Today Lori and I are celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary. We hoped to go to Hawaii for our 25th, but then the pandemic changed our travel plans. A couple of years later we are still waiting to take that trip. Maybe it will become a 30th anniversary trip, but I hope it won’t be that long before we go.
We first me at the end of 1992 when I was looking for a co-leader for a Bible study I led off-campus with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at UC Davis. As I look back I’m struck by how we bonded around our health journeys and how we’ve become advocates for each other and others in the community.
I wrote the excerpt below for an Everyday Health blog about five years ago. Many of my older blogs (some dating back to 2007) have been removed in an effort to boost traffic to their website. It pained me to see hundreds of my columns removed, but I thankfully do have drafts or copies of most of them.
This particular blog focused on ways Lori and I support each other with our health challenges. It’s still true today–we are each other’s care partners and greatest champions as we daily live with chronic illness and disability.
Spina Bifida and Psoriasis Brought Us Together
Finding the perfect gift for my wife, Lori, is always tricky. That’s because it’s not easy to express how much she means to me. She’s stood by as my main support through everything for more than 20 years, including living with a guy who has severe psoriasis.
As a minister, I officiated weddings and worked closely with couples preparing for marriage. I always told them that the center of the ceremony is the vows. The vow to love “in sickness and in health until death do us part” strikes me as especially solemn.
Many young couples sitting across from me do not truly comprehend the impact “in sickness” can have on their future lives. I know that Lori and I didn’t when we married in our early- and mid-twenties.
We hit it off immediately when we met as college students at the University of California, Davis. The two of us could talk for hours about anything and everything. We could especially relate on so many levels when talking about living with ongoing health conditions.
Lori was born with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that leaves the spinal cord and nerves open to damage. Doctors call hers a one-in-a-million case thanks to successful neurosurgery a few hours after birth. The condition did leave her with incontinence and neuromuscular weakness, but it could’ve left her incapacitated in a wheelchair.
Every year, I accompanied Lori to an all-morning spina bifida clinic. She stayed in an exam room while medical providers from nine different specialities, including neurology, urology, and nursing, checked her. After lunch, they discussed the patient’s condition and gave recommendations for follow-up.
The two of us could talk for hours about anything and everything. We could especially relate on so many levels when talking about living with ongoing health conditions.
During one visit, her worsening incontinence took center stage. The doctors and nurses couldn’t find a solution, suggesting possible surgery. I felt helpless as I witnessed her daily struggle trying to work and be a mom while emotionally frustrated by her condition. It took years to figure out how to best manage the incontinence, though no surgery was necessary.
My psoriasis also posed its challenges for Lori. She didn’t really understand or have much knowledge about the condition when we met, or during the early years of our marriage.
Lori admits she thought it was just a manageable itchy rash–nothing much to worry about. It would flare up at times, but there was oral medication, topical treatments, and dermatology appointments to get through it. Besides, Lori’s mom was facing terminal cancer, and the ensuing family drama after her death definitely took priority.
On the journey, Lori and I learned how to better support each other while managing our own anxieties, fears, and frustrations.
The blog goes on to share three ways to support a loved one with chronic illness. I will share those tips and more of our story in an upcoming entry. In the meantime, we are going to go out for our anniversary to one of our favorite local sushi spots while waiting for a better time to make that trip to Maui.