Saturday, August 11

in his shoes

What is it like to marry a sick girl?

This is the journey that Ben has undertaken with me, every battle I’ve been fighting has been fought with him, and so in some ways we are both ‘sick’ because we both share in it absolutely. We vowed to love each other on the bad days, and that promise has been tested every week! He sacrifices so much in his love for me – he gives to me even though he won’t receive as much back. He could have waited for a girl who had a job, could cook him an evening meal, and always had energy for exploring life. 

It’s beautiful when love is less about self and more about giving. That’s the kind of love that lasts beyond the first giddying weeks into the decades of life, the kind of love that has sustained those amazing wrinkled couples holding hands as they hobble along at eighty. Ben inspires me. Real love is gritty, tough, and sacrificial – but it’s also lasting and deep.

What were your fears about committing to someone chronically ill, and what made you go ahead anyway?

Yes, my fears where exactly that. Could I commit to Dee for the rest of my life even if that meant I was committing to caring for someone very sick for the rest of my life? I knew enough about chronic fatigue at that point to know that Dee may never get better. She may get worse. Could I be there for her and care for her every day? Could I accept a very different life to what I had imagined my adult life to look like? I knew if the answer to those questions was “No,” then I could not in good conscience marry Dee. But I love her. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened but about three or four months before we got engaged those fears fell away and the answer to all my questions was a relieved “Yes”. I knew it might not be easy but I loved Dee and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, regardless of what that meant. A lot of people might face struggles like this later on in life and marriage. I think we were blessed to face them before. It was a proving ground. We knew what we were in for and we wanted to commit to each other all the same. There is an amazing amount of security and comfort in that fact.

What has been the hardest/most frustrating aspect to cope with?

When we’re both down. That is definitely the hardest time. It’s very hard to care for or cheer someone up when life has got you pretty down as well.

What have you learnt through this journey?

Lots – lots about myself, about priorities, and learning to love others. One of the big things though, one that has helped us manage through this difficult time is this: You have options. You can make changes. Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. You just have to have the courage to live a life that actually works for you rather than struggle to meet some ideal that society places on you.

How can your friends best support you as a carer and partner?

I think by accommodating us. Our life does look very different out of necessity. Things that everyone else considers normal or routine are a stretch for us or downright impossible. For someone to ask how they could make coming over or catching up easier means a lot. When people get the message that we can’t come over regularly or be somewhere every week it is very encouraging and a bit of a relief to be honest.

Are there any positives?

Absolutely. Like I’ve said I’ve learnt lots and we’ve learnt lots about each other too through this. We’ve seen the whole spectrum and I know what makes Dee tick, what helps, what doesn’t. We’ve grown both individually and closer together. I can say with absolute certainty that our marriage would not be as strong were it not for this.

We have also been able of laugh and have fun even when times are hard.

How does the unknown future of her health make you feel?

Honestly I don’t think about it. In one way everything is unknown so Dee's health is no more unknown than anything else. I could get hit by a bus, become a paraplegic, lose my job, or lose my sight and Dee would stick by me, I know. Life is unknown but God is sovereign.

Would you do it again, knowing how challenging it is?

 Several times over.

Ben is nearly finished his Radiography degree – he looks forward to working in a hospital next year and saying goodbye to lectures and essays. When he’s not studying or working, he likes relax with his wife and dog, curl up with some Tolkien, or cook up a storm in the kitchen. 

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