I’ve had health issues most of my life – Type 1 diabetes at nine; ulcerative colitis at 17. These two challenging, genetic autoimmune diseases don’t make for a storybook childhood or an easy adolescence. They didn’t respond well to the robust partying of my 20s and 30s either. But I coped with them – albeit feeling like crap a lot of days.
Meanwhile, I’ve managed to live a full, productive life. Health challenges haven’t held me back from much. I’ve had a decent writing career, traveled extensively, had a lively social life and raised two children who are now fine, young adults. But I did a good deal of this for almost 30 years with Tom at my side. He would point out how well I was doing when I was feeling down. He ran to the pharmacy when I needed meds, and had juice or candy at the ready when my blood sugar plummeted in the middle of the night. When I felt like I just couldn’t cope with the day-to-day challenges of these miserable illnesses, he emphasized the positives in our life together and said I was doing better than most with my medical history. Sometimes when I was feeling sorry for myself, he’d ask me who I’d like to change places with. With all the people we know, I seriously couldn’t think of anyone, which weirdly comforted me.
His steadfast encouragement and positive thinking got me through two successful pregnancies, an emergency appendectomy, and a few other unexpected health trials. The comfort of a significant other during illness is priceless. I was lucky to have it for so many years, and I knew it too.
So when Tom died, I prayed my health would continue on a positive trajectory. It has for the most part. I know everyone has their ups and downs, and you have to be prepared for dealing with health challenges alone, especially as you get older. I’m crossing my fingers that I can cope with what is ahead.