An ex that comes back and now has cancer

Hi There,

A year ago I met a man online by that certain website that ‘matches’ us. It was only a trial membership, but as the saying goes…’never say never’. Anyway, this man lives in N.Carolina and I live in Chicago. I winked at him apparently but I don’t remember that part. Let’s just call him John. John wanted to come to Chicago to meet me and I had some reservations due to the long distance. John travels for a living, and at that time I was kind of looking for someone who travels, as my job sometimes caused me to travel.

Now John and I are both divorced and both have a son. My son is older and my plans are to move from Chicago once my son graduates from high school. Fast forward. John and I had several obstacles due to our schedules and after three months he decided it was too hard and it was best to move on. I was devastated, more then I ever expected. I really started to fall in love with John. I know in my heart, he too felt the same, but was trying to be the good man that he is and be honest and told me it was best we move on and that he wished things could be different with our situation. He wanted to remain friends, and I couldn’t. It would be too hard for me. John was shocked about that.

So a year goes by and John reaches out to me. A whole year of my trying to move on and date other people. I had so much emotion when I finally saw his text that I had to control myself. It seems what I felt inside was still very much alive and buried deep, and even caught me by surprise. So it took me a while to reply to him. I made it clear that I wanted a relationship and that I deserved someone who wants me as much as I want them. He agreed we should see each other because he felt something was there, and that he was thinking of me. So we started to make plans for him to come to Chicago. In a time span of two weeks of planning to see each other, John calls me to tell me he had come back from the doctor and he has testicular cancer.  My heart sank. All I kept thinking is….he can’t die….there is no way this man came back into my life to die. So I stayed strong and did everything I could (from a distance) to be there and supportive.

Slowly…John started to sound depressed, and scared, and his demeanor became distant. He was dealing with work and family and me …out there far away. John had surgery and had a good prognosis of just needing radiation. This kind of cancer is curable, and he didn’t tell me what stage, but being in healthcare I know that him not having chemo was a good sign. The irony of all this is that my ex-husband also had testicular cancer. Just my luck. Only difference is that I love John far more then my ex-husband. So we had to push our meeting back until after his surgery.

On February 24 John came to Chicago, thin , frail and still healing only two-and-a-half weeks after surgery. To see me. He spent three days with me. He seemed not himself, for what I sensed what he was just going through. Conversations led to tears and past hurts he had from relationships that caused him great pain, and all of sudden his doubts and fears about hurt and trust were surfacing. After a year of not speaking, to this….I didn’t know what to think. I felt like he wanted to end things to do the noble thing…once again. Was it the cancer, was it me?

He wanted me back in his life, before he got diagnosed, so why now is he changing his mind? We basically said our goodbyes at the airport. He was crying and I think afraid that I told him I love him. At this point I had nothing more to lose to let him know. I know it probably made him scared but I don’t care. Do you think I will hear from him? All he kept saying is that he didn’t have the same strong feelings that I had for him. But initially before the cancer diagnosis, he felt something was there and when I told him I wanted a relationship, he agreed and wanted to see me. It all changed when the cancer happened. As sore as he was we did make love when he was with me. I believe that he loves me but is scared now. I can’t stop crying and I miss him so much. Could someone just not care just like that? I did email him to tell him that I still want to be with him and that I am there. No response. I dont know how to move past this. It’s like I am grieving and so worried about him.

Will I ever hear from him? Please help.


Dear Concetta,

Thanks for your question. We’re sorry you’re going through such a difficult time.

When someone is faced with a personal challenge—especially when it’s health related like cancer—they often try to surround themselves with the people they love for support. You certainly fall into this category for him. It’s not like he moved on from your relationship because he didn’t care about you, he just felt the whole thing was a bit too difficult to try and manage. But when he found out he had cancer, all of a sudden he realized how much he missed you in his life.

But what also happened is he ignored some of the other feelings he may have had—or not had—for you. Meaning, the emotional state he was (and is) in caused him only to remember what he missed about you, but when the two of you got together he realized that he doesn’t feel for you, they way you feel for him. He’s not ignoring you now because he doesn’t care; he’s ignoring you because he realizes to entertain any sort of dialogue with you would be leading you on.

We wish we could give you more hopeful news but that’s how we see it. The best thing to do is be there for him as a friend—if this is possible—and see how it goes. It is possible his past relationships are impacting his ability to move forward with you, but if he’s telling you he doesn’t feel how you feel, then all you can do is take him at his word. Remember, as much as you love him, you still don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you, as you feel about them.

