Dx-Aversary

Unlike many people I know, my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis as a teenager. She was my girlfriend at the time, and I still remember this day like it was yesterday. On September 28, 2012 our lives changed. Today, I'm remembering this day by telling the story of my superwoman from my perspective.

If you've followed my wife's journey these past five years, you'll know she was a Division I women's basketball student-athlete at the time of her diagnosis. The entire off-season leading up to the diagnosis, we were grinding! We were doing two-a-day workouts--and most days, it was 3 workouts, because she had to Derrick Rose her knee up from a surgery she had months prior. On top of that, we were working two jobs each as full time students.

At the same time, she and most people (myself included), ignorant to symptoms of MS, thought she was going crazy with the random symptoms she was describing. She was losing vision and seeing dark spots (now diagnosed optics neuritis), was always tired no matter how much she slept (having extreme fatigue), and she kept saying she felt like ants were crawling up her legs (we now know this was nerve pain). She was undergoing test after test and seeing so many doctors, and finally, we were led to a neurologist in NYC, who confirmed MS would be our life partner.

I remember Leah, her parents and I leaving the doctor's office in the city that day with a different vibe. I felt like it was the longest ride over the George Washington bridge ever. I was devastated and afraid for Leah. I knew I needed to be there for her now more than ever before, because this would change so much. I thought, I need to marry her sooner rather than later in case anything happens to her.

As time went by, I was also angry for Leah. This also meant she couldn't play basketball anymore. She loved the game since she was 3--this was her first love, and she had worked so hard to become the tough, talented player that she was. I was afraid for her, because I did not have a lot of knowledge about MS. I had only seen images of people in wheelchairs, and I wasn't sure if it was a fatal disease. But I did my due diligence, and I learned everything I could about MS, so that we both could be empowered through knowledge. If we knew what to expect, she could be less anxious when a random symptom presented, and I could be there for her appropriately. Also, it shows your loved one that you care to know and understand what they're going through.

This diagnosis significantly changed our day to day, because basketball was what we did all day every day--it's how we first connected. Basketball was something we did together--it was both of our refuge. It also became the mediator of our relationship; it was what we used to diffuse our miscommunications, our disagreements, and our frustrations. What I realized once basketball was gone was that it would've been gone sooner than later anyway. This diagnosis made me step up and show up. My wife and I have been together for almost 7 years, and she's had MS for 5 out of the 7. In these five years, I've been learning how to be selfless and how to communicate every day.

After five years, we've found a new normal, not by completely eliminating things in life that we enjoy, but by modifying them. We can't spend hours and hours at the beach or outside in the summer, because hot temperatures cause fatigue and pain for my wife. So, we buy cooling vests, cooling scarves, have tons of water, cold rags, and will go to the pool or maybe the beach once a year.

People assume that being married to someone with a chronic illness is a huge sacrifice, but it's no different than the sacrifices you make being married to someone who is not sick. In any marriage, you make sacrifices, but your marriage is smooth or not smooth depending on your effort to compromise and if you're cheerful or bitter about it. I had to choose what sacrifices I would make in life and if they were worth if to me. My wife is worth it to me, and I was not going to lose her or leave her.

People sometimes make me out to be a hero or even a victim for not being able to live a "normal" life. My life is beyond abnormal, and I have a lot to be thankful for. Although this diagnosis changed our lives, it's brought out the best and worst in us both before we even got married, so we got to prove our vows before we got up to the altar. At 24 and 25 years old, we also have 5 degrees and counting together, started a business together, and most importantly, we are best friends. Every time I think that it's difficult for me, I think of the physical and emotional pain that my wife is experiencing on a daily basis due to this disease.

We celebrate this day, because it's the day our lives changed in many ways, but it also brought us closer to realizing our purpose in life together. Happy 5-year dx-aversary!

 

 
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Soul Purpose

Recently, I got to meet a large portion of my wife's family for the first time. I've always been sincerely welcomed into her family since day one. Not going to lie, though, I was a little nervous about meeting some family for the first time. Since we are newly married, I expected to be grilled by some of the men, so they can make sure I'm all in with my LoveLee. Nevertheless, it was positive, and I ended up engaging in a deep discussion with one of her older cousins. He posed a question to me. He asked me if I would rather a soul mate or a soul purpose? Of course, I responded: soul purpose. My LoveLee and I are spiritually rooted, and we are constantly establishing goals and action plans that are in line with our purpose.

Let's talk about purpose for a minute. What is purpose?

My purpose is what I am here for. It's how I utilize the gifts God has given me. Apart of that purpose, may include your soul mate, your family, your career, and your hobbies or things you enjoy doing. One thing I've learned about my purpose (or anything in life that has meaning, for that matter), is patience and perseverance. I've been working towards the goal of "success" (based on my own perspective of success) since adolescence. I played basketball competitively as a child and eventually earned a full athletic scholarship to play in college. I've always ensured I have excellent grades to supplement sports--I earned a Master's degree at 24 (trying to compete with my wife, who has two Master's), and we're now applying for doctoral programs. Needless to say, I have been living in line with my purpose, but it has taken me years to figure out what my purpose is and how I will live it. Although I was grounded and tried to be well-rounded, I changed my major 4 times before settling into criminology, and I applied to multiple graduate programs before determining Educational Leadership was aligned with my purpose. My indecisiveness was, in part, due to being impatient, and trying to win the game with one big shot. I realize now that my purpose is a lifelong journey. It's meant to be discovered through experience and some trial and error. But once it's discovered, it feels great to witness how God takes care of you as long as you stay rooted in that purpose. 

So, I'll take the soul purpose all day, because my God-given mate is apart of my purpose. You can easily give your all to a mate who you think is part of your master plan, but if you're not staying true to your purpose, you can block your blessings. I'm certain my wife is part of my purpose, because our partnership is divine. Of course, we have disagreements and sometimes struggle with communication. The key is that we respect our differences and utilize them as opportunities to grow our partnership, spiritually, and individually.

 
 

 

 

Letters to My LoveLee Wife

I've learned that being a husband is the most important aspect of my identity, and I am a husband first and foremost. I didn't grow up seeing pure Black love, and I thought masculinity was measured by how strong, powerful, and tough you are. My wife has been my anchor on my journey through manhood, and she consistently challenges me to up my love game.

Letters to My LoveLee Wife is a collection of my experiences as a husband. I started calling my wife my LoveLee when we were dating (her name is Leah). We've been together since we were 17 years old, and after asking her 3 times to marry me, we finally legally tied the knot in December 2016.

My wife is my best friend and ride or die, and I'm hers--this has been the key to our longevity from teen years through adulthood.

I share my wins and fumbles, as we overcome daily struggles with her chronic illnesses, my mental health, our family, and various lessons I continue to learn as we strengthen our marriage. Follow along, as I figure it out as I go, share your experiences, and offer your own wisdom, too.