Since I Met You

On Saturday, I pitifully told my husband, “I’m sick.” I was in pain. I was tired (Bad nights) and I am not able to just get a break. His response was, “I know… You’ve been sick since I met you.”

Today marks 23 years since we officially met. I was a newcomer to the university and church near the university, and it was his second year. He was an elder, so I’d spotted him when he was on duty. But it was the first time that we spoke. It was at the first Adventist student meeting of the year, and he found me and my friend at the door to the house next to church where we used to have our Friday meetings and Sabbath afternoon gatherings.

We kept joking and whispering to each other during the meeting as if we’d known each other for years. It was BAD! I’m always a rule keeper but we were so loud that the chairman even had to tell us to be quiet. My friend whispered, “Lean back. Your jeans are open at the back and you’re showing your future husband your underwear!”

Husband.

She’d never seen me with a guy. After all, we went to an all girls high school and I had vowed at age 18 that I would never join the dating scene. I didn’t want to move from boy to boy, having my heart broken. Crying over him dumping me. And I didn’t want to live what I saw as sordid lives with guys like my friends were doing. One of my school friends was living in the boarding house and had run away with her 22 year old boyfriend on a motorbike. When they were found, she told us all the things they did sexually. And the things she did to him. A different friend, told me how she and ONE of the boys she liked met in the church toilet where he did things to her… It all seemed sordid to me. I wanted to do those kinds of things only with someone I was guaranteed would be the only one I would do that kind of stuff with.

So here I was. 18. Thinking I’d found the perfect guy. I had to forgive him a few times. (People can be stupid when they are in love for the first time and forgive what they would not if they were being objective.)

On the other hand, he couldn’t believe I was who I said I was. He said I was “too good to be true.” Feared I’d one day decide to go wild. Go get drunk. Or find some guy and move onto him. I was apparently too innocent, it wasn’t “normal.” I told you I was a rule keeper/follower! I tried with the bit of understanding I had, to follow the Bible-and the pastor who seemingly understood it better because he knew Greek🙄- as much as I could.

And yes, when we met, I was already “sick.” I had awful arthritic attacks in winter. I was trying to get help for my chronic anemia. I was trying to figure out the sources of the bad stomach aches I was having. And one day, that attempt to figure it out landed me in hospital. A surgeon decided to go in laparoscopically and look around to see what could be causing it.

Though the doctor saw some signs of inflammation in my stomach lining (How many times has someone found inflammation and ulcers in there!?😩), what he found was that I had IBS-C but he was glad he went in, because my appendix had TB. So he removed it. I could have become terribly ill. But that investigative surgery found it before it spread!

While in hospital, my boyfriend came, armed with flowers. I was in a general women’s ward, surrounded by much older (White) women. Come to think of it, in all my life, I’d never seen a Black patient in a private hospital that I was in till 2019. That’s sad. We are POOR!😭 We should be filling the hospitals seeing as there are so many of us! Anyway, they loved him. They thought he was the best boyfriend ever. And one day, as I lay there, he told me, “You look beautiful in these white hospital sheets and blankets. I should marry you so I see you walking down the aisle in white.”

It’s been a journey and a half since then. I had another surgery while still in university. Hospital emergency rooms have been visited by us in various towns and even in other provinces. I’ve been told I had an STD (in the UK) when I didn’t. (Research shows they immediately jump to that for people like us when we present with non-specific pain, more than they jump to such conclusions with paler folk. But let’s not go there.) I’ve had multiple body parts and organs fall apart on me. He knew what he was getting into but still chose it.

So why do I feel guilty that I’m not well? Why do I feel horrible about my “finishing our money with my doctors’ visits?” Why do I feel like I’m holding him back from having a happier life with someone who won’t cost thousands of rands a year?

I don’t know. He chose it. But I feel bad about it.

I do know that through it all, God’s grace has been sufficient. I’ve wept. I’ve begged for healing. I’ve faked that I’m better than I am, and still do. Or rather, I don’t tell him how bad things are, or that today is a worse day than yesterday.

Yes, His grace is sufficient. Someone came to see him to ask for advice about furthering his studies. When the visitor asked me how I am, with a big and truthful smile I said, “I’m fine!”

He immediately told the visitor, “No she’s not! We went to the shops to do grocery and she couldn’t even finish. She begged for the car key to go sit in the car! She’s not fine!”

Somehow, I’ve received strength all these years. What makes other friends weep in heartache as they pray for me to get relief, I can survive. I truly meant it when I said I was fine. I had ‘forgotten’ that my back was aching. I’d forgotten that I was in the midst of a “no sleep, painful tummy” IBS attack. Pain is my norm. It’s in the background buzzing around. But it’s not my life. Just one part of it. A part that hasn’t broken me down yet.

23 years of one guy going to hospital with me. 23 years of tests. 23 years of x-rays, MRIs, scans, ultrasounds and treatments to reduce the impact of my problems. 23 years… And since 2019, he’s been taking leave to take care of me, instead of to go away on holiday or to just have a break from work.

I truly, truly wonder what it’s like being the boyfriend and spouse of a chronically ill person. I wish I could get into their heads. Yesterday he told me, “Stop holding your stomach like that!” (Where my internal sutures are being pulled apart and it hurts.) “You make me feel sorry for you.”

At night, when not even lying down reduced the pain, he asked why I don’t take painkillers. He HATES tablets and never advocates them. Yep, he was not ok.

It can’t be easy. It can’t be easy being the one watching someone suffer and you can’t do anything about it. May His grace be sufficient for the ‘watchers’ too, just as it has been for the sufferer.

2 thoughts on “Since I Met You

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