"In Sickness and In Health"


"In Sickness and In Health"

When I spoke my wedding vows nearly eight years ago, I meant every word. Little did I know how much I would mean them in the years that followed.

Chad and I met at daycare in our small town. My mom and I had moved there the Summer before I started first grade, and I didn't know anyone. I thought he was nice - in the way that every little girl thinks boys are nice -- until they turn about 13. His cousin became my best friend when she moved to our town a few years later.

Chad and I were always friends, but it was his cousin that insisted we start dating when I was a senior in high school. He was a freshman away at college and I was smitten. Badly smitten. Twitterpated, really.

Fast forward a few years, and I was calling my mom from a restaurant pay phone, gushing about my brand spankin' new engagement.

On a notoriously humid Carolina Summer morning,  we tied the knot in a medieval castle tucked among a sheltering canopy of oak trees. Life was grand.

Two years into our marriage, we welcomed our first daughter. And two years later, we welcomed our second daughter.

And then, I hung up my career wardrobe for baby-food stained t-shirts and gym shorts. I, we, had everything we had ever wanted.

In 2007, our world changed. Drastically.

Ironically, on Chad's parent's 40th Wedding Anniversary, he suffered a series of seizures. Much of that night is a blur, but I do remember seeing beastly CT Scan images of IT (the not-so-pet name I gave the catastrophic brain tumor).

In sickness and in health....

I had no time for a pity party. I had no time to question what was happening. It was bigger than me and neither of us were in control.

Thus, my life as a caregiver began.

I was 28 years old.

Chad was 29.

I was facing the possibility of becoming a widow with two children under the age of 4. How could this be?

The previous day, we were celebrating with family members at a surprise party we had thrown for his parent's anniversary. And the following day, there was no celebration. It was replaced with hurtful confusion and a need to be in control, to propel myself forward on sheer will and faith alone.

In a little over 18 months that followed, I came to fully understand what my wedding vows truly meant.

In sickness and in health....

We've been through three craniotomies, one hospitalization for Pulmonary Emboli, one seriously extreme spinal fluid leak, treatment for a Deep Vein Thrombosis, multiple medication changes -- and far too much worry.

I will never forget the moment when I realized how hard the future would eventually be for us. Even after his diagnosis in 2007, he was well. He could care for himself. He went to work. Everything was relatively "normal."  The first brain surgery was a breeze in comparison to the effects of  the second and third.

While recovering from the second surgery (March 2009), Chad was not sure who I was; he clearly didn't want me in the room and he was extremely modest when I tried to help him bathe. He was confused. I was shocked.

I learned a lesson quickly: his actions and words at the time were not really his. Medications, stress and trauma make a patient do and say things you wouldn't expect. It's something I knew, but nothing I had ever experienced. It was surreal, and it was a heavy burden.

He was sick. And I promised before God, family and friends, that I would stay by his side. No matter what.

In sickness and in health....

I never imagined I would be in this position. I never dreamed that I would know so much about brain tumors and cancer. I never thought I would face the stark reality of raising our children alone. I never thought it would be me.
But it is.

Thankfully, Chad is doing well today.

We are on the brink of completing a 6-week combination chemo-radiation run.

In the four months since surgery, I have had to take on the responsibilities of Chad's caregiver, cheerleader, personal assistant, personal short order cook, errand runner, medicine checker, dietitian, masseuse, pill giver, and quiet sympathizer.

We will know the results of treatment in about a month. We hope that Chad will feel well enough to return to "normal" for a while. Realistically, we know that we're just buying quality time and my role as his caregiver will be back in full force well before either of us are ready for it to begin again.

Personally, I'm ready for a change. I've seen Chad in sickness. And I cannot wait to get a piece of him back in good health.