In Sickness: Part 1
So yesterday I wrote about two very famous marriages and how they dealt with a long term illness. When you are standing in front of your pastor and staring into your loved ones’ eyes, reciting the words “In sickness and in health” is easy. You’ve just completed a 30-day fast to fit into your dress. Your abs are tight and your booty is firm and sickness is the furthest thing from your mind. But ish happens and your hold world can change in an instant.
That is exactly how I felt in after I had my second child and was sick for years due to complications from surgery. I was sick and felt like I’d never get any better. I am sure that is how Chris felt when he was diagnosed with cancer. Nothing can prepare you for hearing the words, “You’ve got xyz” but there are things you can discuss in advance and throughout your illness to make sure your team remains intact.
For part one, let’s look at this from the perspective of the person diagnosed. In addition to dealing with a serious illness, here are a few things that your spouse - your caregiver - needs from you:
Don’t take your caregiver for granted. You are blessed to have a spouse that is with you throughout your ailment but don’t expect them to do everything by themselves. They love you. They want the best for you. But being a caregiver is hard work. They want to support you but be patient because this is new for them too.
Ask your caregiver how they are doing. Everyone will be focused on you but don’t forget to focus on each other. Part of that is asking them how they are doing too. When Chris was diagnosed I had - and still have - so many fears. Will he die? How will we tell the kids? Will we lose the house? Are we financially ready for this? Will I have to quit working? Will I lose my job? So while friends and family are checking on you, don’t forget to ask your love how they are handling everything.
Be intentional about your time with your spouse/family. Date nights are everything. Together time means so much to me. If your illness keeps you close to the house or bedridden, think about ways to spend intentional time together. Small gestures mean a lot. While Chris is going through chemo, long walks on the beach are out of the question, but appetizers and drinks are doable. Carve out your own special time together. And remember to save your best for your spouse. Don’t give your all to your friends and hobbies and have nothing left to give your wife/hubs.
Do what you can and be flexible about roles. Maybe you were the one that cut the grass and did the heavy lifting, but how you don’t have the energy. Or maybe you were the one that folded clothes every day but the smell of laundry detergent makes you nauseous. Household roles may need to be rewritten. Do what you can when you can but also remember to call an audible when you are too tired.
Say “thank you.” Seriously, two simple words go so far. When Chris was first diagnosed I wanted to do everything to manage the situation. I immediately went into “doing” mode - basically if I keep doing something I could beat cancer. But not only couldn’t I beat it, but I was also exhausted and pissed. I felt like Chris was taking me for granted and all I wanted to hear was some acknowledgement of how hard I was working. I wanted a “thank you.” Say thank you frequently. Trust me it helps.
I am sure there are a thousand more that others can add to this list but these are just my top five. While these are for those that have been diagnosed with an illness, keep reading because the next post is about what caregivers can do to assist their spouses.