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When My Wife Was Diagnosed With a Chronic Illness

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Editor's Note

This story has been published with permission from the author’s wife.

You could say caregiving is in my nature, even though it was the furthest thing from my mind when I met my wife. You see, I grew up in a boys’ home in Indiana. Foster homes and upheaval were a way a life for me. So when I aged out, I wanted stability, love and someone who would love me warts and all.

I had just started a new job in a new state in a managerial position. I was walking around the call center being introduced to the new operators and there she was. She wasn’t like the other women there. She glowed. A few months later, a group of us were having a conversation about a local landmark restaurant. I admitted I hadn’t been there yet. About an hour later, I got the nerve to give her my phone number. She immediately texted me back, “Whataburger?” And I accepted. It was our first date, April Fool’s Day. I kissed her that night and we talked for five hours.

Sarah wasn’t like any woman I’d ever met. She was so happy; she’d help you any way she could. She was one of the best souls I’d ever known. So, after we were married, when she started getting sick, I worried. She felt horrible and was in a funk she couldn’t shake. She had just had a hysterectomy for fibroids so the doctors initially thought it was empty womb syndrome. But she didn’t get better, she got worse. More symptoms, more pain. So we finally took her to see a rheumatologist. Test after test, blood work, x-rays, CT scan, everything under the sun. And then we waited.

The day the doctor called, June 14, 2013 everything was normal. Then the phone rang. After she hung up, Sarah just stood there in silence. Our fears had been confirmed. Sarah had lupus. After the initial shock wore off, we had one of several intense conversations. I’ll never forget what she said to me. “You didn’t sign up for this, and if you want to go I’ll understand completely.” I was taken aback for a moment, but I already had a response. “In sickness and in health. I meant it.”

Sarah has since been diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases including psoriatic arthritis and lupus cerebritis. We have five or six doctors’ appointments a month. And now instead of vacations to our favorite cabins, it’s carrying her to the bathroom, holding her hand while she vomits, helping her to bed, making sure she doesn’t have a seizure in the shower, meds, massages, surgery, hospital stays, the list goes on. But I don’t see myself as a caretaker for my wife, I see myself as a husband, just with some different daily duties.

Our life is not easy, not by a long shot. But I do what I do out of love and respect for my wife and our marriage. I can’t imagine my life without her.

Getty image by Sergii Kateryniuk.

Originally published: September 24, 2019
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