Spiritual

Ode to a Husband Married to a Chronically Ill Wife

By: Jana Greene

I married a good man. Well, actually, that doesn’t begin to describe him.

When most of us take our wedding vows, we mean the words about sticking by in sickness and “for poorer,” without really expecting that the ratio of health would increase nearly right out of the gate. You expect to one day be old and frail, and have one another to count on and love, even as our physical bodies crumble. But you don’t expect to be enrolled in a crash course in “sickness in health, but mostly sickness” when your wife is in her late 30’s.

There is a lot of “mostly sickness.”

Not once has he complained when we missed an event because I’m having a severe pain flare, or catch one of the dozens of viruses I come down with each year.

In my defense, I certainly did not expect it to be this way. But I’d been sickly all my life, and “clumsy,” and “accident prone,” and nobody knew it was because I was born with a genetic immune deficiency, or that my clumsiness was really my joints buckling, subluxing, and dislocating constantly. My parents didn’t know to look for reasons behind it all, and my doctors didn’t catch it because it was “a rare disease.” And certainly, every P.E. teacher I ever had thought I was lazy or faking, which totally adds insult to injury, literally.

I was in my early 40’s when a doctor who shall ALWAYS be so appreciated became like a bulldog about all my symptoms and didn’t let go until he figured it out. I KNOW how lucky I am in that respect as well. He provides such excellent care of his patients, because he actually DOES care.

I had married my husband at 37, riddled with health issues.

I carry a fair amount of guilt for not being the wife I truly believe he deserves. He deserves a wife to go hiking with; to go ziplining with. Or any of a hundred other activities that prove so challenging to me. But as I said, he doesn’t complain. He even says I’m worth it. I struggle with that one, but I’m working on accepting this precious gift God has given me in him.

Here’s what the past 48 hours have looked like: He brings me Gatorade when I’m dizzy from the POTs syndrome, which causes my blood pressure to dip dangerously low and then rise super high, within minutes. Normal things that bodies are supposed to do automatically – like regulate body temperature – malfunction. I get mystery fevers and outrageous drops in my temperature all day long. My body doesn’t regulate blood pressure effectively. My heart rate goes bananas for no reason, and it causes great anxiety. My husband will – without being asked – bring me blankets when he knows I’m dropping suddenly. He is in tune to me intimately. Many is the evening he watches TV by himself because I am simply too exhausted to continue the day. He will go get the table fan if I’m breaking out in a miserable fever. It’s like he knows me so well, he correctly anticipates my health needs.

And then there is injury care.

When my thumb dislocates, he brings me ice without being asked. This morning, I’m having severe back pain, and he suggested a pain patch and a TENS machine hookup, and patiently applied both so that I would be more comfortable. Ice is a HUGE part of my life – I am icing various parts of my body every single day. He gives excellent back rubs. He has seen me through 9 surgeries since we married 13 years ago.

And that crushing sense of guilt that this is his reality seeps up like groundwater more often than I’d like. How do I move past that? I appreciate him so much.

So this one is for you, My Beloved. You’re my knight in shining armor, and – as The Rolling Stones sing – you always come to my emotional (physical, mental, spiritual) rescue. I’m so grateful for you and ALL that you do with nary a complaint, even though I KNOW it’s often so difficult.

I’m a hot mess, but he makes me feel like a hot little number. And that takes some doin’ when you feel like your body is 150 years old at times.

I love you madly, Baby.

Thank you for being my person.