I think it was the little girl in me threatening to expose the “truth” behind my relationship in my last blog post. I was trying on the too-big high heels and attempting to walk in them long before my foot fit. I hit “publish,” and then sat back and thought to myself “Oh shit. Did I want to open that can of worms? Is this fair? Is this right? Didn’t I have the upper hand until now by being…nice?” I continued debating whether to write in detail the truth (my truth, anyway) about nearly the year-long disintegration of my personal relationship while I was a breast cancer patient. I hesitate even now because I don’t want to be the “woman scorned” who can not let go of her past. I want to be Cathy, a good friend and kind and loving partner to someone who deserves me. I want to be the young-ish woman who survived breast cancer, survived heartbreak, and who emerged with grace and dignity. I was and still am not sure if sharing the details of my story allow me to be that person.
However, as I was driving to work this morning I realized that the deeper down I bury this black seed of anger and sadness, the more it is going to struggle throughout my life to reach the light, and I don’t want it to have another second of power to hurt me. I have, over the recent years, exposed a lot of my “dark seeds” to the light, through work in therapy and honesty with those persons closest to me, and following the exposure of those truths I tend to find tranquility. Although “the truth will set you free” is quite cliché, it’s meaning is eternally powerful, at least to me. So the ingredients for this blog post (and probably a Part 3) are one part scorned woman, one part scared woman, and one part overly-honest woman.
“True love is taking the other person’s life in your hands and letting that person take your life in his or her hands, because that’s the level of trust that true love needs. Otherwise you’re somewhere else all together, maybe you’re part of a joint venture, which can have its own rewards, but when you’re in love, the other person’s life is just as real to you as your own is.”
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on June 5, 2012, and my ex-fiancé was pulled into the exam room where I was waiting for him with the news, there is not a doubt in my heart that this quotation described our relationship. I simply have never seen anyone look so scared in my life. Although loving HIM helped to fill my heart with positivity and get me through many difficult times, I know now that he did not reciprocate with the same kind of unwavering love.
For me, loving him and my life with him and everything that lay ahead of us was like taking anti-anxiety medication. He calmed me. He was mine and I was his, and if I was going to suck it up and battle cancer, it was as much for him to have me alive for as long as possible as it was for me to be with him for as long as possible. Now, I almost feel badly that he couldn’t maintain that same mindset because it is amazing and a gift to feel that way! Regardless, while I was going through cancer treatment, I had to believe that he was still with me, that he had not checked out sometime soon after the beginning of my diagnosis. Had I truly believed for one minute that he wasn’t just “freaked out” and was actually mapping his relationship escape route since sometime in July, I am not sure I could have fought cancer the same way. I was already sad and scared and miserable, but laughed and lived and loved and cried myself through it, telling myself he would be better, that we would be back to normal, once I was better. And since he kind of stuck it out, I thought he, too, was waiting to see what life would be like for us, together, post-cancer.
I suppose there were warning signs all along. I remember when we were dating how he freaked out about me not wanting to move to Seattle and my student loan debt. Both of these things were directly related to the amount of freedom (or lack thereof) he would have in his future if his future involved me. I naively reassured him that his happiness was integral to my happiness, and I expected him to feel the same way about me. Although I was (am) open to living just about anywhere, cold and dreary climates aren’t really good for me. I get migraines when it’s overcast, and I enjoy horseback riding too much to constantly be battling the weather. We also talked about how when I worked, every penny, besides those that went to my horse (and LOTS of pennies go to my horse…), would go into paying off my debt so that we could have financial freedom sooner rather than later. I reminded him that being in a relationship is about compromise, and if he didn’t think compromise was a possibility, to please walk. I think he emailed and called me a day or so later and felt more comfortable about things. Then things were great.
We talked about where we wanted to live, moving to Colorado and eventually British Columbia only a few months into the relationship. He even considered surprising me with a horse of my own in BC before we made our first trip there. I told him I wouldn’t move unless he was committed and planned to marry me. We continued to make plans for my move (with all of my animals) to Colorado. We got rid of my Expedition and he bought me a nice four-door Silverado and a three-horse slant load horse trailer. Everything in my life was brilliantly perfect. Even now, I can’t recall a time when I was happier.
My truck and trailer and me, August 28, 2011
I didn't work when I moved to Denver. That was a mutual decision before I left Florida. I was going to work on cleaning up the house he owned in an agricultural town close to Denver for a month or so, and then look for work with a non-profit organization in the city or consider sitting for the Colorado bar. We returned happy and engaged from six weeks in British Columbia in mid-October 2011, and that's what I blissfully did. I found an old email I wrote to my Aunt Nancy in mid-November, 2011, and it said:
"I moved into a bachelor pad, a dirty, unorganized one at that, and have been nonstop trying to rearrange, incorporate my stuff, clean, and paint all at once! In the meantime take care of my horse, our new goat (a pet for the horse) and our three pups! It is FINALLY coming together! I am at the point now where everything has a place, for the most part, although I do need some new pieces of furniture, like a real desk and a chest of drawers, so there are some piles of junk hanging around still, and a couple of rooms need some paint BADLY, but at least it’s liveable. Oh, and the kitchen needs to be renovated-I think the oven is older than I am. Seriously.”
Dora’s First Day, October 15, 2011
By the end of December, we had started the process of buying a house in Steamboat. I believe the original closing date was February 1st, which was pushed off and pushed off until May 1st. We bought chicks in anticipation of having a small farm in Steamboat. I was in animal heaven. I did not try to get a job between December and May. The only thing he ever verbalized to me as the reason for our downfall, and apparently a concern of his family, was that I was a gold-digger who didn’t have any intention of working. Mind you, I am an attorney and have held jobs as needed since I was 14 years old. Also mind you, the men I seriously dated before him offered a whole heck of a lot more financially. Hindsight is 20/20 and of course I wish I had done something mindless just to take some of the financial pressure off of Bing. We moved to Steamboat and I started learning about his family business and working with the employees there (who are some of the wonderful people who call Steamboat home) while again settling in and making the property our home. Three or four weeks later I found a lump in my breast which turned out to be breast cancer. I pretty much stopped going to “work” regularly. I became my own full-time cancer secretary. It was a mutual decision between Bing and me for me to get treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, as I had family there and it is one of the pre-eminent cancer facilities in the country. Finding a full-time job in Steamboat when the length and timing of my treatment, reaction to surgery and chemotherapy, and possibility of needing multiple surgeries if I had a mastectomy, didn’t really make me highly-employable. By his family business, yes. By anyone else, not so much. So when I was in Boston, I helped my aunt tutor my cousin and babysat for some extra money, and made certain that I had a job lined up in Steamboat for when I finished radiation treatment (which I did). When I was in Steamboat, I worked on the house and the farm constantly, and took care of my ex-fiancé whenever he was home. I did laundry, cooked, cleaned, cared for the animals, food-shopped, mowed, organized, and supported him in every (ad)venture he planned.
(More to follow…)