It’s been about two years since I began to accept my husband’s chronic illness. From the day he was diagnosed five years ago, it’s been a journey of grief and confusion for me. I guess I had expectations of God. I was unaware of the frailty of life.
Acceptance was not easy for me. At all. Chronic illness can trigger grief emotions. I’m not the one with the chronic illness, my husband is, and it has not only changed his life, but mine as well.
When he was first diagnosed, there was hope, but once realization of his rare chronic illness called achalasia started setting in, I experienced a faith crisis. I prayed and wondered why in the world this was happening. It wasn’t part of my plan for our lives. The future seemed filled with question marks and uncertainty of the future.
Two years ago my eyes began to adjust and refocus on hope and faith following my husband’s two year follow-up endoscopy to monitor for esophageal cancer. Since the symptoms of achalasia are so similar to esophageal cancer, it would be difficult to spot cancer by the symptoms alone, and the constant irritation of my husband’s esophagus increases his risk for cancer.
Cancer is the big fear. Sometimes the diagnosis of a chronic illness causes us realize we are all vulnerable and the security of our health is no longer there. In my eyes, if my husband could get chronic illness, then he could also get cancer. My security blanket was gone and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back.
So when my husband went for his routine endoscopy and everything was clear, it dawned on me just how much time I was wasting worrying about what might happen. Before my husband’s diagnosis, I didn’t worry constantly about whether or not he would get a chronic illness.
His illness has robbed me of time, which is ironic, because I was afraid of losing time with my husband to a possibility, and I was angry that he has this incurable disease in the first place. In that moment, I realized all the time I had missed. I was determined to not take another moment with my husband for granted.
My journey to acceptance began with being grateful for every day I wake up with my husband in my life, a perspective that helps me focus on what I have instead of worrying about what might happen, or even being mad at God about my husband’s illness.
Another tool that has helped me learn acceptance is to stop praying just for my husband to find healing in his body. God keeps reminding me of His healing power, not only in body, but also in spirit, mind and emotions. I’m most definitely still believing God for a miracle, that my husband will be fully healed, but sometimes when we are praying and waiting for healing, we can become discouraged. But discouragement won’t help us get to a place of acceptance.
It’s helped me to pray not only for my husband, but also for a cure for achalasia, something that has given my husband’s disease a purpose greater than our little bubble and difficult circumstance. I have to remind myself that everyone has difficulties in life. My problem isn’t the only problem in the world. When my focus shifts from discouragement to hope that maybe there can be a cure for this rare disease, it helps to encourage me too.
My husband is a strong man to endure his illness with grace and strength, and now that I am at a place of acceptance, I am totally fine without my security blanket. The truth is there was no security in not understanding the frailty of life. Working through the grief that came with my husband’s illness has taught me to live a richer, more abundant life. Even though it felt like a loss, God lead me to acceptance, the greatest gift I could ever have. God will use this situation to bring Him glory, something I fully believe, because today I’m living out that promise.
My hope is that you will find hope in the blessings of your own life, encouragement to reach beyond what is directly in front of you. Sometimes all we can do is change our perspective, and sometimes that change comes when we find a way to count our blessings instead of our losses.
HEATHER BIXLER is a mom of three, married to a firefighter, and she is a writer. In 2005, she ventured into the online world to start a community for moms. Little did she know the adventure God had in store for her! It’s been a roller coaster with many ups and downs, but each step has led her to where she is today. Heather’s heart is to share God’s word with her readers in a loving and practical way. Connect with her at heatherbixler.com.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.