Focusing on my give

“This is Dr. Such-And-Such and I’m calling to tell you that your husband is going to be fine,” the doctor says in a stern there’s-no-need-to-go-freaking-out-woman tone. I frantically took notes but my brain started to fog over in spite of my efforts. “If you poll a room full of doctors and ask them what type of cancer they would want to get, it would be this,” he explained as he ended his summary. I thanked him, hung up the phone, and called in to work for a day off.

Just like that life had changed. In the next room my husband was also in a bit of shock. He had gone to his post-op appointment expecting a quick in and out visit. He expected his surgeon would tell him the nodule in the left side of his thyroid, which had been removed two weeks earlier, was benign. He’d pay his co-pay and spend his last day of medical leave watching ESPN. Instead, he was told that he has thyroid cancer.

Before I got married, my thoughts about marriage centered on what I was going to get out of it  However, last fall my husband and I participated in a marriage workshop at our church that helped me to understand that marriage is also about what I give.This past Valentine’s Day was my 3rd wedding anniversary. My husband’s diagnosis has brought home the seriousness of the marriage vow “in sickness and in health.” Once I felt more grounded I returned to the room, sat next to my husband, and held his hand. Together we replayed the doctor’s summary. Together we agreed how and when to tell his family. Together we decided to extend his medical leave. Together we discussed possible dates for what will be a second surgery in less than four months. Together we crawled into the bed and took a nap. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and we were emotionally exhausted.

Before I got married, my thoughts about marriage centered on what I was going to get out of it. I’d get companionship. I’d get to have children with a supportive partner. However, last fall my husband and I participated in a marriage workshop at our church that helped me to understand that marriage is also about what I give. There I learned that marriage is about preparing each other to do God’s work–to serve. I started the workshop worried that I’d be hit over the head with sexist stereotypes but left inspired to
focus on what I like to call “my give.” I decided that cooking would be my give, the one thing I could do for my husband without expecting a single thing in return. I enjoy the creativity of cooking and baking and it turns out we are saving money since my hubby now takes home cooked meals for lunch instead of eating out. And since food is my husband’s love language he is delighted.

We spent hours Googling thyroid cancers, listening to stories from friends and family, and reading a book my husband bought online. Together we met with our endocrinologist before we became overwhelmed in information overload. My husband asked questions. I took notes and checked in with my husband in order to flag any details that were worrying him, which really helped the doctor to zero in and address his concerns. Together we left with the facts about his case.

Now, instead of worrying about what my husband does or doesn’t do, I focus on my give. And an interesting thing has happened. My husband knocks out things on his honey-do list, no nagging required. We started to team up to handle some very scary stuff without retreating into different corners. We were becoming a team and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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20 Responses to Focusing on my give

  1. Anonymous says:

    Focusing on the give is just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing and many of God’s blessings on your family at this time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.” (R. Sockman) — Indeed a good read. Very touching and thought provoking. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mary says:

    OUTSTANDING Natalie! Very clear, empowering, informative and insightful, So many INVALUABLE lessons drawn from what most would term a “completely negative experience.” As always, I am so extremely proud of you…I’m proud of all that you have become and are becoming, in spite of life’s lemons and challenges. The greatness in you was evident even as a child. And I pray to be an eyewitness to the day you really tap into the fullness of power and potential that you wield with your voice, your talent and your person! You inspire me!

  4. Shannon Williams says:

    I’ve only been married for 1 year and I was thinking of ways to be a better husband and your story showed me the way. It was priceless.

  5. gritsgrin says:

    thank you so much. I really needed to read that!

  6. Kdb says:

    My husband and I are going through a horrible time in our marrsige. It is all self-inflicted . His affairs, my reaction to it. Counseling is going on but there is a struggle that is so strong due to my need for approval of others that would like to see me divorce him. I’m furious with him but I vowed for better or worse and I’m not giving up no matter how humiliated I am. He moved out but is coming back. My pain is due tony lack of patients with him. I love him with all my heart , he loves me. Just last night we talked and he declared that we are going to make it!!! It’s hard on me with all the emotions inviolved. Your story has helped calm me some. We need the feeling of oneness you seem to have. We will find it, I just need to listen to God and pray hard. I didn’t go into this marriage on short term view. I and we need to get focused like you. We’ve been married 29 years and when all this passes all the pain will be worth it. Having an affair is also a cancer but it can be beat. Thanks . I dont know what lead me to read your story but I’m glad I did. May everything work out for you guys. I want to be a better wife and partner than I have been.

