Fighting cancer, husband wants out, children taken away

Hi everyone,

I'm writing on behalf on my sister who is currently fighting cancer and is going through a very difficult time, a year and a half after her cancer diagnosis. This is her story.  

Jane and John have been married for a number of years and have several children. There are tensions in the marriage, because John has a hands off attitude when it comes to parenting, whereas Jane believes some boundaries, like attending school, helping with chores, and a limit to computer gaming, are essential. Jane does most of the heavy lifting in the marriage, giving up her career. Jane, in addition, starts working several part time jobs while John goes through regular periods of unemployment.

The stress of this probably contributes to Jane's cancer diagnosis. After two surgeries and 6 months of chemo, Jane is taking hormone blocking medication and as luck would have it, is going through the most intense part of the menopause. Jane finds the stress (and the effects of the medication) too much and loses her temper a few times, while continuing to do the parenting on her own.

John, perhaps not sure whether he wants this burden, is undermining Jane. "People have put their lives on hold for you!". John encourages the children to rebel, and to secretly record Jane in order to "gather evidence". Over Christmas drinks, John arranges with his male police relative to launch a "family violence" order against Jane. Jane is forced to flee the house and has to move in with her elderly parents since she sold her pre marriage unit to fund her children's education. John launches divorce, violence and financial proceedings against Jane, claiming her remaining savings since he, he now claims, is the "family". He also bans any communication between Jane and her children and threatens her elderly parents to never see their grandchildren.  

Jane faces court action, solicitors bills, police checks against her future employment and her cancer treatment, alone. She is not allowed to see or talk to her own children. Noone wants to hear Jane's story, the police don't speak to her, there is no institutional support. Jane and her elderly parents feel abandoned, intimidated and fearful of impending court actions.

Being on the other end of the world, I feel absolutely heartbroken not being able to be there for her and give her all the support she needs. She has spent all her life caring and providing for her children and her husband and now it all being taken away from her, at the time when she needs their support. The total injustice of it all infuriates me, especially him being able to manipulate the law and using it to his advantage, as well as totally ignoring the effects that cancer and the medications can have.  

I understand that cancer takes its toll not only on the person affected but on the family as well, but surely there must be ways to protect those who are directly affected. 

If any of you have any advice for her or can help with the emotional/psychological/legal aspects of it, or simply know someone who went through similar experiences - every little bit of help or advice would be greatly appreciated. 

Thank you for reading this and please take care of yourself and your loved ones.



