The first sign that I didn’t have a healthy body came in my mid 20’s. I developed numbness in my fingers. My boyfriend, Jake, a medical student, was there when I went for a myelogram, a very uncomfortable test. A few months later, when I developed the first of hundreds of urinary infections, he picked up the prescription for me because I was at work.
He was by my side on our honeymoon a few years later when I noticed that the numbness had spread from my fingers to my arm and head. We watched with fear as it spread, bit by bit, throughout my body over the next few weeks.
And two months later, we were out running on a hot summer day when I lost vision in one eye. He helped me into our apartment where I collapsed from fatigue and wouldn’t be able to get up on my own for several months.
Twenty nine years later, we’ve experienced what chronic illness can do to a relationship. I would say that the only other person who truly suffered as I have with this has been my husband. But we’ve been lucky and we know it. The worst symptoms I’ve had came from diseases that have either been cured by surgery (ulcerative colitis) or are in remission from medication (multiple sclerosis).
Yes, I still live with waxing and waning issues that are so numerous it’s almost comical. But I’m also healthier at 58 than I was at 38 or 48. And that’s something we never take for granted.
Six years ago, I decided to devote my work life to improving the lot of others who live with chronic illness. I’ve put my efforts toward the intersection of career and illness because that’s what I believe I know well.
So when Donna Jackson Nakazawa (author of must read: The Autoimmune Epidemic) contacted me about the first part of a two part series that she was writing for MORE regarding illness and career (Ill in a Day’s Work), we felt a kinship in our approach to illness and life. It was too late to include my thoughts in the first article on career, so she suggested I’d be a good interview for the second one on marriage and illness.
How a Marriage Survives When One Partner Get Sick is the best thing I’ve read on the subject. Among other topics, Nakazawa explores how talking about it can help, why finding what you still have together is important and getting help when you need it can be critical.
I don’t generally write or speak about the affects of illness on my family. As you’ve probably guessed from reading this blog and my book, I’m not a private person. I have no problem describing what has happened to me in my life or how it’s felt. But that’s not necessarily true for those I love, particularly my husband. But he agreed to my interview on the topic. I could share my thoughts about us and what we’ve learned, if doing so might help others.
I hope you read the article and share it with others. I hope you’ll share with me what you think!