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When My Wife Became Chronically Ill, Too

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To My Loving Wife,

As I sit here this afternoon, I’ve come to a realization – I don’t like hospital waiting rooms and I can’t be “the healthy one” in this relationship. When we started this journey so long ago, we knew there would be bumps, trials, and challenges. I had already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and we knew my health would be a challenge that would affect us both, but we had our roles – in my “sickness” and often weakness, your “health” would strengthen us.

With this in mind, we started our life together, and most days, it was me receiving the new diagnosis. It was me facing the next surgery, and me facing the next health challenge. On the days when your health struggled, and you needed surgery or care, I muddled through, and I do mean muddled, often with the help of others who showed pity on the man, or really, on you, who had me as a nurse (a truly terrifying prospect for us all).

Babe, these last few years have been rough – a lot rougher than most. While we have always battled health issues, usually I have been the one on the table, getting the procedure done, or getting the diagnosis. You often have been the one watching my struggle, supporting me – being my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my greatest cheerleader, and the inspiration for why I keep fighting.

But today, and really these last few years, I have had to be that for you too. As you have gone from one operation to another, gotten up from setback after setback, and reeled from one bad report after another from doctors, you have called upon me for the things you have spent your life giving me. Today, as I sit here waiting for the call from the doctor telling me how the operation has gone, I begin to realize some of the Hell you have walked these past 20+ years with me.

How many days have you sat waiting for this same call? How many times have you sat beside me as I received devastating reports from doctors? How many times have you helped me walk through my latest struggle? How often have you supported me, taking care of me, when I could not care for myself? How many times have you gone without so that I was cared for?

The knot in my stomach is one I am sure you have felt more times than you can count as I await the doctor’s report. The pain I feel watching you walk a very hard road, is a pain I am sure you are all too familiar with. The exhaustion washing over me after only a few days is something I am sure you have lived with for many years. The worry I am experiencing about your recovery, and the surgeries yet to come, is something I am sure has occupied your thoughts more times than you can count.

I know my road of arthritis, Parkinson’s, and so much else is hard, and I know your road walking beside me is also hard, but I guess I just never appreciated how challenging it truly is for you some days. As hard as it has been watching you struggle these past months, I have seen but a small piece of what you have lived with, all you carry daily, and the emotions you’ve felt every day since you said “I do.”

I never appreciated or understood how hard and painful it is for you to watch me fight and battle my body every day. I never understood how frustrated I made you when I pushed myself too hard or did things I really should not. I never saw the exhaustion you felt from carrying so much. I did not see how my “snarky” responses sometimes cut your heart and minimized your sacrifice. I often did not know the selflessness of the care and service you gave each and every day. I at times missed the daily ways you were saying “I love you.”

Caring for you, I now see the selfless love you show each and every day, and how often you have laid aside yourself to ensure I was cared for. So often, you have kept everything going when I could not. You have encouraged and supported me when I was down, even while you were fighting your own battles of hurt and pain. So many days, you have kept me going, grounded in your love for me, and given me the reason to keep fighting, even while you were fighting your own exhausting battle.

As I care for you, I realize that you do this far better than I, and definitely are better at being “the healthy one,” the one who loves, cares, and supports, than I will ever be. In this reversal of roles, where I am the caregiver and you are the patient, I see and appreciate even more all you are and all you do for me. You love me every day in a thousand little ways and show just how deep your love, care, and commitment are for me. I hope these days, I am showing that same love to you, and that through my care for you, I am showing you just how much you mean to me, not because of all you do for me, but for how you love me, selflessly, every day, without complaint.

As hard as these days are, I am thankful that I am really getting to see, just how deep your love is for me, and that I have the opportunity, not only to appreciate your path but give back to you some of what you have and will continue to give me. I understand better, just a little, your path, and see now even more clearly, just how much, you are fighting my battles alongside me. You are a blessing to me, and the love of my life. I pray for your healing, but until then, I am blessed and thankful to walk this path beside you and hopefully, help you carry your load.

The depths of your love never ceases to amaze me. Hopefully, seeing things through your eyes will help me not only walk this path I am on but also, show more understanding for the path you walk. In some ways, I realize now, that yours is just as, if not more, challenging than mine. For you path, is one of love, care, and pouring yourself out for another. Thank you for choosing to walk this path with me. I love you more than you will ever know.

Getty image by katleho Seisa.

Originally published: December 13, 2021
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