I attended a friend’s wedding a few weeks ago and as I listened to her and her new husband recite their vows, I couldn’t help but reflect on all that I’ve learned and experienced since my own marriage just a few short years ago. I was naive and healthy and had no idea what life had in store for me but I knew that I wanted to experience it with my husband by my side. Marriage was, by far, the best and the hardest decision that I’ve ever made and I would do it over again in a heartbeat.
I started having major symptoms less than a year into our marriage and when I first heard the words MS, I will admit that I was more afraid for what it would mean for my husband and our future vs. what it would mean for me personally. I remember one specific conversation in the car that will always hold a special place in my heart. We were discussing life plans that we had made and how they might possibly be impacted or need adjusted. As we discussed possible courses of action, I could barely focus on the conversation. All I could think about was how shitty of a hand my husband had been dealt. Here was a man who had just decided to spend the rest of his life with me only to find out that it will be riddled with relapses, impairments, hospitalizations, time off from work, and missed opportunities.
I was devastated for him and wanted to give him an out. Very cautiously, I asked him to visualize all of the ways that this illness would impact his life and then take some time to decide whether or not it was something he wanted to be a part of. If he decided that it was too much to handle, too much to give up, I would be heartbroken but I would understand. Without missing a beat, he turned to me and said, “Are you kidding me? I agreed to spend the rest of my life with you in sickness and in health and when I said those words, I meant it. I’m not going anywhere.”
I cried and then fell in love with him all over again.
Marriage is hard when both people are healthy. When one of them is chronically ill, it changes things in a way that I would not have otherwise been able to imagine. Everything always seems to be about me. We plan outings around my abilities and what I can tolerate. We modify our routines to suit my needs. We make life decisions with my future disabilities in mind. Although I try very hard not to make everything about me, we always seem to be thinking about me and my needs.
It used to make me very angry and even a bit self-conscious. I don’t like being the center of attention or the reason that we can’t commit to something. I like to go with the flow and when I can’t do that I’ve had to learn to speak up for myself. I’ve learned to ask for what I want or need and I’ve learned to say no to myself when I get a little overambitious. And although I’ve learned that there are a lot of things I can’t do anymore or had to give up, I’ve also learned that there’s absolutely nothing my husband won’t do for me. I’m not sure how I got to be so lucky but he’s truly my number one fan. He knows how this disease affects me better than anyone else in the world and he understands that when I say I need help, I’ve already tried everything I could think of and he willingly comes to my rescue.
Most importantly, in spite of everything we’ve encountered in these few short years of marriage, I’ve learned that you can keep going long after you think you can’t. I’ve learned that obstacles aren’t just put in our path, but that they are the path. I’ve learned that you’re never really growing unless you’re overcoming and most importantly, I’ve learned that life is hard but with his help, I can do it.
So, to my husband on this Valentine’s Day, thank you for being my forever and always. I chose you and I’ll continue to choose you over and over, without pause, without a doubt, in a heartbeat. I’ll keep choosing you.