In sickness and in health

I married Christy, my partner of 15 years, in April of this year. It was an incredible time in our relationship and meant the world to both of us to be legally married. As much as we enjoyed the planning of our wedding and reveled in the magic of the day, it was stressful. Apparently, planning a wedding is one of the most “stressful” events that an adult will experience. I imagine it is a result of the many details and numerous decisions that are a part of the process.

We were together 4 years when I started exhibiting symptoms. We sat in a coffee shop with a friend and as I lifted my grande hot apple cider (which I haven’t drank since that day) my right index finger stiffened up. Within a week both of my hands were swollen, stiff and painful; another week and my feet were the same. After months of testing, doctors, biopsies, and more testing I received a diagnosis of RA and fibromyalgia. I got worse. I took medical leave. I was depressed. I was isolating myself. And Christy was there by my side the entire time: helping me, encouraging me, letting me be sad and then helping me to know my own strength and determination.

It took a decade, three well regarded Rheumatology practices, and multiple combinations of drugs but I was finally being managed well. Heading into the wedding planning I was doing well and feeling pretty good. I had been on steroids in various doses for 10 years and had weaned off the year before. The stress of wedding planning combined with normal life stressors, and work stress triggered the start of a flare. My doctor recommended taking short term prednisone.

I am stubborn and put it off, but eventually realized that I was doing more harm than good by avoiding steroids. I took them. I took them through our incredible wedding day and lovely honeymoon. (I did wean off after the honeymoon.)

On the day of our wedding, we stood in front of our family and friends, reciting our vows. I was that bride who could barely hold back the tears. As Christy said, “in sickness and health” she gently squeezed my hand in a way that made me feel so loved for all that I am, at my best and at my physical worst. I knew before, but there was some magic in that moment that helped me to know it with all of me.

I am not my RA, but my RA has shaped me and led me to develop trouble shooting skills, practice patience, and recognize the importance of mindfulness and finding joy in every day. A part of me took that vow for myself that day. If an incredible woman like Christy sees me and loves me in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, etc. I understood in a new way, that I deserve to love and accept myself in all of those situations as well. And that, that makes me more capable of loving her and the other important people in my life more fully.

May we all love ourselves in sickness and in health.

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