Women With Brain Tumors Seven Times More Likely Than Men To Be Abandoned

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Here’s a sobering sad story about how women take care of their men when they become seriously ill — but, apparently, not vice versa.

Dr. Marc Chamberlain, a Seattle oncologist, noticed this pattern with his patients and a national study of 515 patients who received disgnoses of brain tumors or multiple sclerosis from 2001 through 2006 confirmed it. Women were seven times as likely to become separated or divorced as men with similar health problems, according the report, published in the journal Cancer.

As some of you know from firsthand experience, serious illness is terrifying and, like many such situations, quickly lays bare the character of those around you as they respond to the situation — or flee. My mother, who is now fine, was found in August 2002 to have a large meningioma, a brain tumor. She was discovered, unable to leave her bed for days because it had so affected her body, by the RCMP who broke into her home into her small British Columbia town. I found out because I called her exactly at the moment they were there, and a strange man answered her phone — one of the officers.

My partner, who then had a key position at a major newspaper, unhesitatingly told his bosses I needed him and left with me the next day to fly across the country. It cost a fortune to fly last-minute, which he paid. I didn’t have the money. It took several days before she could even get a clear diagnosis after extensive tests and, in the meantime we had to suddenly take charge of her home and her dog, this in another country over a holiday weekend. She’d never met my sweetie before – now, there she was lying in a hospital bed. He looked handsome, confident, happy to be there, no matter what her condition or how distraught I was over it. “Holy cow!” my Mom said.

As a child, his own Mom had been sick, sometimes for a month at a time with terrible vertigo, and he saw his Dad caring for her. It was how, thank God, he was raised. This isn’t the stuff of first dates, romance and roses and sweet nothings.

That terrible weekend, he happily helped me in every possible way to deal with this nightmare; I returned to Vancouver later, alone, for her six hours of surgery.  He took my mom’s soiled matttress outside and scrubbed it with hot soapy water. That’s when I decided I’d marry him. Is there anything more powerful than love in action?

The men who leave these women, in their moments of greatest fear, grief and need, should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

The Christian marriage vows, at least, specify, in that order: “In sickness and in health.”

4 thoughts on “Women With Brain Tumors Seven Times More Likely Than Men To Be Abandoned

  1. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen

    Holy cow, indeed. You got yourself a partner, in every sense of the word.

    I think in a lot of marriages of a certain generation, there’s an expectation of care in old age — by the woman of the man. My father was 10 years older than my mom, and her terminal cancer threw a big fat wrench in that plan. Her greatest worry upon her death was how he would survive without her. He didn’t; he died shortly thereafter.

    The good news is that I think our generation has little expectation of such an imbalanced contract.

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  3. Say what you want about the flaws of today’s generation, but the notion that the wife cares for the husband when ill, but not vice versa, is firmly rooted in our past.
    When my own Mom became a quadriplegic, and it became clear to my Dad that us kids could take care of her, they divorced so he could remarry. To them, it wasn’t much of an issue. Our generation would be pretty disgusted by this.
    So much for ‘the Greatest Generation’.

  4. Caitlin Kelly

    Lisa, I agree. My father had a similar experience and expectation; his wife was 15 years younger and we all, including him, “planned” on her outliving him. She died at 63 of lung cancer two years ago while he, luckily, is healthy as a horse at 80. He did do his best for her, as she died at home with hospice care, but nothing could have saved her.

    He was not a guy who liked being around sick people — who does? — but he’s a different man now, and, for this hideous experience, kinder.

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