  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    Hi @Linda_D
    That’s quite a difficult situation that your sister is in. Actually, it’s very distressing just reading about it. I don’t even have words to describe the actions of her ‘husband.’ One thing is for sure, she definitely needs him gone from her life. But not her children 😢. I’m not sure what country she is, and what legal action she could take in terms of an appeal etc. I think that might be the best thing to do, as negotiating with the hubby seems unlikely. If he had a soul, it never would’ve come to this. The last thing she needs though, is more stress. I’d say focus on getting her to calm down any way you can, which I do understand is extremely difficult. But being calm will help clear her mind, detach emotionally, so she can fight him using facts and evidence of them. She’ll need to probably contact her medical specialists and get proof from them that the medications she’s on can cause this sort of frustration, and then possibly get statements from friends etc to say he was never helpful and contributed to her breakdown. Looks like it could take a while though to get some result, which is why it’s important that she remain as calm and collected as possible in the meantime. She can’t sabotage her health any further. If she wants to help her kids and get them back, she needs to help herself first. Children are not stupid, they understand lots of things. After a while, they themselves might realise what their dad has done and demand to see their mum again.
    Have faith, she can get her children back. Just make sure it’s done correctly. And see if she can get a psychologist to help her work through the despair of it right now. 
    I wish your sister all the luck in the world 🍀🍀☘️♥️♥️♥️
  • Linda_D
    Linda_D Member Posts: 7
    Hi FLClover,
    Thank you so much for your advice and kind words. <3 My sister and her family are in Melbourne. I absolutely agree that the most important thing right now is her health and she needs to concentrate on that. At the same time, her children were always such an important part of her life and now that they've been taken away from her and she has to fight for them I worry that it's way too much for her, especially in the fragile and vulnerable state that she is in after all that cancer treatment. Least of all I want it to affect her health. And I also agree with you regarding the children, they are certainly not stupid (and hers are teenagers) and I know that one day they will get back to her. She has always been a good mother to them and they were her top priority in life and still are. And they know that. I'm even wondering whether they'd ever forgive themselves for not reaching out to her during all of this. But of course we don't know what their father has been telling them... The most disgusting and unfair thing I find is that he's misused the law designed to protect women from violence by their husbands...   
    But the most important thing right now is her health. Fighting cancer is a long and strenuous way, and I will try to give her all the support that I can in this and also in her fight for her children. 
  • Sister
    Sister Member Posts: 4,960
    I don't know a lot about the letter of the law but I think that what Jane needs most is legal representation and an advocate who understands the process.  My first thought would be for her to contact a domestic violence support group.  From there I would think that she should be able to get more information.  I would also think that Melbourne police would be rather sensitive to the idea that they were being used in any way (re: the male relative).  Anything like that should be going through completely independent channels.  And what @flclover said is a good point.  I'm sure that there are many people who are aware of the family situation - not necessarily friends but those who have a more distanced view.  DV is a terrible thing to deal with.
  • Cath62
    Cath62 Member Posts: 1,241
    Hi @LindaD, what hell your sister is going through and how brave are you to tell her story. Your sister's health is everything. She needs to stay in touch with her oncologist and GP. She also needs to have psychological support so proper counselling to help her deal with this emotionally. In addition she needs a legal representative to help her navigate the courts. That legal representative help take some pressure off her trying to figure out what to do and what is needed to fight for her children. Is she still working. It must be hard for her. Remove any other stresses from her life. Is she trying to work with all this too? 

    My first husband was aggressive, manipulating and controlling. It took alot for me to get him to leave but he did when our son was 8 months old. He cleaned out our bank account and left me with the mortgage and our baby boy.  I was glad to see the back of him and only ever crossed paths with him once again when the looser put in a review of his child support wanting to reduce it to zero.  He never saw his son again and eventually paid $21.67 per month in child support till my son was 18. The system is really hard for women and he manipulated his income. In a way I was lucky he had nothing to do with me or his son ever again. 

    I wish you and your sister all the best. I hope the steps she takes gets her the children back. As teenagers they should be able to decide themselves where they want to be and a lawyer can make that happen. Best care to you as well. You will need to look after yourself too. No one can help from an empty cup as they say. Sending you a big hug xx
  • Linda_D
    Linda_D Member Posts: 7
    Thank you so much for your valuable feedback and support, Sister and Cath62, I really appreciate it. I'm sending the link to my sister as well so she can read all of the responses. 

    It does sound like a good idea to check with the domestic violence support group. I will tell her to contact them as this is definitely the case here. The trick that he's trying here is that he's portraying himself as a victim and her as an aggressor. And yes, there are many people (relatives, friends etc.) who can confirm the true side of things.
    The issue with the police is that they never even contacted her. Noone ever came to talk to her and find out her side of the story and to get the full picture. All very suspicious to me...

    Cath62, I'm so sorry to hear what you went through with your husband, it sounds absolutely horrendous. And with such a small baby on your hands... I really feel for you and your son and hope that you've managed to get your life back and recover from that experience. Sending you a big hug and hope that things got much better for you xx   
  • Zoffiel
    Zoffiel Member Posts: 3,372
    Difficult situation. The law is not designed to protect women from men, it's designed to protect vulnerable parties from the people abusing them. It's not gendered even if the overwhelming percentage of violence is.

