By Dawn Milberger
If I had a chance to live illness-free for 72 hours, I would do one thing and one thing only. I would spend every waking moment attempting to repay the incredible limitless love, physical and spiritual support that my husband has shown me during our 14 years of marriage.
My beloved and best friend asked me to marry him knowing I had a chronic illness. Truth be known, he honestly didn’t understand what “chronic” meant. As time and illness progressed, his consistent determination advanced as well. His arms and chest wrapped around me in physical support, along with his understanding and compassionate countenance, are a beautiful and permanent safe haven for me — especially on my “bad body” days, “after infusion” days, “can’t breathe, I need Mestinon" days and the ever-so-frustrating “I can see my legs, but I can’t feel them” days.
I would do everything I could to repay all the meals that he had to prepare for us, the laundry, house cleaning, doctors’ appointments, emergency room visits, loading and unloading a wheelchair, moving and exchanging oxygen bottles, talking me through symptoms to see what meds were needed, and getting up in the middle of the night to get meds because of my immense pain. I would do everything I could to repay him for all the times he picked me up when I tripped, all the many times he rushed to me to perform the Heimlich as I was choking. I would repay him for all the quiet prayers and tears that he spoke to me at night.
If I had a chance to live illness-free for 72 hours, I would do everything in my power to have children, raise them and send them off to college to repay my husband’s sacrifice of not having children because of my mitochondrial myopathy, secondary polymyositis and myasthenia gravis. I would fill his arms with the preciousness of babies, fill his ears with the sounds of children running through the house, fill his heart with words of a child’s voice saying “Daddy, I love you,” fill his memory of birthday parties, sports events, dance class recitals, driving lessons, braces, proms, college, weddings and then grandchildren.
I completely understand that, realistically, these expressed heartfelt desires for my husband would not and could not happen. We both have grown in contentment with what we have been allowed to live for so many beautiful reasons, especially what it has brought out in each of us personally and toward each other.
So, realistically, if I had the chance to live illness-free for 72 hours, that means I would have energy, stamina and be pain-free. So for those precious hours, I would let my husband read this essay, I would hold and hug my groom and let him rest for those 72 hours, for he would know I was the one this time that was just fine. Those incredibly precious hours would be just as much for him as they would be for me. My groom and I are a team paired from up above in sickness and health. Chronic illness does have a ripple effect around us, and just because I’m living with the illness, it’s still not just about me.