IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Ex-Boyfriend Faked Cancer To Cover Up His Drug Addiction
2006 was the year I lost myself, lost my mind, and boarded the my own proverbial crazy-train.
Sparking it was a miserable divorce. My then-husband had an affair with our neighbor and got her pregnant, right around the time we were discussing conceiving our first child. Right after we split, I did the last thing I should have done: created a spunky Match.com profile and started serial dating.
After a month of two of dating some normal guys, I met Brian. Our first date was nothing short of a cheesy romantic comedy. Too much wine, him looking deep in my eyes telling me how amazing I was, hilarious jokes, him carrying me piggyback down busy streets back to his trendy loft for drunk, first-date sex. (I did have a rule of “no sex on the first date,” but since he was perfect, I made an exception.)
On our second date he told me he could see himself marrying and having kids with me. And I fell for it -- hook, line, and sinker. He also broke the news to me that he had cancer. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And that he was currently looking at treatment options but wasn’t sure what the future held for him. He offered me a dramatic option: never see him again or continue our ever-so-engaging love affair and see what happened.
As the sappy love music played in the background, naturally, I chose the latter.
In the weeks that followed I felt like just the two of us lived in this bubble of romantic chaos. One week would be amazing -- filled with love letters, flowers at work, and plans for our future. The next he would call me crying, saying he got news from his doctors that the cancer was spreading. And the most messed up thing was that this emotional roller coaster made me fall in love with him even more.
About two months into our relationship, Brian had to quit his job because he was too sick. This also meant he had no health insurance. Around this time I began to find out that he had an estranged relationship with everyone in his family except his sister who lived in another state. He also had no friends except for a handful that lived in his building and they were all new. All this information was interesting.
He then let me know there was a new experimental drug called “some-crazy-name-he-couldn’t-pronounce-nor-could-I-Google” but we could get it in Mexico. Hoorah! We lived in downtown San Diego and the pharmacies in Tijuana were just a hop, skip, and jump away. So, off we went to T.J. to get Mr. Cancer-love-of-my-life’s meds.
Just about every weekend we went down to the Mexico pharmacies, he asked me to wait outside while he got his life-saving medicine (nope, I never questioned that). And oh, did I mention I started paying for it? He had no job, no money, so essentially I started supporting him. But, really, I was saving his life.
One day I came to his loft after work and he was terribly sick. Puking, pale and trembling, he begged me to drive down to Mexico to get his meds. I knew it was going to be dark when I got there which scared me, because no young American female has ANY business being in Tijuana, Mexico alone at night. Ever. When I said no, he cried and begged me. So, I went.
Still in my work clothes (a Banana Republic silk skirt, matching blouse and heels, I still remember) I found the bar he told me to go to and asked for the Mexican dude he told me to ask for. I suddenly realized there were only men in the bar and they had all turned to stare at me. A low whistle came from somewhere in the bar and about 4 or 5 of them all started walking toward me slowly.
Inside my head I heard, “GET THE HELL OUT NOW” and so I promptly did just that. As I scampered back toward the U.S border, I called Brian telling him what happened and he yelled at me for not staying and told me to go back. I told him to go to hell because I was done.
Two weeks later, he begged me to come back to him and I did. Why? Because I had officially lost my mother-loving mind.
This went on for a few more months, (including late night scary-as-all-hell cab rides to Tijuana alleys with Brian to get his “medication”) and slowly I had to admit to myself that we weren’t getting cancer meds, we were actually getting Vicodin and Oxycontin. (I finally overheard him talking to a pharmacist about it.)
However, I still truly believed he had cancer and this is how he was dealing with it. I mean, what kind of asshole lies about having cancer? No one -- in my sheltered, innocent world -- could do that.
About seven months into the entire ordeal, things suddenly got better. Brian wasn’t using, had gained back the 20 or so pounds he’d lost, and he was offered a job in northern California. He asked me to move there with him so I quit my job and got out the lease of my apartment.
As we made plans to move, he relapsed. I found his aunt’s phone number in his phone and tearfully called her. I told her who I was and that Brian needed help. That he had a drug problem and I was pretty sure it got bad because of his cancer. After a long pause she said, “Oh honey. Brian doesn’t have cancer. And you’re not the first girl he’s lied to about this.”
What. The. Hell?
An intervention was held. He agreed to go to a fancy rehab that his mother who was long over his antics, paid for. There, in rehab, he fell in love with another addict and we finally broke up. (And BTW, his rehab girlfriend paid 30k for him to go to aftercare. Swear to God.) The end.
I have to admit -- this story is an embarrassing one to tell and you might be thinking, “Is this girl an absolute birdbrain?” I mean, I look back and think the same thing. But, you guys, I was so, so messed up and desperate for love, I wanted to believe him. I was so terrified of being alone, I clung to any crumbs of this romantic notion that things would work out.
But, this experience needed to happen and I need to tell it because getting conned was apparently what I needed in order to completely change my life. (Yeah, I wish I could have just gone to a yoga retreat, but I guess I needed it to be a bit more dramatic.) It was my ultimate rock bottom. I was broke, had no place to live, and no job. After the fog cleared I realized got slapped in the face with a few lessons.
First, I completely ignored my gut feelings during the relationship up until the end. On the first date I had a feeling something was up with this guy. It was almost as if he was trying too hard, but instead of listening to that voice, I got drunk instead.
Second, I was a raging love addict. (Yes, it’s a real thing.) Love, men and relationships were my drug. Add in a side order of intensity, and it was my favorite high. I was addicted to him and the drama, and I actually thought this is what love looked like.
Third, I had been so afraid to be alone because I had no idea who I was. I would rather cling to any relationship than none at all. Fake cancer and drug addicted? I’ll take it! This experience forced me to look at how I felt about myself, what I was attracting and tolerating, and I had no one to blame but myself.
At the end of the day, I’m grateful for Mr. Fake Cancer. And I sincerely hope that he has found his peace, as I have found mine.