I believe in the phrase “in sickness and in health.” As a teenager, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The short explanation is that my immune system attacks my joints. Playing saxophone in high school, my pinky fingers began curving away from the keys I needed them to reach. Humor, patience and understanding are my best weapons against my disease. I don’t hide it. So when I met Jason, he was aware of my RA from the start. After dating for three years, he put a ring on my twisted finger and married me.
A few days before our wedding, my doctor called. There is a history of cervical cancer in my family, and he wanted to do another pap test because mine had some irregularities. To my surprise, Jason wanted to be there with me. It’s not really romantic to hold your fiancés hand while she has a pap test performed three days before your wedding. He told me not to worry, because this is being there for each other.
Fast forward through our first year of marriage; I now officially had pre-cancerous cells that alarmed my doctor. I needed to have them removed in a standard, out patient procedure that many women have been through. The only problem was my RA. While most women heal in about ten days, I was not fully back to my normal self for ten weeks. I had blinding migraine headaches and my arthritis pain flared out of control. My husband was an amazing caregiver the entire time.
Not long after our second anniversary, Jason was called up to deploy with the Army National Guard to Iraq. He loves being a soldier, and I love being married to one. While training for the deployment, he became ill. After returning home, his symptoms grew worse. I took him to the local emergency room. He had almost no pulse, and his chest was sticking out. An ultrasound revealed the problem, and he was immediately transferred to the heart hospital next door.
Jason underwent a pericardiocentesis. This is a procedure where a needle is used to drain excess fluid from the membrane around the heart. With over a liter of fluid removed, he had been close to death. After several days of tests, the cause was discovered.
One week before his 28th birthday, my husband was diagnosed with non small cell lung cancer. Everyone was shocked. He was perfectly healthy (besides the cancer) and was not a smoker, but there are other cancers in his family history. We switched from the war on terror to the battle to save his life.
After four months of intense chemotherapy, we are preparing for surgery a few weeks from now. He will be cancer free before our favorite time of year, the gorgeous Oklahoma summer. That will be followed by our three year wedding anniversary. We plan on renewing our vows. We have already supported each other through sickness and look forward to many years of health.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.