One of the problems that almost killed our marriage is the way my husband deals (or rather doesn’t deal) with health issues. Prior to the affair, his inability to deal with my breast cancer, his father’s declining health, and the constant health disaster that are just a part of my daughter’s existence, seems to be a large part of what pushed him over the edge into that place where an affair seemed like a reasonable move.
During our reconciliation after he told me about the emotional affair, he showed signs of physical problems – back pain, lack of stamina, as well as some other issues, and as a part of our reconciliation, he promised to take charge of his own health and to learn to handle illness in others in a more assertive, knowledgeable fashion. He finally went to our doctor in January of 2010 because the back and hip pain was bothering him so much. His doctor addressed the immediate concerns with a couple of prescriptions and arranged for him to go back in a month for a full physical and blood work. He never went back.
As I have written before, six months passed before he told me that he had not only met this woman, but actually had sex with her. I asked if he had used a condom, and surprisingly, he told me the truth – No. Next question, had he been tested? He said yes and that everything came back negative. Yay – except that he was so evasive and wishy washy that it provided no real reassurance. He couldn’t remember exactly when and where he had it done and had of course destroyed all the results. I am reasonably smart, although the last two years provides little evidence of it, and I paid a visit to my own doctor. I took and deep breath, attempted to put aside my humiliation and pain, and shared what I knew of the sordid story with him. He was very sympathetic and calming, since he had just been through a really unpleasant divorce of his own. He had been in practice with his ex-wife, and I had seen her months before for a really unpleasant “feminine” infection. She had taken blood and swabs, asked questions about new sexual partners, which made me laugh since I’ve only had one ever, and then came back with an Rx for antibiotics and a recommendation to be careful about bubble baths or staying in my swimsuit too long, noting that she was checking one or two other things. As it turns out, she had a much more suspicious mind than I did and had run a pretty complete STD panel. I forgot all about the additional testing when the infection cleared up, and was surprised when the nurse called to tell me everything was normal. At this second visit, after looking carefully at my test results, my doctor said that all of the test results were normal except for an indication of a previous Hepatitis A infection (aha, that explains so much about the middle of my 2005 Fulbright in Egypt). He followed up with a few additional tests, and they were also negative. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and moved on to more pressing matters.
Fast forward to last fall (2011) when J applied for supplemental life and disability insurance. Later, he was contacted by the insurance company and asked to submit lab work and vitals from his last doctor visits over the course of the last few years – all of which he had assured me were normal. He obligingly collected them and faxed them off, and then brought the copies home. Anyone can read a lab report and infer what the results mean, but I actually knew – I put him through his undergraduate degree working in a doctor’s office (as well as tutoring and teaching as an adjunct in the History Department at the local university). His blood pressure was alarmingly high at every visit, his blood sugar was consistently over the safe level, and his cholesterol levels were all out of balance. I was really upset for a couple of reasons. First, he had been lying about his health – even it was by omission or by hearing only what he wanted to hear. More upsetting was that he had continually promised that he would address both his reaction to illness in others and to take better care of himself. He was really working to handle illness in others with a little more calmness, but he was NOT following up by addressing health issues of his own.
After reading his labs, I was more and more insistent that he GO TO THE DOCTOR for blood work and a plan. I just felt like we had put so much work into recovering that I didn’t want to lose him to a heart attack or stroke right as we seemed to be regaining our balance and happiness. I also needed to have annual blood work done, as well as a few other issues checked, and so we scheduled exams, followed through on blood work, and mine all came back normal – blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure. I did have an odd spot on my face, and arranged to go back for a biopsy. M, knowing that I had a lot of doubts about his STD testing, discussed my concerns with our doctor, who did both a full annual screening, as well as a full STD panel. He did not seem at all worried about the results, and planned to wait until he went back a month or so later to find out the results. I had to go in for a biopsy of a spot on my face, and while I was there, I picked up a copy of his results. Most of his lab results showed improvement, but still indicated a need for concern and changes in diet and exercise. They also showed evidence of a previous HSV 1 genital infection. I didn’t even look at the results until I got home, spent an hour searching online, and then started to freak out, especially after I remembered that my doctor’s partner had not told me about the Hepatitis A result because it was a “previous” infection.
My daughter was born at Vanderbilt Medical Center while I was in grad school there, and I participated in a clinical rotation. I attended nutritional training, Lamaze classes, answered questions for residents, had ultrasounds and heart monitoring, and was TESTED FOR EVERYTHING. Before C was born, I knew she had none of the genetic illnesses that can be found by testing, I knew that I did not have gestational diabetes, I knew clinically, rather than from memory, that I had immunities to all of the childhood illnesses that can cause complications during pregnancy, and I was negative for all STDs – even for exposure. So, when I went back to have the stitches from my biopsy removed, I asked for a copy of my own test results. Those results I read as soon as I got in the car – all completely negative. My relief was HUGE, and I immediately called to let M know. My therapist had spoken to me several times about Ms guilt about putting my health and even life at risk, and I wanted to relieve that guilt as soon as possible. He just blew me off, as if he couldn’t imagine why I was bothering him with this information.
I tried to let it go, but he was a little distant and my feelings were hurt, so after thinking about it all day while I waited to help students at the Ask-A-Librarian desk on Saturday, I tried to talk to him about it on Sunday morning. What I had hoped would be a calm discussion turned into a fight with him screaming that he had been tested when he first came home from the sexual encounter and that everything had been normal, and that I should trust him. I told him that there was no way that I could believe him, that our therapist didn’t believe in the mythical test results either, and that it didn’t matter now, since my results were negative. He really lost it then, and he ended up screaming that I needed serious help, that I should have been able to let it go. He attempted to give details, including that he had talked to our doctor immediately before he went to another town for testing, that he just couldn’t remember exactly when it was. My point was that if he insisted that he had testing done, he should be able to peg it to a general time period since it was not like he had done it that often in his life. He had always insisted that he had been tested before he broke off the affair completely, but after the sexual encounter. He just couldn’t prove it because he had deleted the results and had paid cash, so there was no check or credit charge. Very bad day, followed by a very bad night.
By the next morning, I realized that he had insisted over and over again that the testing was expensive – more than $300.00. I don’t know about your budget, but $300.00 cannot go missing from ours easily, so I should be able to see a cash withdrawal from our checking account which would indicate a date. He also insisted that he had talked to our doctor first, before he decided to go to an anonymous testing center, so I should be able to find an EOB for that visit. He became more and more frantic as I pointed out these facts, and started to waffle. I went a little nuts at that point and had our receipt box dumped upside down on our bed, flinging receipts around looking for any and all bank statements and EOBs from the relevant period. He started waffling more – he wasn’t sure how much it cost, that the visit to our doctor was not true, that the testing might have been later than he originally said. I suddenly realized that flinging papers around was silly if everything he had told me was untrue, so I just went to work and put one step in front of another during an incredibly busy day.
For the most part, I have always been an open book – if I am unhappy, surprised, confused, in pain, my face tells the story. Because I genuinely don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I learned early to avoid saying what I am thinking (Are you really that much of a dumb ass), but my face usually gave it away. Now, I’ve learned to hide it all. I go to work, teach classes, conduct interviews and tours, mentor interns, help students one on one, smile, chat, joke, participate in meetings. My eyes may be a little puffy or strained, but I have migraines, so even the people who know me best just assume I have a headache.
I miss the old, honest me.