In Sickness and in Health
When I met my husband, Lars, I was impressed by how kind and patient he was. But a few years after we were married, he started to change. People tried to console me—they told me that marriage changes everything, and that I shouldn't expect the same behavior from a man once I was married.
But Lars was so different, I just wasn't sure. This once patient person started losing his temper at the slightest provocation. When he started snapping at me and yelling at our young kids, I was ready to call it quits. Finally I told him, "You'd better go to the doctor because if something isn't wrong with you, I'm leaving."
It turned out that something was wrong with my 27-year-old husband—and I hadn't imagined that it would be something so serious. When Lars told me that he had to stay in the hospital a few days to get his blood sugar regulated, I thought he was joking. No, Lars told me, he had type 1 diabetes.
I was scared of living with diabetes. I was scared of what it could do to my husband—heart disease, strokes, neuropathy, blindness—and I was scared of how my daily life would change. I had only been 21 years old when I'd vowed to stand by his side "in sickness and in health," and I realized I hadn't thought it through. I hadn't anticipated this.
It wasn't easy dealing with my husband's mood swings as he struggled to regulate his blood glucose, or trying to stay positive for the kids despite all my fears, but I learned how. I learned how to help Lars change his lifestyle, how to support him when he struggled with maintaining his new regimen, and how to accept the fact that he isn't perfect. I also learned how to acknowledge my feelings. Holding them inside only made me resent the disease—and my husband.
People don't always realize that entire families are affected when an illness strikes. But helping Lars watch his diet and take his insulin injections was hard on me and the kids too. He needs four shots a day—insulin every time he eats and once at bedtime—which meant mealtime was even more tough to schedule for the two of us and the kids. With soccer, basketball, and piano lessons, it's difficult to break for a meal, let alone eat at the same time every day.
In a way, diabetes is like a marriage. Living with diabetes doesn't always come naturally—sometimes we just have to work at it.
Lars and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We must be doing something right.
Kim Kasch lives in Portland, Ore.