Chronic Illness – The True Test of Love
My love life can be summed up in one phrase by the philosopher Seneca: “Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.”
I didn’t do a lot of dating when I was younger. My first date was in college at 19-years-old. Most boys annoyed me. My first kiss was at 21-years-old. I wish I could say my first kiss was with a great guy… but I can’t. For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Vernon.
Vernon the Villain
Vernon dealt with illness (both mentally and physically) during most of our on-again-off-again relationship. Most days left me in tears. Most people saw Vernon as a great guy. Not many people saw the side of him that I saw.
If you look up manipulator in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of Vernon there. And don’t get me started on the verbal abusive. When I talked to my friends about him, they all told me I should get out of the relationship. “He’s crazy, Amber!” In some instances he snapped no apparent reason and came close to hitting me (which he later admitted, he almost did). Thankfully, he didn’t. Despite the way he treated me, I stuck with him and defended him and his abusive actions and words. I was young, stupid and believed that I was in love. Hindsight is 20/20. Always.
Vernon the Coward
As I mentioned before, he dealt with multiple illnesses during our relationship. Like a supportive girlfriend, I cared for him to the best of my abilities; determined to make the relationship work. One day, I randomly got a weird tonsil infection. He took me to the doctor. The doctor found food caught in my tonsils (I told you, RANDOM!). The gag reflex prevented the doctor from dislodging whatever it was and told me to gargle salt water. Then he handed me a prescription for antibiotics and sent me on my way.
Later that night, I developed a fever of 103º that wouldn’t break. Vernon took me to the ER. The doctor sprayed some nasty-tasting stuff down the back of my throat, numbing it and disabling the gag reflex to dislodge the food. The doctor resolved the issue quickly.
The next day, Vernon decided to break things off with me, stating that I was, “sick all the time” and he couldn’t handle it. Wait, what?! You’re studying to be a doctor and I was hardly ever sick!
Richard the Rotten
Fast forward to about two years later, I dated another guy (we’ll call him Richard). Richard got annoyed with my low blood sugar problems. He didn’t stick around very long either. Another on-again-off-again guy. I turned into a convenient girlfriend that he called when he was bored. Because of my previous experience, the relationship didn’t last long.
No, I’m not a Cow
Fast forward to 2010. I met a guy (Dave) through eHarmony–YES, I’m serious. We finally decided to meet in person so we scheduled our first “date” for Starbucks. Oddly enough, when we met, I had just been diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (a virus not to be mistaken as Mad Cow Disease). The date ended with an accidental dinner at Zaxby’s.
We started dating shortly after that and in 2011 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I knew he would dump me; experience told me guys didn’t want sick girls. Six months after diagnosis, he proposed to me. Two months later we married on a beautiful October day. I achieved remission and we enjoyed a few months of wedded bliss until another flare hit.
5 Years and Counting
Tomorrow is my 5 year wedding anniversary. So many times I thought my disease was going to rip us apart. The blood, the tears, ER visits, the medical bills, the medications, the days, weeks and months I spent in bed. The many fights over my illness are too many to count (most of which were only agitated by the Prednisone monster).
Suffering Tests Brave Men (and Women!)
You will always have ups and downs in a marriage. It takes a strong commitment, determination, respect and love to make it work. Not to mention our strong religious convictions and many prayers. Chronic illness is a vile beast and rips apart so many relationships… it seems that only the strongest survive. Solid relationships, however, do exist. I didn’t choose to have a disease, but I believe that my illness helped Dave and me grow as a couple. It’s strengthened our relationship like nothing else ever could.
So here’s to us, My Love. I want to thank you so much for all your support. Thank you so much for all your sacrifices and loving me through it all. Thank you for supporting me in my IBD advocacy efforts. You always encourage me to follow my passions. You always encourage me to grow as a person and become stronger despite my battle with ulcerative colitis. I love you so much more… and here’s to 50 more years of marriage.