Tag Archives: husband

Carer or Sharer

This is a personal account of how I have lived with chronic illness for over thirty years and how it has been used to change my life. A husband’s viewpoint.

My wife was a real carer. It was part of her make-up. She would have made a good nurse, but gave herself sacrificially to being a mother, wife and home-maker.

After about nine years of marriage we moved to the Cornish coast because of my work. To live by the sea was like a dream come true. We saw it as a new start. Within the first year however, things began to go wrong.

My wife was already experiencing pain in her feet and not long after arrival, she was diagnosed with chronic rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive and disabling autoimmune disease. This ‘sentence’ came as a shock for her and she was quickly admitted to a hospital in Bath for three weeks specialist treatment. Within days of returning home however, she had news of her mother’s deteriorating health and travelled up country to see her. Her mother had painfully struggled for years with rheumatoid arthritis and it was our plan for her to come and live with us, once we had settled in and prepared a room for her.  Unfortunately this wasn’t to be, as she passed away ten days later. Continue reading

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Filed under biography, Christian, disability, family, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, lifestyle, personal, relationships

I’m a Broad Brush

We are in the middle of what we call ‘de-cluttering’. My wife has spent two long spells in hospital over the last two years. That, together with the thought of moving house sometime in the future, has helped bring to our attention the clutter in our home. The vast amount of stuff we’ve accumulated over the years is just amazing. All squirrelled away, just in case it may be needed some day. Somehow it had crept up on us. We’d got used to it. Piles of old magazines waiting to be read, obsolete electrical appliances kept for spares, old curtains and material off-cuts that could come in useful, long-playing records, children’s toys and games, boxes and boxes of books .. You know the sort of things?

It seemed an overwhelming task: crawling into the loft, forcing a way into the basement, and sifting through cupboards and drawers. It called for a planned and structured strategy. The problem was, that it highlighted our differing approaches. My wife is a ‘detail person,’ she carefully and methodically sorts through each and every article, and after a thorough spring clean, tidily replaces most of the things. The remainder are set aside in neat piles, until a loving home is found for them.

Now, my approach is just the opposite. My way is to hire a skip and after a rapid radical assessment, tip most items into it, enjoy the extra space and get on with real life!

You see, I’m what I call, a ‘broad-brush’ person, something of a visionary. I get the overall picture of where we are heading firmly fixed in my mind – not ‘the big picture’ I leave that to God – and get there as soon as possible. Never mind the journey, I just want to get on with it, without any irrelevant diversions. I’m also an artist. I’m at my best working fast with a big brush, so I can finish and wait on my next inspiration. I have always wanted to get on to something new. You gather from these remarks, repair jobs are not my cup of tea. Give me a new extension or a garden landscaping project any day. Out comes the drawing board and I’m all fired up. But a dripping tap or sticking door, they can wait!

Now the thing with broad-brushes, they spend so much time dreaming and looking into the future, that they don’t always have their feet on the ground. This is where my wife comes in handy; she brings me down to earth. I’m a good starter, but not such a good finisher. You could liken it to a game of chess. I have a brilliant opening strategy, my middle game is err.., middling, and my end game is disastrous, I’ve usually lost interest by then.

Now detail people, often get so taken up with the nitty gritty itsy-bitsy routine things that they can miss out on the big stuff. They can’t see the wood for the trees, as the saying goes – for readers who may think bigger than this, substitute ‘forest’ for ‘wood’. But my wife is thorough, a marvellous finisher, and will see something through to the end, regardless.

So back to the de-cluttering. Maybe I have something to learn here. There’s room for negotiation, to find a middle way. My wife needs my foresight, my long arms and my limited strength and I need her thoroughness and sensitive persistence.

Things really changed when we came to sort out boxes of photo albums and slides. We came across wedding and honeymoon photos that hadn’t seem the light of day for many a year. We sat down and reminisced together with tears and laughter. So even the memories were de-cluttered and we could move on.

So the broad-brush and detail need each other. They go together like a horse and carriage, strawberries and cream. What seemed a daunting mundane task, proved to be enjoyable in part, even intimate. I’ll be glad when it’s finished though!

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Chronic Fatigue and Family

tn_family.jpgMy viewpoint as a husband and father – I’ve tried to keep it brief!

Chronic illness is a daunting challenge to a marriage relationship and family unit. Some say it can be make or break. In our case, we had a double whammy! Over thirty years ago my wife contracted a particularly aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis and was told she could be in a wheelchair inside four years. Years later, long after our children had left home, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

My response to my wife’s diagnosis wasn’t surprising, as my upbringing hadn’t fitted me out to deal with illness. In my childhood, any suffering or indeed any expression of emotion within the family, was kept mainly under wraps. My way of dealing with these things was to do something practical to try and hold things together. I put everything into my work, family and helping out where I could within the community. I did most of the shopping, including, for a time, buying my wife’s clothes and became an expert in the intricacies of M & S’s lingerie department. Our children attended the village school and we became involved with the some of the other parents and attended the church. I ferried our children and their friends to the various activities.

My wife made her role of wife and mother her topmost priority and gave her all, often sacrificially, she had high standards. She was a good listener and it was quite usual for me to arrive home to find the pile of ironing still untouched, because she had given several hours to someone in need. I found that difficult, as she was the one needing physical help. But apart from several notable exceptions, there was little of that.

As the rheumatoid activity increased, she became more physically limited and fatigued. It was easy for me to leave for work in the morning and bury myself in my work while she often spent the day lying down. This was the side most people didn’t see. She found the pain and physical limitations were hard to bear and there were frequent outbursts of expression. I found it increasingly painful to watch my wife, my loved one, in so much pain and distress and I felt so horribly helpless. One night when it got so bad I went down on to our beach in the dark and in desperation reached out to God from the depths of my being, imploring Him to help us.

I felt trapped by the illness and restricted, held back. Once, I was asked if I had thought of leaving and I can honestly say that was never ever on the agenda. We married because I loved her and was committed to our marriage. On the other hand I wanted to escape from the illness, I hated what it was doing.

In our search for understanding, we were led over the years along a path of Christian contacts. We learned new marriage communication skills and how to deal with the emotional pain that was bubbling away just below the surface. I also found healing and release from the grief and loss I was experiencing. Our attitudes changed and in particular people were noticing how well my wife was walking and the courageous way she was dealing with her illness.

Then I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS and I had a new battle to contend with. For the first time I was able to understand first hand what fatigue was like and I benefited from my wife’s experience. The effect this had was to draw us closer together than ever before.

So far as our children are concerned, yes, they did miss out on some things, they can hardly remember their mother well. But I believe the experience has enriched them and we are proud of the way they now handle themselves, their marriages and children.

The last two years have been the most difficult for us, our lives being battered by accidents and illnesses. But in it all we have continued to experience wonderful strengthening and enabling to do what seemed impossible. I don’t know what the future holds, but we know God is with us and the best is yet to come!

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