Saturday, June 05, 2010

Heroes

I considered writing this for Memorial Day, but I guess even I have standards.

I come from a long line of military men. Hell, I was one of them. (That's not a sexist term, by the way; it's a descriptor. If there were any WACs or other military women in my family tree, I've never heard of them.) My dad did two tours in Vietnam. His brother was an enlisted man, also in Vietnam, and in various parts of the Middle East in some lesser-known mopping-up actions. Both of my grandfathers were Army - on my father's side, he was doing clean-up after Japan surrendered in WWII. Keep going farther back, and you can keep digging up my relatives in both major and minor conflicts around the world (brobably on both sides of the battlefield every once in a while - we're an obstinate bunch like that). My son the Marine has just come back from a tour in Afghanistan.

Screw all of them. My hero is my wife.

She has a condition called polycystic kidney disease. It's the single most common life-threatening genetic disorder in the world. 12.5 million people worldwide (six hundred thousand Americans) are afflicted with PKD - that's more people than Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and sickle cell anemia combined.

But it's not one of the sexy diseases. It doesn't get the pink ribbons of breast cancer, the celebrity support of AIDS, or yet another "concert to raise awareness of..." like so many lesser problems.

Meanwhile, the cysts, not content to remain in the kidneys, can grow pretty much anywhere in the body. My wife has them throughout her torso, meaning she can't stand up easily, she can't walk without pain, and if she's in the car and I take a corner just a little too fast, she gets hurt.

Plus, her exercise options are limited. Aside from the fact that she can't move easily, if she were to lift weights or torque her body around, or do anything, really, that put enough pressure on a cyst to pop it, then the liquid in the cyst gets to leap out and flood the surrounding tissue. Does the phrase "searing agony" mean anything to you?

So she lives in constant pain, she can hardly move, she can't sit comfortably, and... oh, by the way, did you know that the kidneys handle a number of metabolic processes? Like that whole "dealing with sugar" thingy? Yeah, she's been diagnosed as "pre-diabetic." (Which is less of a deal than you'd think - with PKD, you know that you're going to end up on dialysis at some point, anyway.)

Normally, this disease is diagnosed in older people. So, at the age of 30, when she was diagnosed with both PKD and osteoarthritis, it was like she won the retirement home lottery.

Oh, remember how I said that this was one of the most common life-threatening genetic disorders? Yeah, a parent with this little problem has a fifty percent chance of passing it along to their kids.

Kids. Of which we have three. Do the math.

Not that she feels any guilt about any of this. Not at all.

So, faced with all of these problems, a normal person might become a trifle bitter, right? See, that's where things get a little unusual.

Annette is one of the only truly good people I've ever met. She's generally cheerful. She doesn't judge people. She doesn't like to complain. Where most of us have a little dark part of our soul where all the evil feelings fester, she's got a brightly-lit room filled with kittens and puppies.

She has a giggle that I've always loved that dances across the room, and she uses it all the time. Life dumps crap down on her, and she just wonders if she should make a bigger garden with all this new fertilizer.

So if, once in a while, faced with debilitating pain, she might get a little cranky, she doesn't let it show much. And, faced with all these other problems, she's also beset with entirely too much of me. And she really doesn't complain about that, despite what a big pain in the ass I am.

I don't know what I did in a previous life to end up married to her, but I'd do it again. Twice. She's worth it.

Sadly for her, she's stuck with me.

5 comments:

Diogenes said...

Very nicely said, Bill. You AND she deserve each other.

Anonymous said...

Jesus christ, I don't even know who you are and you just made me cry. FUck you.

And good luck to her.

Rebecca said...

Hey there, not to mention her uncanny ability to have something fantastic to pull from her wardrobe for any occasion at any time... and that she gives really great hugs.

Miss Roxie said...

You've touched a heart here with your posting of true love and respect. We don't know each other, but I'll be praying for both of you.

Nameless Cynic said...

Thank you for the kind words, folks. (Except maybe for that anonymous one up there... mix your signals much?)