In Sickness and In Health

Rodney Warner, JD
Rodney Warner, JD

My inner voice was screaming.

I am REALLY bad at remembering dates. I don’t have a clue as to my parents’ birthdays (I think my mother’s is in June, my Dad’s in May, maybe), their anniversary (February?), my sister’s birthday (May?). I do recall my brother’s birthday was in September.

There are dates I really do need to remember: my daughter’s birthday, my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.

We were out at a restaurant last week. Bobbie noted she thought I was buying because I was being nice, because our anniversary was coming up. That’s when the inner alarms started going off. I’d very nearly forgotten our anniversary. I had no excuse. It’s easy to remember. August 8, 8/8. I had visions of my wife giving me a card (or even worse, a present), and I had nothing for her. If not for the night out on August 4 at the pizza place, it could’ve been a very bad scene indeed.

I’m very dependent on my wife (I suppose all husbands should be). Without her, I really don’t know how I would’ve gotten through four some odd years of cancer treatment, plus the two years dealing with my cancer prior to getting a diagnosis (not to mention the 12 other years of our marriage). Bobbie was with me through thick and thin.

She put up with my mystery illness before the Hodgkin’s diagnosis. Bobbie was with me during many doctor visits. She had the pleasure of witnessing my first chemo treatment. Bobbie got to hear, with me, the “second opinion” that I was terminally ill. Bobbie held my hand after my CT/PET scan six months after my allo bone marrow transplant, when I convinced myself more cancer would be found. I felt I was on the verge of a breakdown (not to mention, on the verge of a long and painful death). That scan delivered great news instead (no cancer and my new immune system looked like it was kicking some cancer ass). She celebrated with me whenever we’d get good news, and she held me together when the news was bad.

Three times I had to tell her I had cancer (the diagnosis plus two relapses). To this day, I have a hard time giving her bad news. I figure I’ve already given her enough bad news to last a lifetime. Delaying bad news doesn’t make it go away, I’ve learned. It just makes the consequences worse the longer it’s delayed.

We attended a wedding this past weekend. It brought back a lot of great memories of our wedding, 18 years ago. It was small (65 guests). We wrote our own vows. My brother was my best man. Bobbie’s college friend was her maid of honor. That was it for the wedding party.

We had a BBQ reception. We had our “first dance” in the sand in the volley ball pit, “our song” played from a boom box. Instead of a wedding cake after our hamburgers and hot dogs, we had make your own sundaes (Bobbie and I had matching sundae glasses). We were planning on a group trip to a minor league baseball game after the BBQ, but we were too tired.

“In sickness and in health” is just an abstract phrase when you’re young, healthy and at the altar. It’s not something you really think about. It’s just part of the ceremony. But cancer can break up a marriage. A friend went through initial cancer treatment with her husband, and through a relapse without him. One couple I know of parted ways after the wife had an autologous bone marrow transplant. I spoke to a man who wanted a divorce after his cancer treatment. He said his marriage was a hollow, loveless one for years prior to his diagnosis. His wife helped him through treatment, but he wanted to put their marriage out of its misery. He felt he didn’t know how much longer he was going to live, and he didn’t want to live that life in a lifeless marriage.

I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life.

One thought on “In Sickness and In Health

  1. Wow! What a moving tribute to Bobbie — and a great marriage. I think you got it right “In sickness and in health” is just an abstract phrase when you’re young, healthy and at the altar. But after 29 years of marriage for Rich and I, I can attest there really are times when you know you’ve made the right life partner choice. I’m glad you have Bobbie. And I am glad you are my friends!

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