He was 23; I was 22. I’ll never forget the look of terror on his boyish face as I walked down the aisle toward him. He was probably right to feel that fear. I don’t think any of us quite realizes what we are getting into when we repeat those vows and say “I do.”
It’s been 34 years since that day the two of us became one, and by God’s grace we have experienced a myriad of fun, heartaches, joys and challenges. But when you are young and in love, there is no way you can anticipate all the ups and downs that lie ahead when you commit yourselves to each other.
Certainly neither of us knew that pledging ourselves to each other “in sickness and in health” would involve not one, but two, bouts with cancer. Will and I have always been healthy, active people. We started out as running buddies before we even had our first date. Over the years we have enjoyed running, hiking, biking, and camping together. After each baby, Will’s gift to me (which new moms now call a “push” present) was always a new pair of running shoes! Good health was something to be enjoyed, but like most everyone else, we took it for granted.
Then out of the blue in 2005 I was diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma. My husband walked me through that difficult four months of chemotherapy and never seemed to falter in strength and commitment. Our sons were ages 14 and 9 at the time, and I am sure there were times when Will was weary of carrying the load at home and at work, but I never saw him waiver.
Thankfully, the Lord brought healing and strength after those treatments were over, and I was able to resume life as normal, even running in my first half marathon a couple of years later. In the years since lymphoma Will and I have had so much fun together watching our sons become men, adjusting to an empty nest, and taking our physical training to a whole new level.
But just a few months ago we found ourselves faced with my breast cancer diagnosis. In some ways this time around has been more difficult for me emotionally than the first time. It’s one thing to have cancer once, but twice? I have had to dig deep to find the strength for this part of the journey.
But Will has been my rock. Of course, Jesus is the solid Rock we both stand on, but Will has been a “boots on the ground” steady anchor for me through these months. He is my constant cheerleader and encourager. He has made sure we keep having fun and enjoying life in spite of doctor’s appointments, surgery and chemo. He has bought me flowers and clothes. He has allowed me to do as much as I feel like doing and has been there to take up the slack when I’m spent. He has always been so sweet whenever I have had a meltdown, allowing me to cry and reassuring me. And he has made me feel sexy and desired just as if I weren’t going through all these physical challenges. Last night he even gave me a haircut to help me deal with all the shedding I have been experiencing this last week!
Through these recent weeks of watching him, it has really struck me that the husband or wife of someone facing a serious health issue has a unique and formidable role. To be the person who is depended upon in a pretty demanding way day in and day out, and yet to deal with one’s own emotional and spiritual challenges, not to mention the physical toll of taking up the slack, is an incredibly tough assignment.
For anyone who finds themselves in this situation as their spouse deals with a major health issue, I have to say that my husband is the role model I honestly don’t know how he is managing it (and I know he would say it is by God’s grace and power), but he has been fabulous. He truly is my hero. If ever our roles are reversed, and I beg God that that would never happen, I would hope to be the source of strength and encouragement for him that he has been for me.