Every now and again, I have coffee with a good friend of mine who rarely has time for herself. She is a mother of two teenage daughters and a husband with progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Many of our conversations are about family, teens, MS, and exercising (or lack thereof); however, today’s visit seemed to really touch my heart.
Within the last year, Jen’s husband has been spiraling downward both physically and mentally, and while Jen is one of the strongest women I know, I see her strength starting to wane and there is nothing I can do for her. I remember her telling me that John was always unflappable, her “rock,” and support; however, within the last year, the plaques in his brain have changed his personality and she has “lost” that part of him that she so treasured.
I think her comments about not having that support to fall back on when times get tough, and just not wanting to be the one “in-charge” all the time really put my selfish desires into proper perspective. Here I was feeling a bit sorry for myself that I have been divorced for over 11 years, no prospects, and my daughter’s wedding coming up. I had to admit to myself that not having a date for my daughter’s wedding really is nothing compared to the emotional loss of her husband/partner/friend/lover. I made my choice and have to live with it; however, Jen had no choice and chooses to live with it.
I’ve learned so much about M.S. and the devastation it causes to everyone involved, just by being friends with Jen. I feel blessed to know she feels comfortable enough to vent to me when she needs to, and she knows she can express herself any way she sees fit when around me. I’ve learned I can’t fix things, but I can listen. I also can let her know there are little things I can do for her even if it is just sitting with her husband while she does errands.
So many families deal with someone that has a form of illness that requires constant care; however, this is the first time I have really been somewhat close to a family coping with the intricacies of a progressive disease. Even though I consider myself a strong, independent woman, I don’t know how I would have dealt with all the emotional issues that come along with a disease like M.S. As Jen mentioned, 90 percent of marriages end in divorce when progressive M.S. is involved.
She probably doesn’t realize it, but her situation really helps keep my mind in perspective when I have the tendency to start feeling melancholy about my life and where it is heading. I wish I had had the love she holds so dear in her heart for her husband, with my ex husband. She has to be one of the few people I know who really have taken the vow, “in sickness and in health” seriously. This is one couple who are living the true meaning of marriage and I admire them tremendously.
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy