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When breast cancer breaks a marriage

By - Zawadi Lompisha | October 6th 2012

By Zawadi Lompisha

It’s that month again — breast cancer month. Different people have varied feelings about breast cancer being given a whole month, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. This article is dedicated to all the women and men out there who are breast cancer survivors or who are fighting it with all they have.

Breasts are a touchy subject among couples, and I’ve come across many women whose marriages broke or became extremely complicated after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Take Lily for example. Her marriage was going well. Their three children were in school. Everything changed when she went through a mammogram and got a breast cancer diagnosis. The doctor suggested a radical mastectomy as the best way of dealing with the disease, but unfortunately, the husband had other thoughts. He couldn’t deal with his wife losing a breast and wanted her to keep it. We, their friends, were shocked beyond words. He was effectively saying that he’d rather have his wife dead than relate with her when she is cancer-free with one breast.

Counsellors and friends tried to talk to him in vain. Then Lily, having had enough of his selfish interests, took control of her life and scheduled the mastectomy. After the mastectomy, the doctor said she didn’t need any radiation or chemotherapy. When she went back home from hospital, her husband left, never to return. He told her he could never be attracted to her if she only had one breast!

That was ten years ago. Lily has since found another man who was willing to accept her with one breast and three children. She is now happily married and cancer-free. Meanwhile, her ex-husband is still trying to find another woman.

Thankfully, Zena’s story restores hope in humanity. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, the lump was removed, but she eventually had to do a double mastectomy. Her husband was her biggest cheerleader. When Zena wasn’t sure if she could live without her breasts, her husband assured her that she could and so could he. It has been five years since the double mastectomy and chemotherapy. Zena’s hair is growing back and getting thicker. Their relationship is deep and their appreciation of each other is at another level.

A breast cancer diagnosis can make or break a marriage. For those living through it, I pray that your story will be like Zena’s and for those whose story is similar to Lily’s, talk to a counsellor and remember, you don’t need a breast or breasts to live.

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