I don't talk a lot about our relationship but we've been through quite a bit over the past 10 years. If a couple can stay together through the stress of a transplant and cancer, I think it's a good set up for the rest of their relationship. If nothing else, we have checked the "in sickness and in health" part off the list.
I can't imagine having gone through all my medical nonsense without him around. If he had a fear or dislike of hospitals at the start of our relationship, he never let it show or quickly got over it. He sat by my side during countless hospital admissions, brought me home-cooked meals, and took my 2 a.m. panic attack phone calls.
We may not always have the most romantic relationship but having someone around who knows me well enough to leave me alone when I'm being injected in the spine with needles is exactly the relationship I want. Something the nurse should've picked up on when she saw him sitting in the corner instead of hovering over me and kept rubbing my arm for "comfort."
Not to say it's all been easy, of course we had issues figuring out the changes in our relationship when he had to take on more and more of a caregiver role when I got progressively more sick. It's hard to find a balance between being a partner and being a caregiver when one person is chronically ill. I think we did a good job but it took a lot of communication about what each of us needed at that time.
I was so scared he was going to burn out that I kept harassing him about it to the point where I probably stressed him out looking for signs of depression. Studies have found that caregivers tend to have increased rates of depression, ptsd, and increased isolation when their loved one is hospitalized, even if the person gets better. A reminder that even if you're looking after someone, you need to look after yourself first. As the airlines always reminds everyone: put on your own oxygen mask before assisting the person beside you.
A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal talked about the importance of caregiver supports and preventing caregiver burnout. They quoted a study from the New England Journal of Medicine that concluded elderly caregivers have an increased 3.7% chance of dying in the year after their spouses are hospitalized. Isaiah isn't elderly so I wasn't worried he was going to die, just that he may burn out and need to run away for awhile.
It's stressful to be the caregiver of someone who is chronically ill. It's also hard to need someone to take care of you. It's especially hard when the person taking care of you didn't exactly sign up for that role. Isaiah didn't go into this relationship 10 years ago thinking he would become proficient at medical lingo, cancer talk, and learning how to navigate hospitals. I had a lot of times where I second guessed our relationship and wondered if he stuck around just so he wasn't the jerk who ran away from a sick partner. That doubt puts stress on the relationship that can be hard to deal with especially when other issues may seem more pressing.
I think the lesson is that relationships are hard, no matter what you're going through and I'm so thankful he's been by my side for all of the past 10 years.