January 2, 2012 is a day I will never forget. I woke up early because I had early morning medical appointments scheduled for a good chunk of the day. While getting routine lab work done, my doctor had noticed alarming abnormalities. He had ordered follow-up tests. I was terrified and filled with dread.
I had arranged for the girls to go to a friends’ house to hang out. My husband, Rob, wanted to run a bunch of errands. I asked him to drop the girls off on his way out and, in response, he exploded into a temper tantrum. “I just want to leave and get things done!” he screamed in only the way Rob can. (Truth was, numero uno “errand” was a stop by a bar.)
“Well, I think my medical tests are more important, don’t you?” I was an emotional and nervous wreck and left the house. I was beyond caring what his needs were.
My first stop was the lab where I had 13 vials of blood drawn. Since I was too nervous to eat, the blood work made me feel woozy. Next was picking up a 24-hour urine collection kit. Gross. For 24 hours straight, I would carry around a big orange jug and all my pee would go into it. They would be checking for a protein spike in my urine. And, lastly, I went to radiology for a full body scan. The radiologist asked if I knew why I was there. No, not really. “They think you have cancer. We’re scanning you for body tumors.”
And there you have it. That’s how I officially learned that I was a potential cancer patient. I had suspected it, but I now knew in my gut. I started sobbing.
I drove home in a fog. I have cancer I have cancer I have cancer. No no no no. God please let this be a mistake. A mistake a mistake. Please not me. This isn’t happening. It’s not happening. No no no. I have cancer I have cancer. And I cried. I’m not sure I remember the drive home.
I immediately started doing research on the Internet and was pretty much convinced that I had multiple myeloma. I texted Rob. “Please come home. They think I have cancer. I’m so scared.”
His texts back were bizarre. Clearly he was drunk. “You do not make plans with the girls without asking me first!” He responded. WTF. I was getting scanned for tumors and he was upset that he dropped the girls off two blocks away so I could get medical tests?
“I don’t care about that. Please come home. I think I’m really sick.”
By the time he got home, he was Evil Drunk Rob. His eyes were glassy and wild. I was sitting at the kitchen table sobbing. “Rob, I’m scared.”
“You don’t know if you’re sick!” he screamed in the Rob howl. “You’re a drama queen! You just don’t want to work. You’re a lazy thief who just wants my money!”
Huh? Our entire marriage, I had more money than he did and far fewer financial obligations. I wanted his money? What money? And, besides, I probably had cancer and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about money.
“Why are you screaming at me?” I said. “I’m sitting in front of you. I can hear you.”
He leaned across the table until he was just inches from my face. “You’re a fucking lazy drama queen!” he screamed so loudly that he was literally spitting in my face. “You just want to move home to Mommy so she can take care of you!” he sneered. He was evil. “Fine! I’ll take out $10 thousand from my 401k and move you to Mommy because that’s what you really want. You just don’t want to work!”
I was stunned. Even for Rob, this response was pure evil and I loathed him. I have never felt such a repulsion by anyone in my entire life. All I could think of was GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME. I stood up and went into the back bedroom and called my parents. I whispered because I didn’t want Rob to hear me. “Rob is drunk and screaming. Can you hear him?” Yes they could. Although I was no longer in the same room as Rob, he was screaming to himself- loudly. They were horrified. They had heard my stories of Rob’s drunken and abusive behavior but now they were hearing it for themselves. Next call was to Rob’s mother. She didn’t answer but I let Rob’s screaming be recorded on her voicemail.
I moved to the bathroom, locked the door, and sat on the counter. I called 911. “Please send help. I think I’m really sick and my husband is drunk and I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt.” I was desperate. When I told Rob that the police were on their way, he was horrified. “I have a big work project that starts tomorrow. Please don’t do this,” he said. “If you do this I’m never coming back.”
“Good. Don’t.” He quickly packed up clothes and left before the police arrived. Drunk Rob was used to driving after too many drinks. By the grace of God he had never been pulled over.
For the next hour, I cried and dry heaved. There was nothing in my stomach to throw up because I wasn’t able to eat anything. And in my mind, the endless thought of I have cancer I have cancer I have cancer raged on. I’m dying. Please let this be a mistake. I had never felt so alone and so afraid. I didn’t know where to turn.
I had to pick up the children from their friend’s home. I had to get dog food. I had to feed the girls dinner. There was no food in the house. How was I going to do any of this? I was a zombie. I had to somehow pull it together and act like everything was fine. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I somehow purchased the dog food and fed and watered the dogs. I purchased soup and prepackaged salad at the grocery store and pre-made lunches for school the next day and picked up the girls. My hands were shaking. I was dizzy. I looked at my daughters and my heart shattered. Am I going to orphan them? What am I going to do? I’m sick, I’m dying, I have cancer. Oh my God. I went back into the bathroom and dry heaved some more.
I got Siena into bed. Morgan slept with me that night in the master bedroom. I took three Tylenol PM looking for any kind of reprieve from the horror I was feeling inside my head. It didn’t work. I left the TV on and took three more Tylenol PM. I dozed off and work up a few hours later. I went into the bathroom and tried to throw up. More dry heaving. I’m sick. I have cancer. I’m dying. I hate Rob. It was an endless loop. My heart pounded. I got the girls off to school and called my parents. They were already on their way from Salt Lake City and would be there that evening. I was relieved. I was incapable of doing anything on my own.
And then the texts from Rob started coming in. “I’m coming home! It’s my home too!”
I made an appointment with Rob’s ex wife’s attorney and got an appointment that afternoon. If Rob showed up at home, I was filing an emergency hearing before a judge to have him removed until I could move out. I texted him back that if he dared show up at our home, I would call the police again. I would never – under any circumstance – be in the same room with that raging alcoholic, abusive monster without witnesses again. I was done being bullied, degraded, made fun of and abused by him. I hated him like I’ve hated no one.
Two days later, I had my first appointment with my treating oncologist. I had Stage III multiple myeloma. Dr Raja said I was highly treatable and would be alive for many years to come and would see my children graduate and grow up. But the treatments would be long and not fun. I was relieved. And I knew I was leaving Rob. Because my treatments would be intense and I would need fulltime caregivers, I was moving to Utah to my parents’ home.
While the marriage had been a nightmare and the separation and divorce horrific, too, at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel. By leaving Rob, someday I would make my way out of Hell and be able to start healing. As painful as a separation is, it was the first step in escape.