“This is Dr. Such-And-Such and I’m calling to tell you that your husband is going to be fine,” the doctor says in a stern there’s-no-need-to-go-freaking-out-woman tone. I frantically took notes but my brain started to fog over in spite of my efforts. “If you poll a room full of doctors and ask them what type of cancer they would want to get, it would be this,” he explained as he ended his summary. I thanked him, hung up the phone, and called in to work for a day off.
Just like that life had changed. In the next room my husband was also in a bit of shock. He had gone to his post-op appointment expecting a quick in and out visit. He expected his surgeon would tell him the nodule in the left side of his thyroid, which had been removed two weeks earlier, was benign. He’d pay his co-pay and spend his last day of medical leave watching ESPN. Instead, he was told that he has thyroid cancer.
This past Valentine’s Day was my 3rd wedding anniversary. My husband’s diagnosis has brought home the seriousness of the marriage vow “in sickness and in health.” Once I felt more grounded I returned to the room, sat next to my husband, and held his hand. Together we replayed the doctor’s summary. Together we agreed how and when to tell his family. Together we decided to extend his medical leave. Together we discussed possible dates for what will be a second surgery in less than four months. Together we crawled into the bed and took a nap. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and we were emotionally exhausted.
Before I got married, my thoughts about marriage centered on what I was going to get out of it. I’d get companionship. I’d get to have children with a supportive partner. However, last fall my husband and I participated in a marriage workshop at our church that helped me to understand that marriage is also about what I give. There I learned that marriage is about preparing each other to do God’s work–to serve. I started the workshop worried that I’d be hit over the head with sexist stereotypes but left inspired to
focus on what I like to call “my give.” I decided that cooking would be my give, the one thing I could do for my husband without expecting a single thing in return. I enjoy the creativity of cooking and baking and it turns out we are saving money since my hubby now takes home cooked meals for lunch instead of eating out. And since food is my husband’s love language he is delighted.
We spent hours Googling thyroid cancers, listening to stories from friends and family, and reading a book my husband bought online. Together we met with our endocrinologist before we became overwhelmed in information overload. My husband asked questions. I took notes and checked in with my husband in order to flag any details that were worrying him, which really helped the doctor to zero in and address his concerns. Together we left with the facts about his case.
Now, instead of worrying about what my husband does or doesn’t do, I focus on my give. And an interesting thing has happened. My husband knocks out things on his honey-do list, no nagging required. We started to team up to handle some very scary stuff without retreating into different corners. We were becoming a team and it couldn’t have come at a better time.