Take care of yourself Concetta. Try and be strong. But you might really need to consider moving on, as difficult as that may be. Feel free to ask us any follow up questions. Leave us a note in the comments section. We’ll respond there.


ps. Please let your friends know about us. Thanks.



6 Comments on An ex that comes back and now has cancer

  1. Relationship cut short:

    I ran into someone on a dating site. I knew him from college. 20 years ago we used to meet up for coffee, hang out and then We went out an a few dates. Already knowing this person and I found out that he was on the dating site is because he had been divorced for 5 years. He contaced me on the site and we met for lunch, then began to date and then the relationship was going kind fast. He said, I’ve been thinkingbaout you for all of these years, I really wanted to be with you. He asked me if he could call me his girlfreind and I said yes, and we continued to do things together, and then soon after he tells me he wants to be single. So I asked him if he wanted to break up? He said I just want to slow down. I agreed with him and said that, that wouldnt be a bad idea so we left it like that,,, but the same day her said that he asked me out and I said ok and we had a great time and he said , we should spend a week end away soon.. so I thought that maybe he was changing his mind,,,but thought that we were still taking things slow.. And he was soon to take a family trip,, and kept asking me if I had a passport and I said I need to renew it… I asked him why he kept bringing it up? He told me well I didnt want to mention it yet but I was considering asking you to come with us but I am not sure if my son is ok with it. He was going to be leaving the next week and i still had the passport to renew. I told him I understand but if you want me to go I need to find out if I can get the passport that soon.. so after speaking to his young boy he said that his son wasnt comfortable with me going. I told him again that I understood and I thought it was kind of soon for me to be taking a family trip with him.
    That week he kept telling me he would contact me during the day and he never did,, which would have been fine but it is not like him to do that…
    It seemed something was wrong so, on my way home, I stopped at a place he likes to hang out when he is stressed. I wasn’t sure he would be there but i thought it would be a surprize for him to see me as he has taken me there before. When I saw that his vehicle was parked outside I was happy that i was going to suprise him… So when i got out of the car I saw him outside of the place and was speaking to another lady. I wasnt sure why he was talking to this person. I didnt actually aproach them just incase he was with her. I figured he would be surprised and welcome me to the converation. Insteaad he said to the woman, Can you hang on a second? and walked over to me. I came here because I thought i could ask you waht was wrong But what is going on? He said, I need to be single. I sais oh ok well are you seeing someone else, He said NO.. i said are you with someone right now? He said, no, -(didnt really beleive that because if the way he was acting)
    He said I need to be single and we are not in a realationship. I realize my mistake was I got emotional and I told him I didn’t want that I liked our relationship, I let him into my heart and i wasnt seeing anyone else. So he said well can we talk tomorrow? I will call you tomorrow,, and he never did call me that day – so the next day i sent him a text appologizing to him for the way I acted that night and that I was confused so I hope we can talk soon. I haven’t spoken to him since. I havent called him because it seems he wants things elft in his hands – it has been nearly a month…my plan is to not contadt him and hope that he comes back…or would you have another suggestion?

  2. @Franc…….We agree with you. He needs his space right now. And he’s already told you he wants to be single. If you try to convince him to come back you’re going to just push him away more. And turning up unannounced at bars or other places he hangs out at will also push him away. Give it some time and see what happens. Our only suggestion: Don’t sit around waiting for him. Date some other people, get yourself out there. If he comes back great, but we don’t think you should hold your breath on this one.

  3. Hi Guys I hope you can help me. Years ago when my husband and I separated I got involved with a dear friend. This guy was wonderful to me, fun to be around, great qualities, except I found out he had a long distance/long term girlfriend who he had plans to be with. I didn’t want to be the cause of their breakup, I did still enjoy his company. He certainly didn’t deny advances and kept the good times rolling. I became concerned when I was truly falling in love with him. We had a heart to heart and told him my feelings and asked if we could see each other exclusively. After all I was at a turning point in my life, and it seemed he was also. He said no it wasn’t going to happen that he liked me very much but he was in love with her. Despite our time together he just wanted a friendship. I was devastated but tried to be friends anyway.

