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'I thought a new baby would heal our toxic relationship. Three months later, he left us.'

Content Warning: This post contains mentions of domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers.

I’ve been fighting breast cancer and its after effects for over three years now. For now, my health prospects are good – the cancer is dormant, or NED (No Evidence of Disease), but I am constantly dealing with the barrage of side and after effects that my aggressive treatment regime brought, and continues to bring.

My personal life was put under a microscope, and then through a shredder, when cancer came along. At first it was just me forced to examine the reality of my toxic relationship as the pitiful foundations we built began to crack and crumble like castles in the sand.

As it turns out, the most common casualty of breast cancer is not the patient, but the life they *thought* they knew before everything changes forever with the diagnosis.

I can’t believe, looking back, how good we women can be at fooling ourselves, whilst simultaneously projecting complete lunacy to those who really know us and have our best interests at heart.

The signs of an abuser, told through his victim’s phone. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

When I met my children’s father I was fresh from a separation, which eventually ended in divorce. He was younger than me, better looking than me and from a cooler crowd than me. So instantly, I put myself in the “lucky he wants to be with me” box, and did anything I could to mould myself into someone he might love.

But love is a loaded word – as loaded as the relationship was with red flags, which I uncovered and discarded with justifications, making sense to only to myself.

The dust from our demise caused one hell of a sandstorm, and the cleanup may never be complete. What seems even crazier to admit is this; I saw it decaying, and I chose to stay. Day upon day when my safety and sanity was continuously challenged, I chose to stay. When I talk to my now husband – whom my family have affectionately dubbed “Mr Unicorn”, he often scoffs in disbelief that someone as sensible, sensitive and somewhat intelligent as me, would ever allow myself to be in such a relationship.

It’s easy to see clearly with distance and time between you and ‘then’. But when I really unpack it, I have to be honest and say, I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew even then – long before the cancer was uncovered – that we were doomed. I knew at some point, the pseudo-love web we had woven would be abandoned and demolished; because there is no way the spider will stay when he has finished flaying the fly.

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But somewhere along the line, I subconsciously chose to pursue pregnancy with the poisonous arachnid in whose web I had so willingly wandered.

Because at base level, I was happy to be a single Mum. At base level, I knew that my worst days alone with a much longed-for baby, would be far, far improved on my best days entangled with the spider.

toxic relationship signs cancer
Farrah's cancer diagnosis came just 18 hours after she gave birth to her son. Image: Facebook / FarrahsArmy.

Should I be embarrassed to admit I knew there was an expiration date?

Should I be ashamed that I continued to put myself in such a precarious position – sustaining a toxic relationship to achieve my baby-dream?

Hmm, maybe.

But I’m a spiritual person, with strong beliefs, and I just knew that for me and my child, it was going to work out. I could close my eyes and foresee a future where it was just me, and my baby, and we were fine.

And I should have left the first time fists were shaken, fingers were pointed, voices were raised in spluttering rage. I should have left when swear words were tossed out like grenades, and I was threatened and verbally abused... again, and again, and again.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always awful... when we were doing what he wanted or he was getting his way and I was playing my part properly, I sometimes felt for a moment that we might, one day, work it out. But when magic happened and our miracle daughter arrived after years of negative pregnancy tests and IVF, and we became three, things really came apart.

I had naively assumed he would miraculously turn into the family man I dreamed of – helping with night-feeds, changing nappies, taking walks in the evening, growing closer together as we marvelled in this tiny human we created. But it became clear to me that as far as the actual parenting went, I was on my own – a puzzle piece in the wrong box that had no idea what my picture was supposed to be.

Red flag after red flag presented itself, but my blinkers were firmly planted on my face and soon, it was the necessity of caring for an ill family member and his having to take extended leave from work due to an exacerbated back injury, that kept us together. He needed me to look after him and to raise his daughter, and having been made redundant on maternity leave, I was unemployed and had no way to make it on my own. We needed each other.

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And then, the most crazy thing happened and in the midst of the madness: I became pregnant again. My daughter was only five-months-old when we found out we were already six weeks along.

toxic relationship signs cancer
"He needed me to look after him and to raise his daughter, and having been made redundant on maternity leave, I was unemployed and had no way to make it on my own. We needed each other." Image: Facebook / FarrahsArmy.

I always joke it took four years to make her and four seconds to make him... but there was no mistaking it – he was on his way and the crazy, muddled up life that we knew was about to get even more complicated than I could ever have imagined.

Queue birth of baby, delivered with one extra detail; a breast cancer diagnosis. My cancer was large, it was aggressive, it had spread, and treatment had to start right away.

Three months into my chemotherapy regime, whatever relationship we had left was dissolved without repair when he left me on my knees, bald and crippled with side effects, holding a three-month-old baby while a slightly older one screamed from her high chair. I was begging him to stay – to help – but he stepped past me and straight through the door. As far as I was concerned, there was no coming back from that. Ever.

Being in a toxic relationship is a tragedy that no woman should have to suffer, but all too many do.

Toxic relationships are like quicksand, the more you struggle, the quicker you sink. Sometimes it's best to go slow, and extricate yourself carefully to avoid maximum damage. But while you are waiting... life has to go on.

You can follow Farrah's recovery from cancer on her Facebook group, FarrahsArmy.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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