I am completely and utterly in love.
The man who holds my heart is kind and generous, loving and honest, strong and brave. He is the best part of my morning, as I wake up to his innocent slumber, and the most secure part of my night, as I fall safely asleep in his embrace.
He believes in me. He pushes me. He catches me when I fall.
He is, by far, the greatest person to have ever come into my life.
The man who holds my heart has a chronic illness.
He was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that, due to a an excess of salt production, compromises the digestive system, reproductive abilities, immune system, and lungs.
When we first met, I was not aware of what Cystic Fibrosis was, nor was I aware of its severity. When he told me of his disease, I assumed that it was not pleasant, but I never thought it would be something I couldn’t deal with as his girlfriend.
The beginning of our relationship, he was extremely healthy. There was no reason to believe that Cystic Fibrosis was a true threat to his health. I would sit with him while he did his breathing treatments, which consist of wearing a vest that shakes your lungs and mucus inside of them around, and breathing into a nebulizer for 30 minutes, two times a day. I would make sure I always had extra enzymes in my purse or car, just in case we went out to eat and he forgot them. I would watch him, and all of his strength, everyday and feel secure that Cystic Fibrosis would not take him from me.
Now, his health is wavering. His lungs have progressively gotten worse, and he has developed a new infection that can only be treated through an IV, which means he potentially has to leave our home, our bed, our security, to spend 3 weeks in the hospital. His cough takes over his day, making it hard for anyone, including himself, to get two words in without having to pause to allow him to cough in pain and embarrassment. His stomach hurts more and more, and so often he cannot eat because the pain is just too intense. His exhaustion causes him to spend more time sleeping than with me or his family.
I am by his side every step of the way, just as I was before, but now things are different. Now, Cystic Fibrosis is winning.
I feel powerless. There is nothing that I can do to alleviate his pain, and trust me, if I could, I would in a heartbeat. I cannot do anything for him except hold his hand and mutter ‘I love you’, offer him a warm embrace when he needs.
At least, that’s what I thought. Tears have been shed over what may happen to my boyfriend one day. Tears have been shed as I watch him embrace this unfair pain. Tears have been shed over the children we may not have, because CF is a blockade in that journey. Tears have been shed over my fear, over my stress. Cystic Fibrosis is an ugly monster that I wish I had the power to defeat for him and every other person who suffers. But, I don’t. And neither does he. And, I have learned, that the only real thing that I can do for him, the only real help I can give, is to just hope.
That’s all you really can do when you love someone with a chronic illness. You can be there to hold their hand, give them a shoulder to cry on, offer the brave face when they cannot. You can love them with every ounce of your being, you can cherish them for the amazing human that they are, but at the end of the day, the greatest gift you can give them is hope.
Hope that their pain will pass. Hope that years will pass and they will still be at your side. Hope that the future you dream of spending with them is in fact obtainable.
Hope that they find a cure.