In October 2012, my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary with a romantic dinner from our local Italian restaurant. As we ate, Stephen stopped talking to look at me. Our eyes met, and we said nothing and everything in those few moments of silence. After 24 years of marriage, our eyes spoke more than any words we could choose.
Suddenly, a bright light and the noise of a door opening interrupted the moment. It was 7:30 p.m. The nurse walked in and yanked us back into reality. Being in the hospital on a special day wasn’t new for us, and we were doing our best to celebrate our marriage despite me being sick again.
In 2004, during the delivery of our youngest son, a rare epidural complication caused a lesion at my T11-12 vertebrae, and my new life began. The first five years were the most difficult. By 2009, our marriage was in real trouble.
Chasing a cure, managing my constant medical complications, raising our family and running a business all came to a head that August. We were facing bankruptcy, and the reality that there was no miracle cure for me overwhelmed us both. We had become ghosts of our former selves, floating through whatever fresh hell came at us from day to day.
“I just don’t know what to do, Em. I can’t do this anymore,” Stephen barely whispered one day as we sat in the car at a stoplight. I looked over at him, and I honestly felt nothing. I was completely numb. It had happened; Stephen wanted out, and I wanted it for him. He wanted to move out, but the problem was, we were broke, and I was unable to live on my own while I recovered from spinal implant surgery. Staying together was our only option.
When I was first injured, the doctors and our friends