"You know, a year is a long time to be sick" a person once told me in regard to my husband.
I really didn't think it was. To be terminally ill within a period of a year, seemed like a pretty fast course of events in my eyes. After all, it is not as though my husband was immediately incapacitated the moment he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. As a matter of fact, he only went into the doctor's office thinking he had developed allergies...
The illness occurred in stages, as well as his acceptance of what was happening. He had always been a very active man. He took care of everything. To everyone who knew him, and even to himself, he was strong. I can tell you, I have never felt so safe and secure with anyone else. Being that he was a bit of a traditional person, this worked out nicely. He was my protector. His physical strength led to the belief that he was emotionally the same way. Dependable and strong. Which was true as well. At least, he worked very hard to be so. I think he tried to give me the best of himself.
These things do not immediately change when diagnosed with a disease. The disease itself did not truly begin to reveal itself until a good six-months later. That was when everything he did began to take a great deal of effort. He was gallant in his will to hold onto his strength. But, in stages and degrees, his strength began to slip away from him. Within each degree, he suffered greatly emotionally. It was so hard for him to believe that this was happening. It was hard for me to believe it, too.
By October, I knew he had become a different person than he was before. He needed me. He always had needed me, although now he needed me to help him through the rest of his life. I took a leave from work. I didn't want to do this because it meant he would not have much more time, and how could I possibly accept this? The logical side of me knew it was time, but my heart denied it all the way. All the way up until the day he passed away, in December.
Now, when my heart and mind goes to him, I think about all the things we did in our years together. We are active. Moving. Always moving. Now and then, my mind and heart jumps to the other spectrum -his last days. All the things I blocked out as they were happening, come back so fresh it fills my eyes with tears. Him, carried into the bathtub for his last bath. The few steps he was able to take before resigning himself to bed, for good.
I know this is hard to hear. Especially if you are reading this and have Pulmonary Fibrosis. The interesting thing is that it affects each person differently and many have found ways to live a flourishing life and go much further than my hubby and I did. This is hard for me to say, too. But, I have to be honest to my experience. What I am currently struggling with, is how this disease could have changed my husband so quickly? I was there with him, but still can't seem to believe what has happened. My heart can't seem to reconcile the vast differences in memories I have about one person.