    I wonder how a person who is described as selfish and self indulgent will cope with looking after children when he has avoided that responsibility in the past. There won't be much in it for him financially if they are teenagers and she has no money. I'm curious about his motive.

    If there is evidence of violent or irrational behaviour in the home, the police and courts have little choice but to consider it. Regardless of the circumstances of the accused. The inclination to believe a perpetrator is just having a bad day has resulted in some catastrophic events in the last couple of years. It's not surprising they are cautious.

     Yes, I know, I sound like a horrible person, but you must bear in mind there are processes in place that must be adhered to. Orders banning even supervised contact are a fairly serious step to take, though. Is he that convincing or is there more to it? These are the questions that need to be asked, in a completely unemotional way. Which is very difficult and probably not what you want to hear. There are greater issues at stake, currently playing out at increasing volume in this country, where those making complaints must be taken seriously.

    If he is manipulating her, for whatever reason, removing oxygen from the fire is the most effective defence. I think she should concentrate on establishing some contact with the kids and not focus too much on an expensive and protracted legal battle to overturn whatever orders are in place. They need to know she loves them and cares about them. He is likely to decide it's all too hard, if he's the sort of person you seem to think he is. Nothing like a couple of hungry, hormonal young people in the house to cramp your style. 
  • Jwrenn
    Jwrenn Member Posts: 144
    @Linda_D I just feel like giving your sister, and you, a hug. She needs support not crap like that. I burst into tears in my breast care nurses office and she suggested seeing a psychologist with experience dealing with people with cancer. She sounds like she would need to vent to a specialist like that. I hope she gets the help that she needs. Take care xx
  • Cath62
    Cath62 Member Posts: 1,241
    Thanks @LindaD. I am good and recovered eventually from my first marriage. 20yrs after it ended I met my now husband and he was definitely worth the 20yr wait. 😀. He had stood by me through my breast cancer and I am truly blessed to have him in my life.

    I hope both you and your sister find peace. 
  • Anne65
    Anne65 Member Posts: 425
    @Linda_D I am very close to my sister so i can only imagine the stress that this is having on you & not being able to be with her, must be so hard on you both. I was very upset reading your post but some great advice from the ladies above. It sounds like her husband should be the one with the restraining order. It all seems back the front!!
    I think your sister would also benefit from a breast care nurse that can focus on her & her cancer journey. I personally contacted a McGrath breast care nurse when I was first diagnosed & she was there for me whenever I needed some advice or someone to talk to, either a visit, phone call or email. Your sister really needs to concentrate on her own wellbeing & getting through her treatment with the best mental & physical state as possible. The more support & love she can get from those around her, the better. I am saddened about her children being taken away. Their support & love would make the world of difference to her at the moment. I cant believe her husband would be capable of looking after them. She definitely needs to seek advice about her situation & be able to have her kids back into her life.
    Please send her our love & I hope & pray that she can get the support she deserves but importantly, to look after herself. xx

  • Linda_D
    Linda_D Member Posts: 7
    Thank you everyone for all your input and support, this really means a lot to my sister and myself!

    Zoffiel, the modalities of the current legislation protecting only "the victim" is precisely what he is pinning his hopes on. And yes, of course I'm pretty sure that he knows he won't have to look after the children for too long. He's just hanging on to it for now so that he can get the lion's share of the money and after this is all over he can get the life he wants. He knows far too well that my sister will of course take the children back when it gets too much for him. And yes, he is definitely manipulating them at the moment, take for instance the fact that they were reaching out to her right after he kicked her out, but then the communication suddenly stopped. This is not typical of them. He is policing the situation and preventing any contact between her and the children. 

    Of course there's more to it. He also threatened her elderly parents by saying that he will not allow the children to see them again, not even for their funerals (!). In legal terms, this IS aggression. Would you feel safe leaving your children with someone like that? What values can he teach them?      
  • Zoffiel
    Zoffiel Member Posts: 3,372
    @Linda_D if her parents feel threatened, they could trot off and get a restraining order. They are a relatively cheap way of putting a stamp on someone's character (as your sister will have discovered) and it would not be an unreasonable thing to do if they fear further contact from him.

