Saturday, November 6, 2010

Early Love and Illness

A recent story in Parade entitled, The Only Time We Have Together is Right Now, is about the joy of a couple in their thirties who recently married. The male partner was diagnosed three years earlier with a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

"Bahar and Nick met at a bar in October 2008 after a University of Illinois football game in Champaign, where he was living. She noticed that her pal Matt had brought along “this really cute, well-dressed, quiet guy.” He wasn’t drinking, so she teasingly asked him why. “I’ve got cancer. I can’t,” Nick replied. “Can I buy you a drink?” Unfazed by his answer (“I’m an oncology pharmaceutical sales rep. I see people with cancer every day,” she says), Bahar shot back, “Really? That’s the worst pickup line ever!” He laughed, and they started talking"

They dated, fell in love, and decided to marry, as his health was declining.

"Wish Upon a Wedding (WUW), a new nonprofit that stages ceremonies free for couples in which one person has a serious illness or has had a life-altering experience. Explains WUW founder, San Jose, Calif., wedding planner Liz Guthrie, “You shouldn’t have to put your life on hold because you’re sick.” ....In her application, Bahar wrote, 'I don’t know what Nick’s current life expectancy is, but I do know I want him to be my husband forever.' "

Here are the questions this story raised for me:
  • When serious or chronic illness is part of your relationship from the outset, or early on, what does it take to sustain Bahar and Nick's kind of live-and-love-in-the-moment joy?
  • Is that even possible; or do the demands and constraints of illness eventually chip away at that joy and turn it to complacency and sadness?
  • Or does illness act as an accelerant, clearing away the debris and pushing love to the foreground?
Did you and your partner get together when one of you already had an illness? Or did the illness appear soon after your relationship solidified? What has been your experience about the impact illness has on love and joy?


Sue Jackson said...

Hi -

I just discovered your blog through Infinite Daze. What a wonderful topic to blog about - I look forward to your book!

I become suddenly ill almost 9 years ago with CFS, a debilitating immune system disorder. My husband and I had been married for 12 years at that point and had two young sons. Within a few years, both of my sons had CFS as well, so we've had our share of challenges.

We had a few rough years at the beginning, especially when all three of us were very ill at the same time. The first year - before I knew what was wrong with me - was the worst. My husband and I were both very depressed at my sudden, mysterious illness, and his response was often to withdraw.

I'm happy to say things are much better these days. Our kids are better able to function, thanks to medication, and I think our relationship is stronger than ever. We know feel - all four of us - that we are in this forever.

I look forward to reading more of your blog.

By the way, I posted a couple of my favorite books on this subject on a blog post last year:

Nice to "meet" you!


Barbara K. said...

Hi Sue - glad you found my blog and thanks for sharing your story. And very glad that things are better for all 4 of you.

SBS said...

I've been ill for almost 7 years, and my boyfriend and I got together 4.5 years ago. We've lived together for 2.5 years, so he knows the ins and outs of this more than anyone else, almost more than I do.

Its a different ballgame, getting to know someone, starting a relationship, when you're already sick. And, in my case, sick without a diagnosis and only in your 20s. I'm amazed daily that he is willing to put up with all the unpleasant side effects of being with me, but I also sometimes wonder if we could have worked if I hadn't been sick. I guess it doesn't really matter, given that its the hand I've been dealt.

Love the blog, Barbara.

Barbara K. said...

Hi SBS - so glad you and your partner have found a way of dealing with symptoms & illness. I am intrigued by your thought about -- would the relationship have worked without the presence of the illness. And by your resolution that it is what it is.

SBS said...

Hey Barbara,

Well, I guess it kind of seems like the only option, to feel that way. I have been mostly able to give up missing the life I had before, but somehow accounting for the silver linings, like him, is more confusing.

As for sustaining the joy, it takes blinders, at least for me. But also, with a partner like mine, there is more than I could have imagined to be quietly joyful about, just less to be exuberantly joyful about. Illness is an irritant, it brings things to the fore, but it also makes me thankful for who he is and not what we do together. I don't know if that makes sense, but I've been intrigued by thinking about it lately, myself.