“I’m angry because you are dying!” – My husband relies on miracles

Julian has cancer. Surgery might save his life. But he refuses any medical help. His wife Katharina tells what it is like to be angry at someone who is terminally ill.

by Daniela Stohn

I still remember exactly how I opened my e-mail and discovered a list of books that Julian had ordered in my name: “The Oil-Protein Diet”, “The Power of Thoughts” and the like. A total of 15 titles, all revolving around one topic: How to cure diseases with natural means. I suddenly felt sick. Because I felt it meant danger.

It got worse. When I spoke to him about it, my terminally ill husband told me that he had canceled the operation that was scheduled for the next day. The diagnosis: stomach cancer, the chance of a cure about 75 percent – if the tumor were removed immediately. But Julian preferred to have access to artificial nutrition installed in an anthroposophic hospital in order to gain time and check other options. When I found out all of this without first being involved in his decision, my heart raced. It felt like I was falling into a bottomless hole. But I still asked as calmly as I could whether he wanted to rely solely on the power of self-healing? His answer: “I don’t know.”

“We always made all the decisions together – at least that’s what I thought”

We were married for three years when Julian was diagnosed with cancer. Its life expectancy: around six months. Our daughter was two and a half, I was five months pregnant, and the yoga school that we had opened together in Berlin the year before was just gaining momentum. Our vision was always a life for two, we always made all decisions together – at least I thought. There was always this inner bond between us that didn’t need many words. When he was diagnosed, our relationship changed in a moment. I was stunned that my modern husband, who was never susceptible to hocus-pocus and herbalism, suddenly believed uncritical promises of salvation and didn’t tell me about them. As a parent, you have a responsibility that eliminates self-determination, I think. How could he only think of himself and not at least also think of his daughter and the unborn baby?

Perhaps, with all this misery, this is the hardest thing for me to endure: that my opinion suddenly no longer played a role in his decision-making. I wanted to weigh the options with him, to be by his side. To help him endure the decision at the age of 35 that he has only one chance of survival if several organs are removed, including part of his stomach. But he did not respond to my questions and allegations. He had decided to find out the disease on his own.

“Despite everything: I stood by him”

It was a little over a year between his diagnosis and his death. A time when I watched my husband die. And vacillated between powerlessness, sadness, anger and despair. It pissed me off when he preferred an alternative practitioner to an oncologist. When he told me this, I wanted to yell at him. But it’s hard to yell at someone who looks death in the eye and is fragile as a child. I tried to negotiate: “When you have lost 20 kilos, you go to the doctor.” Or: “If I accompany you to the naturopath, you can also be examined by a doctor.” I defended him in front of others, his family and Friends because I wanted to back him up. But at home we argued: “That’s Russian roulette, what you’re doing.”

It changed: nothing. He remained rigid and also turned to bizarre methods. When he wanted a Spanish healer to remove the tumor with the power of thought, I reached my limits. “Maybe I’m on the miracle brake, but how is it supposed to mentally remove something physical?” I yelled at him. Still, I went with him. Also to the doctor, who told him that cancer was a matter of the head – and that he just had to want to get well.

“Maybe he was actually one of those who experienced some kind of miraculous healing?”

Julian pretended to have all the time in the world. And I worked somehow – at least externally. I took care of our now three-year-old daughter, went to the prenatal check-ups, worked in our yoga studio, negotiated with the health insurance company. Organized a move because we couldn’t afford the house anymore. I tried to keep everything normal as Julian got less and less and I barely reached him. And then, when I was about to give up because I didn’t have the strength and I didn’t know how to do all of this, our old bond was suddenly back. Somehow he brought me back into his inner circle. My anger gave way to compassion and the irrational hope that if I only trusted him, everything would be fine. Maybe he was actually one of those who experienced some kind of miraculous healing? If he made a clear decision on something, even if I viewed it critically, it at least meant that he wanted to live and not give up. Maybe he had some kind of inner certainty that he would conquer the disease? I found that believing in a miracle made me calmer and helped me better endure reality. It was like a comforting plaster that I put on my open wound from time to time.

Months later, after moments of hope and many attempts at alternative healing methods, the decision was made for Julian. His skin was turning yellow – a sign that the tumor was making a mark in the stomach. My husband was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery. But the chance of a cure was wasted. It was too late.

I sometimes wonder today if I should have acted differently. Should I have had a clearer position on the operation? I didn’t know what was best myself. I should have been harder and told him: “If you go your own way and don’t talk to me, I’ll go.” Is it allowed to abandon one’s dying husband? A yoga student approached me at the time and said that she was no longer coming to his class, that she would no longer watch him kill himself. She was the only one who opposed him. I could not do it. He was too sick.

Looking back, there were moments from the start when fate could have taken a different path. When Julian first went to the doctor about his weight loss and he left the gastric acid blockers that were prescribed for him in the drawer. Or weeks later, when he did not want an anesthetic during the gastroscopy and then vomited because the stomach was already closed. The doctor had to stop and angrily sent him home. Why did he accept that he lost pound by pound? Why did he ignore the doctors’ warning that there was actually nothing to be considered medically? Did he really think his path would lead to recovery? Or was he afraid?

“We sang another song together and held hands, then he stopped breathing.”

The last few months before his death I can only remember fragmentarily: How I gave birth to our second daughter with the help of a midwife at home while he was resting in the study next door. How we got married in church because he wanted it and his father wept at the words “until death do you part”. How he lay on his bed at home, in those few waking moments. How we said goodbye to each other in the hospice, where he spent the last few weeks and we visited him every day. We sang another song together and held hands, then he stopped breathing.

At his funeral, in front of his empty grave, my anger suddenly boiled up again with full force. I saw this dark hole in the earth and thought, “This is all you leave me – a hole! And two children that you wanted, a yoga school that you really wanted. I have everything on my cheek that was your lifelong dream. And now you’re leaving me in the lurch. ”I pounded the rose into his grave and walked away.

To this day I try to understand it from time to time. It was Julian’s way to receive conventional medical treatment very late. And even now, four years after his death, I don’t know whether he has regretted it or whether he found his way right in the end. He never told me, didn’t answer my questions until the very end. I could only watch him die from under my fingers. I couldn’t save him.


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