Ready! Aim! Shoot!
By Marla Wilderman
Ready! Aim! Shoot! Nervously, I shot my husband in the butt. "Is this what I agreed to when I vowed to stick by him in sickness and in health?" I asked myself as I withdrew the needle from John's reddening injection site. Dropping the needle into the sharps container, I let out a weary sigh followed by mischievous grin. "Better be nice to your caretaker," I warned him.
Our battle against multiple sclerosis began shortly after we were married. The enemy- a degenerative nervous system disease- advanced slowly and stealthily at first. By our fourth year of marriage, however, we had completely assumed the roles of caretaker and care recipient. How did this affect me? I wish I could say that I lovingly transformed into Florence Nightengale; but if the truth were told I was mess! On the outside, appeared "just fine". I taught school each day, tutored after class, and kept up with my duties as a wife, mother, and housekeeper. But, internally- a war raged. Alternately, like a tennis ball bouncing between opponents, I felt sorry for him- then sorry for me. Sorry for him, sorry for me.... And at times MAD AT LIFE! Frequent visits to the doctor, new medical terminology, assistive mobility equipment, a cabinet full of medications, and a plethora of limitations invaded our lives. What chance did we have against the ever-strengthening enemy?
As time passed, our faith, our family, and our love for each other provided desperately needed reinforcements. Now, some 1247 injections later, I've managed to put our challenges into perspective. John didn't ask for this debilitating disease; he needs my help. When I'm not exhausted, helping him brings me pleasure. On the other hand, when I'm drained, I don't always rise to the occasion as good-naturedly as I should. On the bright side, I've learned several valuable lessons. One, to be a good caretaker I must take care of myself. Aerobics, swimming, spending time with upbeat friends, and reading relieve my stress. Two, doing fun activities with John enables me to avoid seeing him solely as a care recipient. We enjoy watching funny movies, eating delicious meals, floating in our pool, and conversing about our day. John is a person who happens to need care; and I do my best to provide it.
My role as a caretaker continues to challenge me. On "shot nights", John's trusting eyes look into mine as I approach him with the needle. Armed with strength gained through years of battling multiple sclerosis, I say to myself: Ready! Aim! Shoot!