    If he doesn't like it he'll have to defend himself; explain why he shouldn't be told to stay away from elderly people who are frightened of him. The only possible reason he would give is that he needs to contact them so they can see the kids.... If he accepts the order, it almost an admission their action is valid. These are shitty games, but he is already playing them

    If he is as you describe, the insult to the ego will make him come out swinging. And likely make a complete pratt of himself

    Involving the olds in a tit for tat has it's risks, particularly if someone is truly unstable. It could be a very dangerous thing to do on many levels. I'm a bit of an 'Art of War' fan, so this stuff does present as an option for a dark old soul like me.

    I am in no way suggesting that this is the right course of action for your family. Sometimes its just nice to imagine watching someone trying to run through a field of rakes and getting repeated smacks for their stupidity.
  • FLClover
    FLClover Member Posts: 1,513
    You’re a great sister to her @Linda_D. She’ll get her kids back. She just needs to make sure her health doesn’t suffer in the process. He’s not worth it. She has enough evidence to fight him back. Just take it steady and think things through carefully before taking action. 
    M 🍀🍀🍀♥️
  • Linda_D
    Linda_D Member Posts: 7
    Yes @Zoffiel, that is the point: her parents do feel threatened, in fact all three of them (my sister and parents) have been experiencing a great deal of psychological distress due to his actions for months now and it's taking its toll on their health as well. When my elderly and frail father went to my sister's house to pick her up, her husband exhibited verbal violence towards him with threats to never let him into the house, see his grandchildren, let them attend his funeral and so on. All this in front of the children! God knows what they think of the situation and how it affected them - no one from the family can go near them or communicate with them due to the restraining order...    

    Obviously, no one in our family wants to have anything to deal with him again, but since he is trying to misuse the law by presenting himself as a victim and trying to keep the children on his side - all with the help of his relative police officer... Shitty games indeed...   :(

    All I want and pray desperately is that my sister can get her children and her life back and, most importantly, that her health is not further undermined by this nasty situation he has created. She is still dealing with the aftermath of cancer and now this Sword of Damocles hanging over her head...  

    Thank you dear @FLClover, for your encouraging and supportive words, it means a lot to us  <3 This is so so hard to not be able to be there for my sister and help her through all this as I should be doing...   
  • Giovanna_BCNA
    Giovanna_BCNA Member Posts: 1,839

    Hello @Linda_D

    I was saddened to read of your sisters
    experience.  I cant imagine how difficult this situation would be to deal
    with, its great that she has you for support during this very stressful
    time.  It’s a complex situation and one that requires some assistance with
    navigation of services available during
    this difficult time. If possible, can she make contact with an oncology social worker at her treating centre to help guide her with regards to supports services available. 

    As others have said, she needs to stay
    connected with her medical team, General Practitioner and breast care
    nurse. Encourage her to reach out for emotional support and to link in with a counsellor who can provide some one to one support during this time.   I understand that your sister is in Melbourne,
    Cancer Council Victoria offer some legal
    and financial assistance
    that she may be able to access.  I have also attached a link to the Cancer
    Services Guide
    which has some helpful services listed, there contact phone number is 13 11 20.  I wish her all the best and hope this situation resolves soon.  Take care of each other.

  • Linda_D
    Linda_D Member Posts: 7
    Hi @Giovanna_BCNA

    Yes, this is an extremely complex situation indeed, I wouldn't wish that to my worst enemy. She is still trying to fight cancer, and now worries about the court case, the threat of her children taken away, worries about their well being, the family violence accusations, her effectively being homeless right now, and she's trying to work through all this. 

    Thank you so much for pointing out the assistance services in VIC, I wasn't aware of those and have forwarded the links and the info to my sister. This is most helpful and we really appreciate it  <3