Health & Lifestyle

Woman has no regrets after divorcing her husband while he was dying of cancer

A woman who divorced her husband while he was suffering from testicular cancer has revealed why she has no regrets.

Yana Fry, a life coach from St Petersburg, Russia, who now lives in Singapore, got married when she was just 22 years old, and looking back, she wishes she hadn’t tied the knot before she was 30.

Her ex-husband, who was 15 years her senior, was diagnosed with testicular cancer three months into their marriage and she stayed with him for another five years. 

Even before his diagnosis, Yana said her husband was always one to ‘drown in self-pity’ and after years of mental anguish, she called it quits, much to her in-laws’ disdain.  

‘I rushed into that marriage. I don’t think women should marry before 30. We have no idea who we are, and we don’t know what is a good partner for us,’ the 40-year-old explained.

Yana Fry (pictured) from Russia, who now lives in Singapore, got married when she was just 22 years old, and looking back, she wishes she hadn't tied the knot before she was 30

Yana Fry (pictured) from Russia, who now lives in Singapore, got married when she was just 22 years old, and looking back, she wishes she hadn’t tied the knot before she was 30

Her ex-husband, who was 15 years her senior, was diagnosed with testicular cancer three months into their marriage and she stayed with him for another five years

Her ex-husband, who was 15 years her senior, was diagnosed with testicular cancer three months into their marriage and she stayed with him for another five years

Yana met her husband about a year before they tied the knot, and while they had a good relationship, she believes it never stood a chance after he fell unwell because of the toll his illness took on them both.

‘People react in one of two ways to critical illnesses, I’ve seen it over and over,’ she said.

‘The first type was how my husband unfortunately was – the people who drown in self-pity. The second type of people are those who are instead concerned with everyone around them.’

Yana revealed she married her ex-husband thinking that the pair would be together for life, but her desire to have children became a problem when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. 

‘We had a great dating experience. I definitely thought, “I’m marrying for life, and I want babies right away,”” she said.

‘Then my husband, who was 37, got diagnosed with testicular cancer when I was 22.

Yana revealed she married her ex-husband thinking that the pair would be together for life, but her desire to have children became a problem when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer

Yana revealed she married her ex-husband thinking that the pair would be together for life, but her desire to have children became a problem when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer

‘The chances of people dying from testicular cancer are not as high as other types of cancer. Usually, doctors tell you that unless there’s some kind of big exception, you’re gonna you’re going to survive for quite a while.

‘But I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to have children.’

Yana explained that while there is a lot of support available for people when they are diagnosed, this support doesn’t always extend to those around them.

‘We got married in Switzerland – my husband was Swiss – and then we moved to New York. He was working for a company who transferred him there,’ she said.

‘I was learning English at the time. I had no friends, no relatives. I was in total isolation with no support system.

‘We couldn’t really think about our future. How can you plan for your future as a newly-married couple when you’re struggling with something like cancer?’

Yana said that at the time, society was less aware of mental health – so much so that even medical professionals never asked how she was coping.

‘I was in a state of shock. When I first heard the diagnosis, it took me six months to be able even to say the word cancer,’ she said.

'People react in one of two ways to critical illnesses, I've seen it over and over. The first type was how my husband unfortunately was - the people who drown in self-pity,' she said

‘People react in one of two ways to critical illnesses, I’ve seen it over and over. The first type was how my husband unfortunately was – the people who drown in self-pity,’ she said

‘We saw different kinds of doctors. Not a single person ever offered me help. They never asked, ‘Do you need a support system? Are you part of a counselling group?”

‘I was hoping for the best with my ex-husband’s cancer, but then years went by, and I started to lose hope. It was five years with all the treatments, and it started to change the dynamics within our relationship.

‘It wasn’t until that fifth year that I started to think about leaving.

‘But I felt like I couldn’t say anything. When someone is dying next to you, you feel like you can’t talk about your own wellbeing because you compare it to their suffering.’

Yana said that everything changed for her when one of her friends took their own life, and she attended their open-casket funeral, which brought home her own fragile mental state.

‘It was my first funeral, and it was very shocking. In my mind at the time, suicide became an option, even though I had never considered that before. I was in such a bad state,’ she explained.

‘It was very clear to me that if I didn’t save myself, I was probably going to die.’

So Yana made the decision to divorce her dying ex-husband, and it was an understandably difficult time for both of them.

‘His main focus was more and more so about him. At the beginning of his treatment, he was still checking on me. He felt even more pity for himself because of the divorce,’ she said.

So Yana made the decision to divorce her dying ex-husband, and it was an understandably difficult time for both of them

So Yana made the decision to divorce her dying ex-husband, and it was an understandably difficult time for both of them

‘I can’t say that he was hugely supportive, but it was understandable. What was even harder was reaction of society, which I didn’t expect.

‘People sent me horrible messages. I don’t want to call it hatred, but it was close to that. People were in pain and they wanted to blame someone. His family were so disappointed.’

Her former in-laws were so disappointed she says they didn’t inform Yana of his passing two years later even though he had been re-married.  

While Yana faced widespread disapproval for leaving her sick husband at the age of 27, she explained that she still went with him to his doctors’ appointments and supported him as much as she could after they separated.

She then began the difficult process of carving out a life and identity alone, having failed to establish a solid career path for herself at that point in her life.

Yana described her existence as being that of a ‘trailing spouse’, who eventually found herself in Singapore at the time of her divorce.

 ‘I did have a business degree from a university in St. Petersburg, but I wasn’t sure how translatable it was in developed countries. So I just decided to pursue a different career, which I felt would have more meaning,’ she said. 

‘I wanted help other people to process pain in a better way.

Yana said that she ultimately has no regrets about her decision to chose herself, she has now found a life that she is happy to live

Yana said that she ultimately has no regrets about her decision to chose herself, she has now found a life that she is happy to live

‘When I was suffering, a friend of mine, who happened to be a coach, spent many hours, days and weeks talking with me and helping me to make sense of things.

‘I don’t know where I would have been without those conversations. Because I saw so much value in coaching, I decided to become a coach myself to help other people.

‘Once I found inner peace, my work transformed from helping people to process pain to helping people to find their purpose in life. That’s what I am doing now.’

Yana eventually found out about her ex-husband’s passing on Facebook.  

‘There was a picture of him from a common friend, and it said, ‘Rest in Peace.’ My first reaction was, ‘You must be joking. Someone would have called me and told me.’ But no one did.

‘I had to have years of therapy to learn that I am not a horrible person for making the decision that I did.

‘I was so happy and so thrilled that and so relieved that he got remarried before the end. I genuinely hope that they had a beautiful life together.’

Yana said that she ultimately has no regrets about her decision to chose herself, she has now found a life that she is happy to live.

Yana is hoping that by sharing her experience, other people, especially women, will find the courage to do what is right for themselves, even if it comes at the cost of social disapproval

Yana is hoping that by sharing her experience, other people, especially women, will find the courage to do what is right for themselves, even if it comes at the cost of social disapproval

She also found love again, having remarried too.

‘I am finally learning to love myself and accept myself for who I am,’ she said, revealing that she is now a step-mother to her second husband’s son and hopes to have children of her own.

Yana is hoping that by sharing her experience, other people, especially women, will find the courage to do what is right for themselves, even if it comes at the cost of social disapproval.

‘I feel we, especially women, are just usually brought up is the mentality to serve others, but when you go against it, you learn a lot about resilience and self-awareness,’ she said. 

‘You learn how to not crack under the pressure of the world. Being so close to death has made me appreciate life much more too. When you understand how fragile the life is, many conflicts just disappear.

‘You treat each day as a bonus.’

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