My Other Half.

‘In sickness and in health’… If you choose to use the traditional wedding vows, whether in a civil or religious ceremony, you will utter these words as you vow to love the other person, for all of forever. If you’re marrying in Church, you’ll have had some form of pre-marital counselling and will have discussed your vows, with each other and probably with your Priest or Minister. You might dissect your vows, line by line, picking out the key words and talking about what they really mean.

‘In sickness and in health’ is the ‘does what it says on the tin’ of weddng vows, isn’t it? I vow to love you when you are healthy and happy and life is good and to love when you’re sick and sad and life is hard. Simple. In our relationship we’ve had colds, migraines, toothache and a brush with Swine ‘Flu and we’ve carried on loving each other just fine, thanks very much. That particular line in our vows didn’t trouble us, what difference would it make if one of us got sick when we were husband and wife rather than boyfriend and girlfriend? I’ll be the first one to shout from my soapbox about how marriage hasn’t changed our lives, but my experience with a lump in my breast before Christmas opened my eyes to a lot of truths about what has changed, and how.

We were infinitely lucky. My lump is not cancerous and my doctors are incredible. I have thought a lot about writing about our experience; I have been conscious that I wasn’t actually ‘sick’ and so what would I be writing about? But it is exactly that, our experience. I am confident in saying that until the metaphorical lump appears, you do not know how you or your husband will react or how those reactions will affect your relationship.
I’d have bet you a big chocolate cake that I would be of the school of Positive Thinking. Positive thoughts to drive away the negativity, not dwelling on ‘maybe’ and ‘what if’ and welcoming the success stories offered by colleagues and friends. I’m a naturally gregarious, confident person; why would this change in the face of possible illness?
In reality, I was a mess. It was all the harder because I hadn’t expected to feel this way. I was aware that my reactions could be perceived to be over-dramatic, no-one knew if I was sick yet, least of all me. So why was I bursting into tears at the drop of a hat? Why did crystal clear pictures of my future dance in front of my eyelids at night, keeping me from sleep with the subtle flavour that they were pictures of a future I would never see? Overnight I turned from a healthy, happy, busy Newlywed (I was hanging onto that title for as long as I could!) into a sleep-deprived, morose and unbearably sad young girl. To make it worse, I hated myself for reacting this way. I wanted more than anything to ‘snap out of it’, to be able to ‘wait and see’. My colleagues tiptoed around me-they didn’t know what was wrong, but couldn’t miss my transformation into Zombie Woman; my friends went to too much effort to ‘cheer me up’. My family were great, if you’re the kind of person who can deal with jokes about your possible impending bad news. (Which, oddly enough despite my uber-sadness, I most definitely was!)
Through all of this, all the tears and tantrums, the periods of blank-staring-at-blank-walls, Phil was my rock. My anchor to our old lives. He was a constant reminder that I hadn’t always been this crazy, over-reacting, blotchy faced ghost. When I cried, he held my hand. When I stared into space, he got into my eyeline and didn’t move until I looked at him instead. When I had nightmares-real Night Terrors which I have never experienced before and cannot believe people go through on a regular basis-he switched on all the lights and held me until I fell asleep again, even though sometimes it was 5am and he had to get up at 6am.

This living in fear was my sickness. Neither of us saw my reaction or behaviour coming, yet Phil accepted it and worked so very hard to help me get better. Whilst I don’t doubt he’d have behaved the same way had we still been boyfriend and girlfriend, there was an undeniable galvanised feeling to our relationship as we drove home from the hospital. It was similar to the ‘We did it!’ feeling that you get as you walk back down the aisle, slightly less joyous and a little more intense. We married in a registry office, with a civil ceremony and so never had a serious conversation about the vows pre-wedding. The 3 weeks during which we fought our fear together broke down those vows for us and hammered home the importance of that one line, ‘in sickness and in health’. It made us realise that it’s not just the physical illnesses a marriage has to endure and survive. And if, as a couple, you said your vows with the utmost conviction and honesty, you will endure and survive.

My lump not only opened my eyes to how many young woman are unaware of the ease and immeasurable benefits of self-checking your breasts, it also made me all the more aware of how lucky I am to have found my Other Half. He actually does complete me… cheesy as that is!

Picture, as ever, courtesy of the incredible Simon Fazackarley.
Categories: Health, Marriage
6 interesting thoughts on this

6 Comments

  1. Roz
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    What a beautifully written post Aisling, glad you can take so many positives from the experience you went through x

    Ps I hope that picture is up somewhere in your house, it is stunning!

  2. Posted January 17, 2011 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    What a beautifully written post, thank you so much for sharing. I'm so pleased to hear your 'lump' is not a cancerous one. You have inspired me to go learn how to do a self-check. It's been something I've been meaning to get to grips with for a while now, so thank you :)
    Much love,
    Annabel xXx

  3. Posted January 17, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Oh Aisling, you do know how to make a girl cry in the morning! xxx

  4. Posted January 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    You write so beautifully about something so tough and gritty.

    Thank you for being so honest about how you handled this compared to how you thought you could. This has made me sit up and think.

    Thank you for that and thank goodness you are ok and thank Phil for being your soul mate – yes, lots of thanks me thinks x

  5. Anna K
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    You, miss, are so bloody wise. And brave. It's so strange how we never know how things will affect us until they happen. You can plan all you want but you have No Idea what is going to happen. Or what you are capable of. Or how you will face it. I'm so glad you had someone to keep you firmly on the cliff.

  6. Posted January 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I am totally awed by the honesty and self awareness that you show, and the beautiful way in which you write about it. I can't begin to imagine how I would deal with this – I don't think any of us can until we're there, but your candour and heartfelt honesty about how you dealt with it show that you came out the other side having gained something from the experience, and I hope that if I ever have to go through something similar, I'll be wise enough to do the same. As always, I'm so proud to call you my friend xxx (And now you can all go and be sick if you need to be – sorry for the sickly sweet Aisling praise, but it needed to be said)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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