Living Together: In Sickness And In Health

just married

[Monthly Columnist – Wendy van Eyck] – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galations 6:2 (ESV)”

My husband and I started living together on the 16th of April 2011. The same day that we stood in front of 30 friends and family, and promised to love and honour each other, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.

Moving in with my new husband, was great fun, and for us fairly easy.

There were unexpected things: disagreements about whether the bathroom seat should be up or down, about where it was appropriate to cut toenails, and how the chairs should be arranged.

Of all the things I didn’t expect about living together–discovering my husband, the man I was living with, had cancer–trumps them all.

Those vows I had blithely spoken 8 months before, thinking they would be for some far off day were suddenly real, in my face and scary.

It wasn’t the first time I’d lived with someone who was ill.

In one-way or another I’ve been a caregiver my whole life. First, with a mom who was in and out of hospital with a heart condition while I was growing up.

Then in my twenties my brother was diagnosed with Crohns Disease. He and I rented an apartment together and I’ve lost count of the number of doctors’ visits and operations and medications he took while we lived together.

In fact if my husband hadn’t been one of the healthiest men I’d ever met–before his cancer diagnosis–I might think that I’ve got some kind of caregiver-dependency problem.

When my husband was diagnosed I knew as a daughter and sister what living with someone with a chronic illness meant.

Now I was to discover what it meant as a wife to promise in sickness and in health.

In case you’re wondering it is hard.

It is hard to wake up next to someone you love in the middle of the night and feel them shaking from a fever. It is difficult to drive them to the hospital for another round of chemo. It is tiring coaxing them to take just another mouthful of pills.

It is tough to kiss their lips and know you can’t kiss them better.

And it’s taught me that sooner or later, in every relationship that is going to work, we have to carry each other’s burdens.

When we live with someone we have to come alongside them, when they are trying to carry something that is too heavy, crushing or troubling for one person to carry.

Right now I’m stepping up next to my husband and offering to help him as he struggles under the weight of cancer. On other days my husband is helping me to shoulder the load of insecurity, doubt and hopelessness I often drag around.

Perhaps that is why both spouses promise to love each other in sickness and in health because no relationship can survive if it is lopsided.

Sometimes we will carry them and sometimes they will carry us.

If we can grasp that our burdens are to be shared we’ll find the beauty of living together doesn’t lie in agreeing on where you place the chairs but in how you come alongside each other and support each other when the going gets tough.

QUESTION: Have you ever taken a risk and shared a burden with someone you have lived with (be it a parent, sibling, partner or friend) how did they respond? What advice would you offer to others in the same situation?

diva-wendyvaneyckWendy van Eyck lives in South Africa where she runs a 24-hour Gospel Music Television channel that broadcasts to 47 African countries. She loves traveling with her husband and they’re currently planning next years trip. Her website features devotionals that range from learning about God while doing laundry to discovering biblical truths while caring for her cancer fighting husband. Follow her on twitter: @wendyvaneyck.

[Picture: Alyssa Schroeder]


  • Anne Peterson

    Beautiful, heartfelt post, Wendy. Thank you for letting us peek into your world. We said goodbye to my brother who had pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago. It was hard to watch him spiral down. And yet, we were glad to be there for him. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

    • Wendy van Eyck

      Thank you Anne. Cancer is really awful and all we can do is be there for those going through it and let them know they are loved and supported. Sounds like you did that with your brother.

  • Joy Lenton

    Simply beautiful and heart-rending post, Wendy. You touch us in all the right places with this depiction of life and marriage. Burden bearing and sharing is very much what it is all about. I often feel my husband has been graced with an extra measure of patient endurance to deal with the load he has had to shoulder – albeit willingly. Perhaps I just fail to see how I also shoulder his, as my needs are more obvious. The many challenges of life have ways of making us reflect on how seriously we meant those vows in the first place. Food for thought here. God bless you both 🙂 xx

    • Wendy van Eyck

      Speaking from the carers’ perspective I’m sure he is honoured to be allowed that position in your life. Even if it is sometimes hard and scary. It is rewarding too. Never underestimate either how much strength you give him. Even on my husbands weakest days physically he still finds ways to make my burdens lighter.

  • rebeccannb

    Wendy, this is beautiful. I have a brother that has Cerebral Palsy (mild case) and I have helped over the years give care to him. Although, I haven’t done it to your extent, I am now involved in a ministry that seeks to bring the Gospel to those affected by disability/disease and in that also helping to bring respite to caregivers through Family Retreats. Your post reminds me of a video I saw today of a lady (the founder of the ministry I work for) who is a quadriplegic and she talked about her and her husband walking through many trials and recently has walked through cancer. Your post and her talk go hand in hand. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Anita

    For me, burden-bearing with my husband through his cancer was a given–we did what needed to be done in order for him to regain his health (he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with central nervous system involvement). The hardest part was recognizing the stress I’d experienced and the depression it brought and dealing with it AFTER he was healthy again. The caregiver’s journey doesn’t end when the loved one receives a clean bill of health. It takes time to adjust to the ‘new’ normal and to process all of the emotions and fears that one experiences during treatment.

    • Wendy van Eyck

      So true, Anita. We completed one round of chemo last year and thought we’d be in the clear. Life was so different for 6 months during our “recovery” from chemo and then we got thrown back into it when a scan showed his cancer had returned. I find that regular exercise really helps me cope with the stress and depression. I will be on the lookout for it when he finishes up in 6 months again.

  • nancy bouwens

    Wendy – the sharing of your heart strikes a chord… my 29 year old daughter mom of 4 and pregnant at 14 weeks with baby five experienced a debilitating stroke in May 2012…heartbreaking for her, the children, us and her sweet husband. We navigate uncharted waters as she journeys through recovery. Blessings to you and your sweet husband. …I Pray strength and grace in the midst.
    Nancy Bouwens

    • Wendy van Eyck

      Oh, Nancy. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Thank you for your prayers for my husband and I. I’d like to pray for you too. I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy & peace because you trust in him.