Together we’re growing together, for a purpose, and traveling the road less traveled in love.
I remember when my husband Antione and I exchanged vows five years ago. They’re still saved in my Gmail account: “I promise to stay committed and faithful to you…through sickness and in health”
I was a healthy 26-year-old, so when I thought about sickness, I thought the hard times would come around year 30 or 40 not the second year of our marriage.
It was Valentine’s Day 2009. My husband had it all planned – the hotel room, the rose petals and candles. It would be our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, but there was one thing missing: me.
After putting up with the shooting pain, heart palpitations and stiffness most of that day, I ended up in an ER hospital bed silently cursing my body for choosing Valentine’s Day to give out on me. I thought it would be an easy fix and just a matter of getting a prescription. I thought our romantic night could still be saved.
With the pink satin princess eye mask my husband bought for me covering over my eyes, I laid in the ER bed, next to a belligerent homeless man who was brought in for public drunkenness. Several tests were performed including EKGs and X-rays and I gave several blood and urine samples. The doctors were alarmed by my high white blood cell count and I was also severely dehydrated so saline was administered to me via IV. The next thing I knew, I was being admitted to the hospital, which felt more like being committed to an asylum.
The medication from the hospital only temporarily numbed the pain. Shortly after this hospital visit, I was debilitated again causing me to miss days at work. After seeing my primary care doctors and getting poked for more blood, he hinted that I might have an auto-immune disease.
Six months later, after yet another blood test, my rheumatologist diagnosed me with SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). I started researching and I came across a sobering statistic: Lupus is two to three times more prevalent in African-American women, than among Caucasian women.
I’m easily fatigued, I experience brain fog sometimes, hormone fluctuations and crazy weather makes my muscles and joints scream. I’m 31 and as a wife I battle with feeling that I’m slowing my husband down. I thank God for my husband Antione, because he comforts me and constantly reminds me that I’m not a hindrance. He’s empathetic and he knows how to scale back plans to accommodate how I’m feeling at any particular time.
My kidneys are also involved and the doctors say I’ll need a kidney transplant. I’m glad to report that I’m not on dialysis and the transplant isn’t in my near future. But the timeline for a family has been delayed. It’s changed how we go about planning the future that we desire to have for ourselves. Our path is not the straight line that we sometimes expect to be. Sometimes there are unexpected curves and detours. All the things we want to accomplish in terms of a family and a life together are very much doable, but we’re taking the road less traveled.
There isn’t a handbook for Antione and I to follow on how to navigate our marriage through the ups and downs of a chronic illness. I can tell you it takes A LOT of forgiveness, a lot of denying self, and an abundance of patience and faith.
Lupus has brought heartache to our marriage, but it has also strengthened us. Antione is learning what it means to live out compassion on a daily basis. I’m learning how to have compassion for myself and abandon the notion of what an ideal wife and woman is. Together we’re growing together, for a purpose, and traveling the road less traveled in love.
Gabrielle Davis, is a former journalist, turned quasi Lupus advocate who uses her candid experiences of living with Lupus to spread awareness, particularly among the black community.
Follow her on Twitter @lupussistas and Facebook.com/lupussistas.