Farrah Millar’s relationship had been falling apart for a long time. But it took a life-changing diagnosis for her to see it.

Farrah Millar

As Farrah wrote for Kidspot, one of the happiest days of her life was followed by a frightening diagnosis. The morning after she gave birth to her son, Rhylan, Farrah was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

The mom of two, who blogs at Farrah’s Army, told Dearly that the problems in her relationship first surfaced long before her diagnosis — soon after their first child was born. Without a model for healthy relationships, Farrah’s partner was prone to overbearing behavior.

She could see the signs of a bad relationship, but Farrah closed her eyes to their issues. As she told Dearly, she couldn’t admit to herself that things weren’t working:

“I felt trapped. I had a newborn — our first daughter — and I was starting to see a side of my ex that worried me. But my self esteem was battered beyond comprehension, and this was supposed to be the relationship that had saved me from a previous dysfunctional marriage. I couldn’t admit to myself or anyone else that I had gotten myself stuck in another situation that I should have had the experience and maturity to skirt completely. But I had wanted ‘the picture’ and the babies so badly. I just forced the puzzle pieces to fit.”

Then came the pressures of in vitro fertilization as they tried for another child. When Farrah became pregnant with her son, she was thrilled. Rhylan was the “miracle baby” Farrah and her partner had dreamed about. But Farrah was only able to spend a day with her son before the cancer began to take over her life.

Farrah Millar

Farrah’s friends and family rushed in to provide love and support. In a strange way, that help only emphasized the fundamental problems in her relationship. Farrah told Dearly:

“From the minute I was diagnosed, and he started to withdraw even more from me, my friends and family were quick to fill the gaps. Which, in hindsight, probably embarrassed him and challenged his position as ‘head of the household.’ His chronic back pain eventually prevented him from working, and we began to rely solely on the generosity of my friends and family to survive.”

Despite the issues they had had in the past, Farrah had hoped that somehow the journey would bring them together again.

Instead, she began to see that trying to grow their family had helped them ignore their differences. Now, beset by personal challenges, it was going to be difficult to heal the relationship.

Rather than being brought together by their struggles, it drove them further apart. Farrah told Dearly:

“The sicker I got, the more we both recoiled from each other. I slept alone with the baby on the floor. I lived a separate life in the same house.”

With her life consumed by her treatment and motherhood, Farrah wasn’t able to pay attention to her partner. He felt ignored, and she turned to others for support. She told Dearly:

“My life became all about going through the motions to get me through each day. Appointments after appointments, focusing on the babies who were just 13 months apart.

In my mind, I told myself he should be taking care of himself because I was too sick to be doing that, too. But in his mind, he fell down the pecking order ladder and his pride was really ruined. It just kept spiraling out of control — the less he supported me, the more other people had to pick me up. That dynamic just fed itself until it got so bad, something had to give.”

Then came the moment when the relationship truly broke. At one of her lowest moments, Farrah’s partner walked out on her. She told Dearly:

“He walked out on me one night when I was at my absolute weakest, and I never truly recovered from that hurt. He left me on my knees holding a three-month-old baby, begging him for his help. And he just ignored my pleas like I was invisible.”

That was the moment that Farrah knew that she was going to have to leave:

“From that point, I never saw how we would ever reconcile. I tried to give him space — allowed him to come and go, drift in and out as he needed, but all the while I was just biding my time until I was strong enough to leave for good.”

Still, at the back of her mind was the knowledge that she would have to break up the seemingly “ideal” life she had dreamed of.

Farrah Milar

And then there were the children. Though her partner wasn’t a perfect father to their 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, Farrah never doubted his love for his children.

There was, of course, the hope — difficult to admit — that he might magically realize how wrongly he had treated her. Farrah confessed that she knows it was “ridiculous,” but she still fantasized about a happy ending:

“I think some part of me secretly hoped that one day he would wake up and realize just how awful he had been and do anything to fix it.”

Finally, Farrah found the courage to leave her partner and start afresh. She credits friends and family with helping her, both physically (filling her house with furniture, helping unpack, providing meals and comfort) and emotionally.

As she told Dearly, it was really the support of her loved ones that helped her see her relationship clearly:

“I can honestly say that having cancer really does show you who cares for you and who has your back.”

Now, Farrah is a busy single mom and an advocate for cancer victims. She says that she hopes others can learn from her story, especially when it comes to loving and caring for yourself:

“Always put your health — mental physical and emotional — as a priority. Look inside yourself for the love, respect, compassion, empathy, and validation you need in a situation like this. If they’re not coming from the sources your expect, you need to cut away the dead weight and move on to somewhere you can flourish and find the sunshine. Don’t let anyone else’s tall poppy syndrome block you from the sunlight you deserve.”

The experience also showed Farrah the importance of accepting the love and help of others. Now, she finds that she’s grateful to write a new “happy ending” for herself as a single mother.

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