, but of course when I was ill, I couldn’t do the things we used to do. I hated that. My sex drive was gone. But I got better. I started feeling like my old self.

Then I was hit with a bombshell. She left me two months after I got well.

I was crushed. Heartbroken. I cried like a baby. I asked her why, and she said she felt like she was only existing. not living. But I was getting better!

I think that she met someone while I was ill, and she chose the other person. It hurts so deeply. My family, friends and her daughter were devastated.

She said, “We both need to move on with our lives,” and I’m trying, but it’s hard.

What do I do now? Besides go on with my life?

I’m working again, but it is tough by myself. I know I won’t give up or give in, but this still hurts.

Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

— Heartbroken in Dallas

Dear Heartbroken: Conventional wisdom might suggest that someone who hangs in there through the worst of things would then breathe a sigh of relief and commit to being there during recovery. But people leave. Your partner might have been exhausted by the caregiving she did during the worst of your illness.

I suspect that she might have wanted to leave just before, or maybe during your illness, but hung in there out of duty, guilt, loyalty, or compassion for you.

And what you must do now is go on with your life.

You are already doing this, in gradual steps that will become strides. Your recovery from this extremely painful breakup might parallel your recovery from cancer. Look at each day and celebrate your smaller victories. Write them down: A good day at work, a conversation with a friend, a creative project started or completed, an extra lap around the track, increased physical strength, another day of cancer-free living. You are demonstrating impressive resilience and strength. Recognizing that – deep down – will be an important building block for the new and improved you.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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