In sickness and in health

“I, Sarah, take you, Burton, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

The priest standing before us had such a thick Irish accent I had to fully concentrate as I repeated the words during our wedding ceremony. Yet I didn’t truly grasp the meaning of my vows. Not until challenges appeared and tested my commitment.

My chance to fulfill them has come once again.

What we are living now is not something we’ve wished for. Right now it’s just plain hard. 2015 was a whirlwind of medical tests, major surgeries and lengthy hospital stays. There were important decisions to make. There were expenses to cover. There was physical pain and emotional pain. There was a steep learning curve and hundreds of questions to answer.  And through it all there was hope. Hope that we had chosen the right path. Hope that all would go well. Hope that 2016 would be the year to rejoice over regained health.
That hope sustained us and carried us through the good, the bad and the ugly. We made it to the other side, the side we hoped would be greener. It’s not. It doesn’t look good at all: it’s dry, drab and dreary.

My husband feels worse now than he did pre-surgery. His restrictive diet completely lacks nutrition. He’s endured just about every complication possible and we’re not sure the worse is behind us. We try to hold on to hope, but nowadays fear is taking a stronger hold.
What if he never gets better? What if our life forever beats to the rhythm of bathroom trips and bowel movements or lack thereof. What if the cancer that surgery was to prevent, indeed never comes, but death strikes anyway because his body refuses to mourn its missing colon and never heals? After all bad things do happen to good people too.

The challenge is to keep on going. To juice the vegetables anyway. To do the grocery shopping one more time. To microwave the wash cloth as hot as his body withstands. To keep on trying. To silence the voice of doubt and fear.
I have a daughter to stay strong for. I have a husband who is suffering so stoically I cannot bear to add my sorrow to his load.
If I let myself curl up in a corner and give in to the pain, I may never stand back up.

Each morning I get up and get going. There’s exercise, then breakfast to prepare. There’s homeschool. Play dates. Library trips. There’s cooking for my voracious six year old and for my own healthy body. There are books to read aloud and beaches so close we can walk to.
There is plenty of living still to do and there is still plenty of Love. Though Love does not heal (how I wish it did), it sustains and makes the pain worth living through. Each day that’s what we do: we love and live through to the unknown.
The future is uncertain but we have each other and for that we are grateful. There’s nothing else we want more fiercely than to be together. Disease didn’t take that away from us. Sickness didn’t tear us apart. We are and will remain together.
In sickness…and hopefully, one day again, in health.


In 2015, my husband underwent a 2-step total colectomy after decades of suffering from Ulcerative Colitis. We did it to prevent colon cancer. We are in the thick of the recovery process. 

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5 thoughts on “In sickness and in health

  1. Beautiful and powerful. You have found your voice. I only wish the subject was not so heartbreaking.

  2. I know all to well how this road goes as sifu Burton will attest I had stomach cancer in 2015, when things were darkest n all my hopes faded I reached out to sifu for help, boy did he pick me up n helped save me bcuz I was destroyed, spiritually, emotionally, physically, without his help n words of encouragement sarah, I don’t think I would have made it, n yet 5 weeks after surgery n treatment, I read he’s in the hospital, I reached out to him n asked why didn’t u say something, his reply, u were struggling n I didn’t want to burden you, yet all the time he was in the hospital, he n u never stopped texting or im,ing me he said later to me now ur here for me funny how one hand washes the other isn’t it andy, I told him exactly what he told me, in 5 years we will look back on this n laugh, even last month he asked me to contact one of his students who has stomach cancer n see if I could help him, of course I did n now we are friends n brothers, Sarah when I grow up ,I’m 47 now I want to be just like sifu Burton, but I’ve got along way to get there, take care n may ur love for each other guide you andrew

    1. That’s who I want to be too when I grow up. 🙂
      I hope you are feeling better. Thanks for the kind note.

  3. Hello I met mr. Richardson in the early 2000’s….in Richmond and let me tell you your article just made my heart drop for him and your family….you will and always will be in my prayers??

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