I, take u, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
Beautiful words most universally used to describe the very foundation of a marriage.
During my pregnancy on one of my trips down for chemo where hubby had to drive long distance as I was no longer allowed on the plane, I struck a conversation with hubby which should never have happened. I blame it on the smart alec me for being so stupid.
Me: I finally understand and appreciate the true meaning of ‘to have and to hold in sickness and in health’.
Hb: I am terribly disappointed in you.
Me: Why? I think there are a lot of people who take for granted that weddings or marriage will turn out to be fairytales and may not truly understand the wedding vows and the meaning behind it until they go through it themselves.
Hb: I was prepared for all these even when we were dating. You were not?
I regretted my words and wished that I could take it back. I just kept silent for fear I’d say the wrong words again. Words can mean a lot and sometimes misunderstood. I was simply thinking of how cancer has brought us closer, not that I was taking things for granted. I read about cancer patients whose spouses left them as they could not cope. And I was simply feeling thankful and blessed for having hubby by my side. I should have kept my thoughts silent. My hubby has been nothing but my greatest pillar of support not only for the past 9 long months, but the past two decades. He was a friend that I could lean on during our teenage years, and a partner I could always count on when we became a couple 14 years ago. We have had our fair share of turmoils during our relationship and I was once naive enough to think that the years of a long distance relationship that we had was our toughest hurdle and that we could easily make it through anything after that.
Hubby has been a tremendous pillar of support in helping me face the painful reality of cancer. In order for me to let go of things, he shoulders my burdens for me. Everything comes to a halt for both of us, but as I have to let go and concentrate on getting well, he has to keep going, putting on shelf his hobbies and dreams, and on top of caring for me, he has to keep optimistic, working his job, worrying about the kids, family and finances, taking care of countless other responsibilities, and worse of all, often with uncertainty of when this will all be over and the fear of losing me. If he is not working, he would be constantly searching on information on the disease. Or thinking of ways to occupy me and cheer me up. Or go hunting for the healthiest and freshest food, even to the extent of asking and begging around for it. And I feel tired for him. Tired on the body and the soul, and helpless when he stands on the sideline watching me suffer, thinking that he is not doing enough for me.
Truth is, cancer is at times harder on the loved ones than on the patients. So overwhelming that it can make the overburdened loved ones sick. Hubby, for one, fell ill countless times during the past 9 months. My Supermom has contracted an infection that just wouldn’t go away because of low immunity. They forgot about themselves and chose to focus on me.
The past 9 months have been extremely tough on hubby. On top of juggling with jobs and domestic related matters which were escalating exponentially all at the wrong time, he made sure he accompanied me on every single chemo sessions and appointments with the oncologist and fetal specialist, close to 600km away from home. My chemo sessions were of 2-4 continuous days, every 3 weeks. His presence soothed my pain and discomforts. I depended on him for preparing my home cooked food, supporting me when I am too weak, administering medication, cleansing, putting me to sleep and watching out for my symptoms during my sleep. He was needed there for major decisions with the doctors as I was losing my focus and judgment due to chemo. When I delivered Baby W, he stayed with me in the hospital, cared for me as my movements were restricted due to the urine catheter and helped me with my short breastfeeding stint to produce as much colostrum as I could for Baby W who was then a preemie placed in the neonatal ICU for support. He would wheel me down every few hours to the NICU to see our baby and share my heartaches. And then saw me through further tests and scans again only few days after delivery and shared further heartaches again when it showed I relapsed during treatment. He accompanied me through further more intensive chemo regimes the following months which rendered me weaker and more dependent on him for support. As my treatments became more intensive and complicated, my doctors preferred him around for major decisions and to understand clearly my state of disease. And for the transplant, due to the complexity of my case and the unconventional method of battle that we agreed to, he wanted and needed to be there for my daily clinic visits as my docs had even asked him to ‘stick around’. He said he made a promise to my mother that he would take care of me for the rest of my life. His action speaks louder than his words. But right now, he has gone home today as work and home matters are escalating too and can no longer be handled from afar.
So whenever a person expresses concern for me, I would rather he ask hubby how he is coping. Just to show that he also understands the load hubby bears and recognizes that hubby is suffering in silence yet has to put on a brave and optimistic front for me and for the family. Sometimes, the focus should be on him, not just me.
I just hope hubby don’t get burned out again. I hope he eats well, sleeps well and do not forget to take care of himself too.
So in future, I must always remind myself to ask after a caregiver if I were to meet one. Perhaps that will give a chance for the caregiver to open up and let loose, and reduce some of the mental stress that’s lingering around.
Having said that, I have just happily helped my Supermom dress up for a birthday dinner date at Shang with the Super-relatives and made her promise not to worry about me and my baby tonight and have a fabulous time. She deserves a small little break and big big ones later on when I recover and cope. I call her Supermom for a good reason. She has been the greatest greatest pillar of support my entire life and both hubby and I could never have made it this far in the battle without her. Now, that will be another story.