But he meant them
In sickness and in health
He's never complained. Not once. But I know that he didn't sign up for this. Frankly, neither did I. I feel guilty. It's not what either of us expected.
It’s easy to love someone who is healthy. It can be much harder to love someone who is sick and when it’s months, years, or maybe never when they will get better.
In sickness and in health. I don’t think I truly ever appreciated what those words meant until this year. Nothing could have prepared him or or me for what this past year brought us. He didn't sign up for this. Neither did I.
When you say those words in your marriage vows, do you really understand what you’re saying? In sickness and in health?
I’ve been sick for a while and it’s going to be some time before I’m healthy
Not going to lie, 2020 was a tough year. Not only did it bring us the pandemic, it brought me an unexpected cancer diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with HER2+, estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer at the beginning of February 2020. To say that 2020 was the year that keeps on giving, it’s definitely true. I’m still in cancer treatments and will be through the spring of 2021.
This has been the scariest year of our lives. Not only do I have breast cancer, but I have been going through treatments while we’re in the middle of the pandemic.
Even after my last Herceptin infusion, I still don’t get to claim to be a survivor. I have to wait 5 years until I can say I’m a cancer survivor. Until then, I’m a patient and my husband will be my caregiver. Is that what he signed up for when he said in sickness and in health?
Marriage: Are you ready for this?
My father-in-law is a deacon in the Catholic Church and he officiated our wedding. During our marriage prep he asked me if I was ready. Confidently and naively I answered in the affirmative. He chuckled and said, “That’s the answer you’re supposed to give, but the real answer is no. No one is ever truly ready.” He was right.
This summer my husband and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. I am different from the 23 year old woman who had stars in her eyes ready to marry the love of her life. The last 20 years have been hard. Marriage is work. If someone tells you differently, they probably haven’t been or won’t be married for very long.
At 23 cancer a long term illness never crossed my mind. If you had asked if we loved each other, I would have confidently said yes and without hesitation.
The difference between then and now, is that I KNOW without hesitation, that we love each other and that my husband is utterly devoted.
And I feel incredibly guilty.
I feel guilty because this is hard. Cancer is hard. Long-time illnesses is hard. Taking care of someone else full time is hard.
But he’s never complained. He hasn’t left my side. He’s attended my appointments, taken notes, and helped me fill my prescriptions.
Date nights are on the couch as we sit next to one another, me fatigued and ill; him, patient and available.
The last 19-plus years have taught me about true love and devotion. While the flowers, the gifts, and the romantic dinners are nice, that’s not true love. It’s romance. And right now in the middle of a pandemic with all four of our children home every single hour of every single day, there’s not a lot of romance going on.
But there is love.
What does I love you really mean?
Over the last 19-plus years I love you has meant:
Going through each other’s hair at midnight because one of the children brought home lice and we’re pretty sure we have it, too.
Washing the kids’ vomit sheets (again in the middle of the night because isn’t that when all vomiting happens?) while I gag in the corner.
Picking up dinner on the way home from work because I’m too tired to cook.
Taking all the kids out of the house so that one of us can get much needed work time or quiet time to rest.
Making sure there’s clean laundry for everyone the next day.
Washing the dishes and putting away the food because the other one cooked.
Encouraging my dream to become a writer.
Cheering on my husband as one of his big projects gets the recognition it deserves.
There’s more and too many to name.
But this year, I love you, has meant we’re in this together when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Being in the middle of a pandemic means that my husband kisses me goodbye at the doors of the heath center instead of sitting with me during treatment. It also means that he was sitting in the parking lot waiting for me when I almost died in the infusion chair by myself. 2020, there are not enough bad words I have for you.
As my energy faded and I spent more time in bed, I love you has been taking care of the kids, bringing me meals in bed, making dinner, and doing all the chores I used to do, all while still working full-time.
I love you has been letting me cry when I don’t think I have the energy to go to one more appointment or go through one more procedure.
I love you has been quiet moments of reading next to me in bed and watching over me while I have slept fitfully.
I love you means we’re in it for the long haul.
And there has been no greater truth than the words Alison Krauss sang in our wedding song:
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me,
A touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall.
This last year has stretched us more than either of us could have ever imagined. There’s less bickering and a lot more grace. Each day is not guaranteed, but we can measure each day by the love we give…in sickness and in health.