By: Hollie Kowalski, Encompass Outreach Coordinator
My husband and I have been married 18 years and have never experienced a season quite like the one that we are currently coming out of. A severe, consistent head and neck pain (most likely the result of an injury from a previous surgery,) led the doctors to a “large, solid mass” on my thyroid. Every characteristic of the mass pointed to cancer. The meds I was on to alleviate (some) pain left me feeling fatigued and disoriented which made me incapable of driving. I guess this is why they added “through sickness and health” in the marriage vows because, WOW. THIS was a lot. With three very busy teenagers still at home, running a business, and our recent move, my husband had SO MUCH on his plate. With no clear end in sight, I began to wonder, “How would we navigate these uncharted waters, and did anyone happen to have five life vests?”
We can’t always prepare the way we’d like to, for the unexpected, but sometimes we can learn from other couples that have “been there.” We can gain strength and courage through other’s successful outcomes. My husband, (also my best friend, and personal saint,) isn’t perfect and he’d be the first person to tell you that, but he did so many things right when it came to my care and maintaining our relationship amidst the illness. Here are just a few:
-He was present. He couldn’t cure me or take the pain away, but he was always ”present.” To sit with me, to hold my hand, to fix my breakfast, to hold me when I cried, to administer meds, to grab an extra blanket, to show his love in any way possible. Even when he couldn’t be near me in person, he was consistently checking on me via phone. He made sure, when necessary, there was someone else there to be present in his absence.
-He rallied the troops. He knew that we were going to need extra support. He called on those closest to us to pitch in. Once the kids were informed of their extra responsibilities, he called on those that could help with transportation to school, sports practices, driver’s education, etc. He made sure to have someone “on call” for our various needs when it mattered most.
-He focused on the positive. The biggest positive being our additional time together. Once the meds really started doing their job and the pain started to diminish, we found a new favorite spot for brunch after doctor’s appointments. (Prior to this season, time alone together was sparse.) Family time was made so special (movies and snacks together, etc.) We spent time talking about things that would happen after I was better.
- He stayed calm. Ok, maybe this one should read: He stayed calm in front of me. I know now that he “lost it” the night prior to my biopsy, but in front of me, he stayed calm. When he was worried or stressed, he prayed. I believe this kept him from cracking on more than one occasion.
As a patient, my job was to BE patient. This is not a strong suit of mine, and it took a lot of effort on my part. He didn’t exactly do things the way I would have done them all the time, but he did all that he could to keep me comfortable and to keep things moving as smoothly as he could. Prayer kept me from being impatient and controlling… at least most of the time. Ha Ha!
Encompass Connection Center helps couples learn how to create fulfilling, productive relationships for years to come. We offer a free relationship assessment to determine your relationship’s strengths and potential threats. For additional help, look into our RINGS Experience, which includes marriage strengthening exercises and a coaching model to help build real intimacy and growth skills. We'll also help you to break those destructive patterns that may negatively impact generations.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.