Girl Gone Authentic: Illness Can Tear You Apart or Bring You Together

WARNING: This post contains explicit language and sexual content.

Another test for the strength of a relationship is the possibility of significant illness or medical issues for you or your partner. I’ve had two “real” adult relationships. I had a significant surgery in one of them and faced significant illness in the other. However, I had two very different outcomes.

When I was with my ex-husband, I developed a golf ball-sized fibroid tumor in my uterus. It was not cancerous, but the size of it, and the symptoms it was causing, required me to have a hysterectomy when I was in my mid-30s.

Leading up to the diagnosis, sexual intercourse was extremely painful. It felt like someone was sticking a knife in me. Wouldn’t you think that my husband, the man who is supposed to have my back, would be concerned? Well, he was concerned, but not for me. He was concerned that he wouldn’t get as much sex as he wanted. He did not give a fig about my pain; he still expected sex at least four times a week and would criticize and insult me. I would give in and have painful sex just to minimize the anger that he hurled toward me.

The doctor told me the results of my ultrasound. There are two ways to remove a uterus – vaginally (less invasive) and abdominal (more invasive). Due to the size of my tumor, the doctor had to remove my uterus abdominally. He said that it is the same procedure as a c-section delivery (I had all three of my kids this way). What this meant to me was that I would not be able to drive a car for two weeks, I needed to limit going up/down stairs to once a day (we lived in a two-story), I needed to take eight weeks off work, and – most importantly in my marriage – no sexual intercourse for six weeks. The doctor said that due to my age (mid-30s versus 18, 23, and almost 25 when I had my kids), the recovery would be more difficult and that I really needed to make sure that I was doing nothing but caring for myself.

This was unacceptable for my ex-husband. First off, this man does NOT believe in helping out around the house. He was raised in a household where the mom did EVERYTHING around the house. Even though she was a stay-at-home mom and I worked full-time, he still had the expectation that ALL household and child-related chores belonged solely to me. I remember coming home from the hospital after my surgery. The house was an absolute DISASTER. Dishes everywhere, overflowing garbage, etc. I had my uterus removed 48 hours prior, and I was loading the dishwasher, putting away clean clothes, etc.

Second, no sex for six weeks? Was I fucking serious? No matter for him – he would get his sexual gratification out of me. In fact, when I told him what the doctor said, his first words were, “Well, they aren’t operating on your jaw, are they?” I thought he was kidding; surely, even HE couldn’t be this selfish. WRONG. I was laying on the couch three or four days after the surgery, and he put his dick in my face and expected a blow job. I cried the entire time. It was awful, and it really showed me that the level of selfishness was even beyond what I had previously experienced in my marriage.

In a nutshell, this was another nail in the coffin for our marriage. I left him a few years later. There were MANY reasons I left him, not just this, but his reaction during my time of medical crisis was definitely a contributing factor in the demise of our marriage.

Fast forward to this year. I’m with David, and we are getting married in less than two months. Things should be great, and for the most part, they are. However, I’ve been dealing with some health scares over the past several months that have taken some of the attention away from the excitement of our upcoming nuptials.

First, I was having symptoms of what I thought was a heart attack. I emailed my doctor’s office, and they recommended that I go to urgent care. I called David to let him know what was going on (he was on his way home from work). I was being sent to the hospital where he works (about a 40-minute drive from our house). Even though he was almost home, he changed his clothes and came all the way back to his job to sit with me. I ended up being okay, but it meant so much to have him there with me.

Second, David has noticed over the past several months that my snoring has gotten worse. I participated in a sleep study and discovered that I have sleep apnea (I wrote about this in a previous blog post). David came with me to learn about how to use the CPAP machine. He’s been supportive during my adjustment to wearing a mask every night.

The worst thing, though, was a recent cancer scare. For the past two or three months, I’ve had sores on the right side of my tongue. Initially, I assumed I must have bitten my tongue but just didn’t realize I’d done it. I didn’t tell him about it because I thought my tongue would heal. However, I didn’t heal, and I started noticing that the pain was growing worse. It hurt to chew/swallow, I started having pain in my jaw, and my right ear really started to hurt.

The day I got my CPAP machine, David and I went to lunch. I was eating and said something about my tongue/mouth hurting. David asked me what I was talking about, and I told him about how long I’d been hurting. I made a joke about having tongue cancer and he told me how “unfunny” that was and that I should never joke about illness. (His mom died of pancreatic cancer before he and I got together.)

A few nights later, I stuck out my tongue in the mirror and was sort of scared of what I saw. I emailed my doctor’s office to tell them about the issues, and they suggested that I go to urgent care that evening. I told David about it, and he asked to look at my tongue. I showed him and he said, “What the fuck is that?” He told me that we were going to urgent care right that minute. We went, and the doctor I saw examined me. He took a ton of notes and told me that he was putting in a referral to see an ear/nose/throat (ENT) specialist. He told me that they would probably do a biopsy.

When we left, he was teary eyed. He said he refused to believe that I had cancer because he couldn’t live without me and I just cannot be sick. He kept hugging me and was just so supportive and sweet.

A night or two later, we were going to have sex. I said something about giving him a blow job. He said, “No fucking way are you giving me a blow job when you are having problems with your mouth.” I told him that I would do it anyway and he said, “I know you would, but I’m not letting you.”

What a world of difference from when I underwent my hysterectomy! I’m with a man who cares more about my health than about his needs. Even though we’ve been together for a long time, it’s still hard for me to get used to this.

I went to the ENT specialist the following week. David wanted to go with me, but he had to work. He was going to call in sick, but I told him to save his leave. The ENT specialist examined me and said that in her over 30 years of being a specialist, she has seen a lot of “nasty stuff” and she was virtually certain that I did NOT have cancer. She thought that a broken tooth was causing my tongue sores to not heal and that if I get my tooth repaired, my tongue should heal properly. (NOTE – I think the sleep apnea is why my tongue would not heal. I’ve also been grinding my teeth as a result and may have been inadvertently biting my tongue while I sleep. Now that I’ve been using the mask for two weeks, my tongue is almost completely healed, even though I haven’t yet gotten my tooth fixed.)

I texted David to let him know what the ENT specialist had to say. He texted back to say that he was so happy. When he got home from work, he practically attacked me with a hug. He told me that when he saw my text, he had to go into a closet to cry because he was so relieved and grateful. He told me that he’d already visualized me having cancer, both beating it and succumbing to it, etc. He told me that he didn’t think I realized just how much he loves me.

We made love that night and once again, he would not let me give him a blow job. He said that even though he knew I was going to be okay he was not going to cause me any additional pain. He said he would not let me take care of him orally until my mouth was healed.

I’m obviously happy that I will be okay. But – It’s so good to know that if I did have to face cancer, I would be facing it with David. Now more than ever, I know he has my back. I love him more than he will ever know.