One of the scary things about having a chronic disease is wondering what will happen if the people you love and depend on are no longer there. Many cope, living on their own. I have great respect and empathy for those who do, because it’s hard and exhausting to deal with all the aspects of managing your health by yourself.
For the past 10 days, I’ve had a taste of that experience, as Al has been away in Israel visiting Mindi, our eldest. Last year we made the trip together to see her; this time around, we had to economize, and since it’s very strenuous for me to travel that far alone, Al made the trip by himself. As I write, he’s in the air, on his way home from a great father-daughter adventure. I’m glad they had a wonderful visit, and I’ll be glad when he gets back.
I’ll admit, I was anxious about his leaving. In the 28 years we’ve been married, he’s traveled abroad a few times, but I have always had one or both of our daughters here with me. So this has been the longest stretch of time that I’ve had to manage by myself since I was diagnosed nearly three decades ago with an autoimmune disease that turned out to be scleroderma.
Friends have been a great help. We had a messy snowstorm the first weekend Al was away, and our good neighbors dug me out. I had several back-up contacts in case more bad weather swept through, but we lucked out with just rain and snow flurries that quickly melted.
I joined other friends for Shabbat supper on the two Friday nights during his absence, which helped break up the week and made for good company. I went to our synagogue’s Purim party. I took my regular evening Pilates and dance classes, and joined friends for weaving. I had plenty of work to keep me busy. I drove to New York to see our younger daughter, Emily, at her college this past Sunday.
So all of this has made for a very full stretch. But I also managed to injure my left wrist. Every time Al has been abroad, it seems I mess up one of my joints. I don’t exactly know how I did this—probably from lifting things I don’t normally lift, opening boxes or jars I usually hand off to him, trying to shovel the slush off the back walk instead of asking someone for help, or some combination thereof.
I saw my rheumatologist at Boston Medical Center for a regularly scheduled appointment last Thursday, and he thought I had developed some tendonitis. I’ve had my wrist in a brace for nearly a week, and today is the first day it feels close to normal.
Yes, thank goodness, my body does heal, even when I’m frustrated and impatient. But I’m also tired. All the tasks that you share in a marriage add up quickly when you’re going solo. Anyone who finds herself suddenly without a partner, by choice or circumstance, knows this all too well. When you have chronic illness as an extra partner, the fatigue factor intensifies.
This is what I’ve learned over the past 10 days:
Sometimes it’s nice to have the house to yourself and do everything exactly as you want, without having to negotiate. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve enjoyed having my own space for a little while.
I can definitely manage on my own if I have to. This is reassuring, to the extent that I’ve had nagging doubts as my health has gotten more complex.
Next time, I’ll need to rethink how much help to ask for, what I can leave go and what is absolutely necessary. It’s not worth hurting myself or getting overtired to “get stuff done.”
I miss my husband. I’m glad he’ll be home soon.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.