Ask Ada: My Boyfriend Left Me When I Got Cancer!

Plus: my foster child has a disability. How can I bond with them?

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

How Can I Get My Boyfriend Back After Cancer?

Dear Ada,

I’m in my early 50s and new to dating after being married for almost thirty years! I recently started seeing a man who was everything my husband wasn’t. My boyfriend was romantic, emotionally available, and the sexual chemistry was there. I really liked him, and we were both vocal about being exclusive and feeling serious toward each other. But then found out I had cancer and needed to start chemotherapy. When I told him about it, I knew I was dropping a lot on him, but I didn’t expect him to immediately disappear from my life. He won’t even respond to my texts or emails, never mind picking up when I’ve tried calling. What can I do to get him back?

Sick Woman Wants Love

You don’t do anything to get him back. 

It’s as simple as that. You gather all the energy you’ve been spending on trying to figure out how to reconnect with him and use it to take care of your own physical and mental health.

I’m glad that after a long marriage you were able to meet a person who checked boxes that your prior partner didn’t. Everyone deserves a relationship where their physical and emotional needs are being met. Being wooed and romanced is just the icing on the cake. You deserve all of it, and when you’re ready to date again, you’ll find someone else who will romance you, woo you, and please you both sexually and emotionally.

If someone ghosts you, they are not emotionally available.

Here’s the thing: if someone ghosts you, they are not emotionally available. It’s easy to show your best self during the honeymoon stage of any relationship. The man you were dating might have appeared emotionally available during your good time together for many reasons. Maybe it was his stark differences from your former spouse. Maybe it’s because he showed an innate interest in you. Maybe because he was open with sharing his feelings and backstory. These are all very different from being emotionally available.

To be emotionally available means that your new dating partner had the ability to manage his own emotions, while also offering space for you. This doesn’t mean he’d suddenly take on the role of your caretaker or anything like that (that would be leaning toward codependency in a new relationship). It does, however, mean that he is strong enough to handle a change in the course of your relationship — or at least try.

By ghosting you when times get tough, he’s showing you that he isn’t committed to the relationship; he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle a crisis (one that isn’t even his “own,” may I add); and he doesn’t have the common decency to respectfully see his way out of the relationship he’s been slowly building with you. 

By ghosting you when times get tough, he’s showing you that he isn’t committed to the relationship; he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle a crisis.

I know this inner turmoil is only adding to the shock, frustration, and fear surrounding your diagnosis and upcoming treatment, but I suggest you focus on healing yourself instead of trying to patch things up with him. You deserve better. Way better.


How Do I Bond With My New Disabled Foster Child?

Dear Ada,

I am a foster mom and will be soon taking in a teenager with a visual impairment for what looks like it will be a long term stay. She has low-vision, and the way that it’s been explained to me, she can see most things, but everything is very fuzzy. So much so that she can’t really tell what they are. What do I need to do to prepare my home? How should I prepare my son and other foster child for her arrival? I want to be as supportive as possible, especially since she will likely be with me for a while, but I’m not sure where to start.0

Unprepared Foster Mom

Don’t worry about being unprepared! You’re thinking of all the right questions. To be the best foster family, the first steps include finding out as much information as you can about your new foster child, making any adjustments to your home to suit their particular needs, and preparing the current people in your house for their arrival as well. 

So let’s start with the first part. Can you get any more information on your new foster child? Will they share any medical information with you? If so, would it be possible to schedule an appointment with her medical provider so they can counsel you on her particular case and how you can best support her. Ask the social worker if there are any assistive tools she uses, such as a walking cane, screen readers, or magnifier. If not, does she qualify for any of those tools? How about any services, such as braille training or orientation and mobility training. The more information you have, the better. And the more help you and your foster child qualifies for, the better.

To be the best foster family, the first steps include finding out as much information as you can about your new foster child…

Now, let’s talk about how you can get your house prepped. Go room to room and look for ways you can make it easier for someone with vision issues to move around. Start by making sure everything has its place. This might mean pairing down on belongings or buying extra organizational storage. Make sure all paths are wide enough and kept clear at all times. This would be a great activity to include your son and foster child. By taking ownership in making your home safe and welcoming, your children will understand the importance of keeping areas clean in the future, and they’ll feel proud to welcome their new foster sibling into the pack.

While involving them is great, don’t forget to sit down and talk with them about what it will be like when your new foster daughter arrives. Since this isn’t your first time fostering, you probably know the types of questions they’ll ask or the concerns they’ll have about the change in family dynamics.

And remember, your foster daughter is going to be just as anxious — if not more — about entering your home and family. Just focus on showing up, being present, and offering your home — and heart.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.