I'm currently reading a book called 'Lightning' by Danielle Steel. The story is about the protagonist Alex Parker who is one day diagnosed with breast cancer and how she and her family come to terms with it, especially after the perfect family life that they have been living until now. She's forty two years old and has a four year old daughter who is the apple of her eye. She has a mastectomy where her left breast is removed and she has to go through chemotherapy for the next six months. This takes a toll on her body as well as her career as a successful attorney. Her body has become shapeless thanks to a missing breast, she's gaining wait due to the chemo and is losing her long red locks by the day. But the biggest loss for her during this time turns out to be her husband.
Sam Parker is in complete denial about his wife's ailment. He doesn't want to come to terms with it and begins avoiding her completely. After losing his mother to cancer, he doesn't want to go through it again. He now finds his wife ugly and impossible to talk to. He blames her for her disease and even asks her to suffer through it silently without involving him or their daughter. Also, he doesn't want his daughter to notice the changes in her mother and asks Alex to always dress up and wear a wig in front of their daughter to hide her shortcomings. He is disgusted to such an extent by his wife that soon he is having an affair with a young girl with perfect breasts. I'm yet to complete the book, so I'm not too sure how it would end.
The reason I'm talking about this is illness or a disease is something that none of us can avoid. Within a couple if one of them has go through some health issue, it is not easy. Lives can turn upside down at times. In the case above it is very easy to take Alex's side and sympathize with her. I did that initially too. But when I saw her husband's point of view, he was right in his own way too. Alex doesn't make it easy for anyone around her. She is constantly whining and crying about what is happening to her and is expecting to be treated like a patient. She makes no effort on her own to stay strong and console her husband by assuring him that she is going to be okay. Instead she is angry at her husband for not understanding her pain or rather not being a part of it. Her husband on the other hand wants her to act normal and go through her medications silently. He wants to support her in her plight, but she wants something else altogether.
Sickness is always dreaded. Be it some big disease or a common cold, it always comes with a share of emotional despair. But it is also something only the couple must handle together and in a dignified manner. No fingers have to be pointed and no blame games. The person going through the illness has to stay strong and help the partner come to terms with the issue at hand. The partner too must stay strong and motivate the other to get better. It is a two way street. It is not something where one should suffer and the other should watch. Last year I was diagnosed with kidney stones. Twice, within a week. The pain was excruciating and I thought I would die. My husband had left to office and I was just about to leave to mine when the pain started. I knew that this was not some normal stomach issue and when the pain became unbearable I called him.
He came home rushing with fear, concern and panic on his face. It broke my heart to see him like that. I told him that I'm in pain and I had to go to the hospital. Since an ambulance would have panicked him even more, I sat on his bike and we went to the hospital that was just a kilometer away. I had to be given medicines via IV and I had needles poked into me. He was worried and I was too. This was the first time something like this was happening to me, rather us. But he held his cool and consoled me, telling that it would all be fine. And I held my cool and assured him that I was feeling better. I was in the hospital for half a day and we both stayed strong for each other and got past it smoothly. Two days later, I had the same pain again and we repeated the same procedure. Just the two of us and both of us kept our composure and we survived it together.
I have seen cases in which a woman in pain expects sympathy more than support. Within a marriage or a relationship, you need to assure the other that you are going to be okay. But in some cases, that is just not the case. Some of them lie in bed for the entire day without the intention of waking up or wanting to get better. They complain about the pain non stop and argue with the husband when they do not get adequate support. I have seen woman expect special treatment during their periods too. I find it completely unreasonable. We as women, have a higher threshold to pain. We do not have to bear it all alone and act like wonder woman at all times, but the least we can do is try to get better for our own good. There needs to be a confidence that I will get better. This same confidence needs to be rubbed off on the partner as well. He needs to know that you are going to be fine, and that is when he will help you get better. Constant brooding will depress him too.
In my experience, men are childlike when they fall sick. They get cranky and angry at the same time. But then again, they need to hold their cool and want to get better as soon as possible. It will help their partner take care of them better. If they constantly sit and whine about being sick, it is not helping either of them. Falling sick is natural, and just like any other phase in a relationship this is something that needs to be handled with love, care and affection too. Together. No matter who falls sick, both of them need to put in the effort to get the person better. And there needs to be constant communication about what is happening and how to get past it. There should be no room for sympathy. It should be love and concern only. And lots of tender care and following the instructions of the doctor. What ever it is, a couple needs to go through it together. It is not easy for the patient to go through it. But is not easy for the other person to watch you go through it either. The least one can do is make it easy for the other and get past it as smoothly as possible.
The words "In sickness and in health" was not added in the wedding vows for no reason.