    We remained close friends, and my separated husband and I made another go of things to try and work on it again. The marriage remained rocky at best, but at least we could communicate and be better friends to each other. I had become miserable and realized this was not the right decision. I still was in love with my dear friend. I learned that he and his lady had split. Anxious to explore any possibility, I wanted to make myself available, but due to the economy, job loss, housing market etc. of 2009 I was financially unable to work out an amicable split. My friend and I had discussed very strong feelings for each other, and he said to come find him with those feelings when my situation changed. (We still kept in regular contact)

    Well my situation is changing finally and on top of that I am just diagnosed with cancer. My life perspective is very different and I am realizing things that are important, not important, etc. While going through testing and consults, I had been making the effort to re-connect with my dear friend on a different level. I told him my situation was changing and he told me he had already moved on but could be my friend. I became an emotional wreck got clingy, anxious, desperate, etc. He was very angry about this and wanted to end all contact. I apologized to him for my behavior and explained that I had been diagnosed with cancer and I am researching, frightened and confused. I realize I may have come off as too pushy in retrospect. While he briefly acted a friend again, he incessantly was texting someone during our outings and would make time for other people but not much time for me. I brought this up and he said he was very sorry but he had moved on and what should I expect – I had my chance years ago. He has been with someone new for the last few months I learned. We’ve exchanged some harsh words with each other unfortunately. Some of the hard words he said included “he never loved me, there was never anything between us” and either forgot, (or wants to forget) anything we shared on an intimate level physically and intellectually. I responded with well I feel played and or used then. That didn’t help, now he pities me he says. and I’m pathetic for running to him now. I am hoping these are just hard words said by people who are confused and upset. I feel terrible about it. Very sad, lost and confused and at a loss for the right thing to do. I realize I need to focus on my health. I love him very much and wish he were back in my life and would like to be close with him. What do I do? Is there anything that I can do? Endless thanks for your advice. I imagine you all get some interesting problems from all over the planet!

  4. @Liz……It sounds like you’re confronting your diagnosis head on, and with a positive attitude. That’s good, because you’re right, obviously that needs to be your focus. And frankly, your health situation really shouldn’t factor into this. (Although it obviously factors into everything in some ways.) But for now let’s keep the two separate for the sake of focusing on your relationship issue. This situation doesn’t seem like something you’ve done wrong or right, but more of an unfortunate timing issue. You were ready to explore the possibilities, he wasn’t. He was ready, you weren’t. And then you were ready and he moved on. We can see how’d you view this as just a minor inconvenience now that you’re both somewhat single, but he’s changed. (People change with time.) Maybe he had stronger feelings for you before, or maybe not. But this is now the second time he’s had an opportunity to be with you and the second time he’s said no. That speaks volumes. He could have dumped his girlfriend when you first started dating, but he didn’t. And if he was really into you now, we don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t pursue you. (You getting clingy, anxious, etc. only came later after he said he had moved on. So those wouldn’t be reasons.) So it sounds like you need to believe the words he’s saying to you. (Not the mean ones, but the ones that say he doesn’t want to try a relationship with you again.) Af far as being friends…..well, it is possible, but honestly we don’t think that would be the best idea, especially if you are secretly hoping he’ll change his mind and give a relationship another try. We think you should probably move on. However, if you really want to keep the lines of communication open, maybe send him a handwritten letter telling him how you feel and that you’d like to be friends. And then leave the ball in his court while you focus on yourself. If he comes to you it will be because he wants to. (Hopefully not out of pity, but that’s certainly a possibility.) What do you think? Feel free to ask us as many follow up questions as you’d like. And thanks for the donation!

  5. Hey Guys,

    Thanks so much for your honest and considerate response. I agree with you totally and am moving on. It would have been nice if his response initially could have come from a tender place, as it did when he said please come find me again when your situation changes. I don’t understand the need to get ugly, and then tell someone things didn’t work because of something negative or ugly then begin pointing fingers and using harsh dialogue. A gentle “so sorry love, but I’m with someone I really care about right now and I don’t think that could change at this moment” yada yada would have been more effective, and I might have wanted to remain friends. Not so much after seeing this negative behavior. There will be a few situations where we will have to engage socially, and any suggestions you might have would be greatly appreciated. He has some items of mine he has borrowed which I’ll need back at some point, and I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail. Anyway, thank you so much for the eye opener – surroundIn myself with fun, positive people on this journey to wellness, physically and mentally. Moving on indeed!!! Endless gratitude, Liz

  6. @Liz….You’re welcome. In social situations you take the high road and don’t waste your energy. You need it to focus on your new journey! Good luck, and keep us posted about how you’re doing.

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