When my wife Nic became ill I was the only one who took her seriously.
Even her mum and sister thought she was exaggerating and her symptoms were so vague our doctor quickly ran out of patience. It took so long to get her diagnosed that she was seriously ill by the time that happened.
I’ve never met anyone like Nic and I was mad about her from the moment we met.
I come from a services family and we never talk about feelings, but Nic was so full of glee and optimism that she was my total opposite but that worked for both of us.
No matter what she was doing it was fun and everyone was drawn to her as a result.
When we got married I came out of the army into a good job.
I worked long hours after our first son was born, as Nic was really keen to be at home with him and she did a great job.
It was a terrible shock when she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer
Our daughter and younger son arrived soon after and life was really busy but nothing stopped Nic – she was supervising homework, taking them to sports practice and organising big parties or barbecues for us at the weekend.
When she became really tired with odd aches and pains it was a shock and she was very unsettled.
At first her doctor kept putting her off and her family didn’t seem to take her seriously. She said I was the only one who listened and that first year of her illness we were still a team – I went to the unsympathetic doctor with her and demanded more tests.
It was a terrible shock when she was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. As she’d had it so long the treatment was drastic. Everyone rallied round and some of her family and our friends felt very guilty for not believing Nic at the beginning.
At first she was relieved to have been diagnosed but then she got really angry and lost faith in the doctors, although she went through all the treatment recommended.
She told everyone I wasn’t helping her but I only found that out when my sister asked me why I wasn’t being supportive
She spent hours researching obscure treatments and suddenly announced that she was going to the US for an expensive holistic treatment which her parents would pay for. I got time off work, our mums looked after the kids and her sister and I went with her to America to try an untested cure based on drinking herbs.
I came home after three weeks to work and be with the kids, who were between five and 11 in age at the time. They were thrilled when Nic came home five weeks later.
The cancer was in remission but Nic was still obsessed with eating organic, drinking these noxious herbal concoctions and suddenly fighting with me over everything.
She told everyone I wasn’t helping her but I only found that out when my sister asked me why I wasn’t being supportive.
I thought she was so distressed she didn’t really know what she was saying
We had a cleaner, all the washing and ironing done and a local catering company supplying dinner every night, but Nic told everyone I expected her to get on with everything herself.
I thought she was so distressed she didn’t really know what she was saying so I took her away for a weekend to try and talk things out, which turned into a disaster.
She said I’d stifled her creatively by making her give up work and that I had no idea of the anguish she was going through. I said I’d do anything to help her but she said she wanted me to be ill instead of her as children shouldn’t lose their mother.
My sister overheard her saying she wished I’d been ill instead of her
Over the next two years she spent most of her time with her girlfriends and nothing I did was right. She went for regular check-ups and we still socialised as a family, which were the only times she was pleasant to me.
My sister overheard her having a go at me and saying she wished I’d been ill instead of her and it was a big relief to have someone else know what was happening. She tried to reason with Nic but that made things worse.
I was worried about the kids since we’d become so distant so I told Nic I wanted us to have counselling or I was leaving.
So I left her. I moved into a flat and saw the children every weekend
She just shrugged, totally distant and uncaring and I thought that perhaps if I left it would shock her into trying again. So I left her. I moved into a flat and saw the children every weekend.
Then, a few months later, Nic’s sister came to see me and told me the cancer was back and was terminal. I moved back home the same day. Nic and I were polite, the children were glad we were together, but over the next year we never reconnected.
Chemo gave her some time with the children and I had months of compassionate leave so we were together as a family.
We had one conversation when she said I was a good dad so she wouldn’t worry about the children and I said I still loved her but she bitterly repeated her wish that I was ill instead of her.
When she died three years ago, I tried to make everything right for my children.
I said I’d left because I was a coward but came back because I still loved her
It was a terrible thing to happen to someone so young but I still don’t know why she blamed me and I can’t let the kids know how hard she was to live with.
I said I’d left because I was a coward but came back because I still loved her and she forgave me and the children believed that and we’re very close but my sister’s now my only friend.
Even my parents are upset with me and although Nic’s friends keep in touch with the children, I’m the unwanted extra. Friends nod at me at parents’ nights and we get invited to family functions but no-one goes beyond a cool greeting and I’m never invited anywhere alone.
I’m mourning the lovely woman I married but she disappeared long before her death and I’d rather forget the person she turned into
I can’t explain that cancer turned Nic into a self-obsessed tyrant because that won’t help anyone. I’ve asked my sister not to tell anyone either in case the children hear about it and their memories of their mum are wrecked.
I’m mourning the lovely woman I married but she disappeared long before her death and I’d rather forget the person she turned into.
Nic suffered a terrible tragedy but she made sure I did too and I feel she’s still punishing me.
All names have been changed.