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My boyfriend's wife has breast cancer that has metastasized to her brain. She has been declining pretty steadily ever since. We are very close. Before she was very sick, when we thought she was "back to normal" she actually told me that she considers me completely an equal to her in this (V) relationship and said that she already thinks of me as his other wife. We made plans for me to move in when I graduate from college. We were talking about a commitment ceremony. Now I'm not sure if she'll make it through this summer, let alone May 09.

My boyfriend is also ill. He lungs were injured at work and he has asthma that is severe enough for him to be "disabled." This makes it extremely difficult for him to take care of her. I am hundreds of miles away at college most of the time, so I can't really help. If/when she does die my boyfriend's world is going to fall apart, it's already in the process of falling. There's little to nothing that I can do about that. I worry so much that I can barely function.

On top of this I also have been planning a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity study abroad trip that starts in less than 2 months. I'm going to be - literally - on the opposite side of the world. Mostly in remote locations. I am terrified that she's going to die while I am away. OTOH I know that I will resent them both for my entire life if I miss this opportunity (not that either of them would ever *think* of asking me to do that). I don't want that to happen.

So I'm just left feeling helpless and guilty and scared.
  • I'm definitely sorry that you all are having to go through this mess, but at least you have each other and can be there to support one another. One thing to remember is that you do not have to physically be in the same place to support them.

    I am 26 and was diagnosed with aggressive hodgkins lymphoma at 24. It freaked both of my boyfriends out, but there were great caregivers. Thankfully I am now in remission.

    I also did a summer study abroad when I was in college and know how it completely changed my world view and it is a cherished experience.

    My advice (I'll assume you're open to some, since you posted here) is to help organize what you can with them now. Spend the time you can with them now... and then go on your trip. It will change your life and certainly make you appreciate what you have. You'll come back more independent with the ability to be an even better support system to your boyfriend and a better friend to his wife who will hopefully still be here.

    Good luck!
  • (no subject) - panpagant
    • Re: get some help!

      Thanks, but I'm already in counseling. I have been for about 10 years now :/ It helps, though. Otherwise I wouldn't keep doing it. At this point I'm not sure if his wife is coherent enough to have a real conversation about it. Even if she is, she won't remember. He's been so upset that I haven't had the heart to bring it up. I am not going to miss the trip though. They know about it and they know I'm definitely not going to miss it. I still want to go over some stuff about it with him before I go, but it's not terribly urgent.

      I don't know if I really see myself as a caregiver. So I don't feel entitled to that type of support even if I did know where to find it. That's part of the problem. If I was there then yes I would be a caregiver, but as it stands I've seen her about three times so far this year. At least one of those was an extended visit, and I'm planning to be there for at least a month over the summer, and I was there last summer when it first metastasized, but still, how much care can I give from hundreds of miles away?
  • you do not have to physically be in the same place to support them.
    Can you give me some ideas about how I can support them long distance? I talk on the phone with him everyday, and I try to talk to her several times a week. But there are so many practical things that need doing that I can't do. I really want to do more.

    help organize what you can with them now.
    What exactly should I organize? How?

    Spend the time you can with them now...
    I'm actually not going to see either of them until I get back from this trip because I have to leave directly after finals are over and I just can't get down there. They certainly can't visit me!

    and then go on your trip. It will change your life and certainly make you appreciate what you have.
    I am going to, but I feel very guilty right now.

    Thank you so much for your support. I'm glad I created this community.
    • How to support long distance - calls, emails, hand written letters, care packages of things you pick up that would be meaningful, even if not expensive. Do the same things people have done when apart from loved ones (think soldiers or those on mission trips) for years. This part doesn't change because your poly or because she's sick.

      What to organize - if you are really concerned that she may not make it until you return, you can help her get ready by preparing a checklist and organizing final details. It isn't something you WANT to think about, but it is a huge help in reality. You can find end of life checklists online and apply them to her situation. Helping her prepare her will, get financial documents in order, etc. will be a help if she does end up passing away. Is she involved in any online communities? Consider setting up a Paypal donation button to raise some funds to help them out with a housekeeper, etc. Those are things that cause stress and can be addressed now.

      Visiting - do either of you both have webcams? I would invest in even a cheap model before you go. Chat is fine, but sometimes you really do want to see the person/people you love.

      Good luck and keep us updated!
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