    • Anonymous says:

      Move on –

    • Anonymous says:

      No, go on with your life. Biblically, that is the only reason why you CAN get divorced. If your not going through counseling, get divorced. Thanks val for the article, I am working on being a better wife.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your pain. I can say I do know what you are going through. My husband messed up a few years ago and I wanted a divorce, but God had other plans. With a lot of work and focus on the Lord, we are closer than we’ve ever been. This article also hits even closer to home. I was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year. I am actually sitting in isolation right now from my second radioactive iodine treatment. Perfect timing or what! May God bless you and your marriage. Trust in the Lord and not the world. The world will make you feel like you look weak for sticking this through, but it is entirely the opposite!

  7. Diane says:

    That was so beautiful! I’m divorced and hope to marry again. I will forever remember my give. Wow! I was blessed by your insight and pray that God will forever keep you and your family. Diane

  8. Anonymous says:

    Im crying in bed. What a wise wonderful woman you are. I wish I (with two failed marriages) and several of my friends had a tiny bit of your incredible wisdom. God be with you both.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m envious of people who get and stay married. I never went down that road. God bless the good in all of you. And take care of your spouse. And expect the same from them. Love one another all else will follow.

  10. epsteine says:

    This morming your story has not only encouraged, but has brought my wedding vows back to me. Because of your sucess story i am more willing to again begin to salvage my financially troubled marriage.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Your story tugs my heart. Marriage … to itself, is just not about what you give and or focusing on it, but the ability to be grounded with your being committed to the marriage even when you compromise everything so that you can “give” … while your partner is struggling to compromise his/her own priorities!!!

  12. Elenore says:

    Natalie, your story is very moving and a blessing. I’m a newlywed and my new husband & I are very happy. During our pre-marital wedding classes we learned some important valuable lessons from our church that we believe will help remind us over the years what God wants for our marriage. Your story reminds me about the value & unconditional love that I can bring to our marriage by remembering “to give.” May God bless your husband with complete healing & full recovery. Blessings to you both for a long happy & healthy marriage.

  13. DMJ says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really needed to read this today. It’s not always an easy thing to give without receiving in return, but my faith in the Lord is what keeps me. A friend of mine once told me that you must treat your marriage as a third person, it needs to be loved and cared for just like anyone else. I’m holding on to the promises of my heavenly Father and the vows my husband and I took. May God bless you, your husband and your marriage.

  14. Aaron C. says:

    My marriage advice that I gives to all couples even though I have never been married & no kids. I believes that a couple should decides to focus on their spouse needs daily. Men should realize that a woman is not always looking for a man to fix a problem but wants a man to say more than “yes dear”. Wives want male conversation. A couple should stay focus on the finish line.

  15. Priscilla says:

    God bless you and your marriage Natalie! I’m not married yet, but I am encouraged to remember the “my give” in all of my relationships. There’s no better therapy or healing than what’s derived from unconditional love and support. Thank you for sharing your story.

  16. Blaine McKinney says:

    Silly me, I didn’t get married 33 yrs ago to see “what I could get out of it”? You have to serve others & not yourself. Good spouses instinctively know that they should work hard for each other, and later, for the benefit of their children. There is a certain wide-eyed maturity that should be evident before folks are ready to be married? Just do your best— it will be good enough. BTW, hope your hubby makes out ok because you both deserve all the happiness together that you can muster…

  17. Kat says:

    Kdb- I really think that you shouldn’t blame yourself for his actions. He chose to go out and do that..I’m also assuming he knows right from wrong? You didn’t drive him to do any of that, please do not blame yourself. If you do stay with him I also give you a lot of credit. Its going to be super hard to get over the unwanted negative thoughts everyday of *is he sleeping with someone again? How do I know? Who were they? Am I not good enough?* Hun you could do so much better and not have to worry about his BS anymore

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