The day we got married was the happiest day of my life. We were so young and had so much to look forward to. We celebrated our love and the future ahead of us with those closest to us, but in so many moments of our wedding day all I could see was you. We were surrounded by people, but totally consumed by each other. We felt unbreakable, unbeatable and the future seem to stretch ahead of us unending.
Shortly after our wedding day I fell ill, the aches and pains we had put down to the stress of wedding planning suddenly took over our entire lives. I have never been so scared in my life as I was sat in all those doctor’s appointments, hospital scans and treatment rooms. I will never stop being thankful that you were there by my side through all of them.
You held my hand, and my heart, when I was finally diagnosed, and you never once gave up on me or on us. We have been married only four short years and, in that time, we have faced more heart break and sickness than most couples do in the early years of marriage. In the four years we have been married we have both been to some dark places, so often I thought I’d fallen down a hole I could never come back from. Each, and every time, you pulled me to safety.
You are not the man I married four years ago, but I don’t say this to hurt you. You are a better man, a stronger man and a greater man than the one I married. You are also a man who has been weathered by the hardship we have faced, and a man who has felt heart break you had never felt before we married. You are the man who had to watch the woman he loved, the strong woman, the unbreakable woman, crumble before your eyes and you couldn’t do a single thing to stop it.
I know you’ve felt helpless, and hopeless. I know you’ve been scared, felt alone and felt like everything was spiralling beyond your control. I know I have hurt you with my words as I lashed out in anger at all that was happening. I’ve blamed you for things you couldn’t control, wanted you to fix things you couldn’t possibly fix and shut you out when all you wanted to do was come into the world I had built for myself and smash down the walls I had put up.
We have both got a lot of things wrong in our four years of marriage, we have said things we didn’t mean, held onto anger longer than we should and had too many fights over things neither one of us could control. We have taken our hurt and anger out on each other and cried too many tears in separate rooms. We were young, and marriage is hard enough without throwing an incurable illness into the mix. Marriage is an art form you must learn, it’s something you work at every day and some days it is damn hard work. Some days we worked separately when we should have been working together and unnecessarily burdened ourselves.
Too often I forgot, consumed by my own grief, that this illness was impacting so many more people than just me. I forgot it was hurting you just as much, you were grieving too. You were angry too. You were just as sad, you were just as scared, and you were just as brokenhearted. I’m sorry for the times I forgot it was happening to both of us, not just me. This isn’t the future either of us hoped for, this isn’t the plan we had for our lives or our marriage. This is the hand we were dealt though.
For every time we got it wrong, we got it right a million times more. For every time we pulled apart, we learned how to pull together. We learned how to cling to each other in the storm, and we learned how to love each other when we weren’t very lovable.
We are not our mistakes, we are what we learn from them. You are not the man I married four years ago and I am not the woman you married four years ago, but I believe we are better.
You are the man who knows what I am thinking even when I can’t find the words. You are the one who wipes my tears, strokes my hair and tells me everything is going to be okay. This isn’t an easy promise to make, but I believe you because in four years you have shown me that together we can conquer anything.
You are living, breathing love in your words and actions. The times you help me get in and out of the bath when I can’t manage, when you help me upstairs when I can’t walk, when you push me in a wheelchair, so I can get out of the house and breathe fresh air. You are love in action when you take time off work to attend appointments, get me my favourite chocolate and leave the bedroom filled with drinks and snacks when I am too poorly to get out of bed. You are living love when you never stop trying to make me laugh, even when I am sobbing, you won’t give up until I find my smile again. When you tidy, clean, walk the dog or get the shopping in even after a long day at work because you know the house being nice makes me happy. You are living, breathing love when you never make me feel inferior or useless for not being able to do all that I used to do. When you walk up and down the stairs a million times to get something I need or something I’ve forgotten when I’m in too much pain to manage myself. You were living love when you came to visit every day I was in hospital, staying long after visiting hours ended, doing puzzles with me or just holding my hand while I slept.
You never complain when your suffering is overlooked because you aren’t the one who is ill. You never complain when you are exhausted from working full time, studying part time and caring for me. You will never know how thankful I am for all you do, words will never adequately express my love for you.
You never got mad when I told you that you deserved more, and you should just leave me because I was a rubbish wife now I was ill. You never tired of reminding me that we said in sickness and in health and we meant it. You tell me how amazing I am every single day, how beautiful, how strong, how funny. You have helped me learn to love myself, and I never thought that was possible.
Chronic illness is hard on a marriage, so hard that 75% of marriages plagued by chronic illness end in divorce*. What we are going through isn’t talked about enough and I wonder if more marriages would be saved if only we talked about the impact of chronic illness on marriage more.
By loving a wife who is chronically ill you take on so much more than just being a husband, but you never once regretted making that choice. When we stood on our wedding day, young and hopeful, we never once saw chronic illness in our immediate future. You have shown me a new future though, you have shown me how much more there is to life and patiently loved me through every moment of this journey so far. You have never rushed me or pushed me to get over the grief of losing my health, but have quietly loved me as I worked through that part of my journey for myself. You have never let me stop believing in myself, and never let me forget my strength.
I am not the woman you married four years ago, I hope I am a better one though. I hope I am stronger, kinder and a little wiser than I used be. I hope this journey hasn’t made me hard but instead made me softer and gentler. I can still rise to battle when it is needed but I hope I have learned from you how to let some things go, pick my battles and stop holding on to anger. I hope I have learned from you how to be more forgiving of myself, and others.
Husband, you make me a better version of myself and I cannot imagine walking this journey with anyone else by my side. We are a force to be reckoned with, and I know these early years have only prepared us for all that still lies ahead. Everything we have faced in the last four years has only strengthened our love and our marriage. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know together we can overcome anything. Our marriage isn’t perfect, it’s not supposed to be, because we should never stop learning from life and each other. We still have so much life ahead of us and even though chronic illness will always be present, I know we are going to look back on our life and see only love, strength, resilience, happiness and adventure.
Thank you for being strong enough to love all of me. I’ll never stop thanking God that I married my best friend, and I’ll never stop loving you and the life we are blessed to share.
All my love, always
Your Chronically Ill Wife.
** All wedding photos copyright of DS Media.