What's My Position, Coach?

I'm just gonna flat-out put a trigger warning on this one because I intend to go to a place that is likely to make some of you uncomfortable.  I plan to take it down to a more specific level of my experience.  At the same time, I've got to walk the razor's edge because I am not here to divulge private matters or confess the sins of others.  But this is a critical piece of my story.

Where Do I Fit In?  (story of my life)

I've been with Martina for over five years.  We've lived together for the majority of that time.  I was with her during here initial diagnosis with Stage I pancreatic cancer, through her Whipple surgery, and through her initial 6-month round of chemo.  In February of this year, we got engaged.  In July, she was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.

Martina had a vision, which I shared, of moving to Maine.  She wanted to be out of the city, near the water, and near her family.  I was on board with that, but my son Oliver was just starting high school.  I was not leaving town until after he graduated.

When Martina was diagnosed with Stage IV, she was very clear in her desire to return to Maine as soon as possible.  I was conflicted by that choice.  I didn't want her to leave, but I knew that this was a decision being made by a person facing mortality head-on.  I was also very aware that if I tried to persuade her to stay and it went sideways, then that would be on my head.  So I supported her as best I could even though it was emotionally painful.

When Martina was scheduled for her first round of chemo, her sister Amy came down to be with her through the treatment and over the following weekend.  Amy ended up staying with us for over a month.  She absolutely drove me crazy... and she was a godsend.  Amy took over the role of primary caregiver (a job she is MUCH better suited for than me) and that allowed me to stay employed and maintain some semblance of a relationship with my kids.  I will be forever grateful to Amy for that sacrifice.  It was rough.  There were periods where Martina needed nearly 7x24 care.  The side effects from the chemo were brutal.

Early in her stay and at Martina's request, Amy got out her calendar and put a timeline together which would have Martina relocated to Maine in roughly four weeks... in the middle of her first round of chemo.

I want to pause here and acknowledge that there are details that I am intentionally omitting.  Personal matters that I do not care to divulge.  I will, however, note that during this period, I went into one of the deepest depressions I have yet experienced and was also in a state of denial.  Sometimes I was only vaguely aware of what was happening around me.

At some point, I put enough cognitive function together to realize that the 'four weeks in the middle of chemo' relocation plan was... to put it mildly... a bit risky and probably flawed.  I tried to make my case.  I expressed my concerns and they were rebuffed.  In the end, the relocation did proceed per the four-week timeline.  There were unintended consequences.  There were things that did not go as planned.  There was a degree of suffering that could have and rightly should have been avoided.  In certain ways, I was harmed... as was Martina... as was Amy.

Reflecting on that period, I carry no ill will or resentment.  I recognize that all three of us were doing our best under very stressful conditions.  Looking back, there are many "I wish I would have's".  But that is in the past.

The relocation and the separation from Martina created a shift for me.  I was initially disoriented - trying to find my equilibrium and learning how to live in our now-empty home.  I was also removed from her day-to-day care-giving which, frankly, was a relief.

All this created space for me.  And in that space, I started to reflect on what, exactly, my role was in all of this.  (BTW - we're getting to the triggering part)

I have been with Martina for 5+ years.  I love her and care about her.  We are engaged but are not married.  And, technically, I am not family.  She made the decision to relocate back to Maine even understanding that I could not make that move with her.  I understood and accepted that decision.  But it did signify change for me.  Additionally, I have other roles that are important.  I am a divorced father who wishes to be engaged with his children and has post-divorce financial responsibilities.  All of this (Martina, the kids, the divorce) means that I have to maintain employment and an income stream.

So, given all that, what is my role here?  What would you do?  How would you navigate this minefield?

I will share that it has been a difficult and painful emotional struggle to come to some sort of clarity.  And, again, there are pieces of the puzzle that I am intentionally not including.  So you're not working with all the data points.

Furthermore, please know that I am NOT soliciting your feedback, opinion, or guidance.  Reflect on what arises for you when you consider my position.  Do you have strong feelings?  Do you KNOW with certainty what you would do?  Do you have an opinion of me for even struggling with this?

The point is - there are no right or wrong answers.  This is a Rorschach test.  And how you react to it says much more about you than it does about me or what path I may have ultimately chosen.

I'm learning that, in this situation which is very much about life and death, there are many choices that must be made... even though something will be sacrificed... even though you're not sure of the outcome... even when you're morally conflicted.  No easy answers here.

(Damn that was heavy.  I'll try to lighten it up a little going forward.)


  1. No need to lighten. Sharing this struggle is cathartic and helps us understand what is going on in your head. I wish there were words enough to say how shitty I think the universe is treating you guys. I went back and watched the proposal video and wish I had a time machine to send you both back to that exact moment in time. So let it out. Howl out your pain and rage. I hope it leaves behind a space for peace - some day.

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