My Life with MD: A Love Story
by Michael Laws (husband of Lori Laws, who has Muscular Dystrophy)
There was a time when I thought, like everyone else we would get married and get pregnant as soon as possible. But then life happens and you have to make adjustments. That was the plan unbeknownst to Lori, and I couldn’t wait to get started. The future dream I envisioned was raising a combination scientist and business maven ready to take on the world. Did I mention he was a boy? I wanted to give Lori and this child the best. I never really thought about this mysterious malady Lori warned me about. I was a student of positive thinking and really didn’t pay it any mind.
The reality that has unfolded now is focused on Lori’s survival and not my wishes. My active wife was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. I was suddenly thrust into the position from lover to care giver, from partner to protector, and from dancer to couch potato. Although I knew I couldn’t live with myself as a couch potato, I knew life would change, but I never really knew how much.
Lori went through a few stages like everybody does. She went through the “healthy eating stage.” This only lasted a short time. Once she boiled 1 lb of chicken – only to renounce the diet after tasting this bland fare…she thought this would help her malady. Why not?
The next phase was the “Let’s try God phase.” I have to admit this is the one that really made me nervous, because I have witnessed the “I’m saved – Hallelujah zealot,” that is long on promise and low on consistency. You know, the newly found Christian that thinks nobody has the love for Jesus like they do; the on fire, hot Christian that lights up the church with the loudest amen’s on Sunday. Only after about a year, they’re silent and plotting to excuse themselves for the slightest reason.
Yes, I was sure that Lori would last about a year, if that… because she couldn’t spell patience. I was amazed that she stuck. I didn’t want to attend the church and build any relationships until I was sure she would stick. No, I was ready to wait and see before I walked in those doors. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, Lori found a good church with a band, and she went for two months straight. It took a few more months before I committed, but I decided to take a peak.
I’ll admit that I was really concerned with connecting with God again. It’s really funny how things work out – because this woman who refused to listen to the Christian radio station, and somehow “misplaced” my Christian marriage book, really wanted to seek the Word.
My second concern was that she was starting to watch televangelists that promised healing, and some Christians claiming they could heal. I had witnessed those Christians before. I call them “Crazy Christians,” and you probably know some of them personally. I remember one exclaiming that a black hole was heaven…that’s right…another one claiming miracle cures with prayer cloths and miracle water – you know…those “Crazy Christians” that approach you and claim that if you aren’t healed by their prayers and personal intercessions – you don’t have faith.
I was questioned by a few inquiring minds in confidential conversation; why did I stick around? I don’t think a lot of married people have the faintest idea of what loyalty in practice looks like, but let me sum it up: It is death do us part, in sickness and in health. That’s not convenient to some of our plans when we sign up for marriage. Back in the day, I had arranged for secret dance lessons for Lori. We both used to love dancing, and she was the best dancer I knew – seriously, she really could dance. I didn’t think anything could hold her back until this disease hit. I know she had to wonder why I would stick around, why put up with a person that wasn’t as perfect as the day we got married; but Lori is my life, and I’m here to stay no matter what.
Loving a person with a progressive disease is for the strong of heart. I know people who suddenly lost interest in their spouses when they became disabled. They grew apart. I’m amazed at how many excuses people can make up when their life is inconvenienced. But I’m here because I know she’ll be back, and my Lori will be herself again…While that’s my hope, I know it’s a commitment I make or a belief that resonates in my soul. Whatever the reason; my life is hers, my legs are hers, my strength is her strength, and most importantly my God is also her God.
Being a spouse to someone with a progressive disability means you have to stop taking notes; what I mean is that men have a habit of keeping note or credits (call them marriage credits) for doing things around the house. Lori was a cleaning machine, and her disease now prevents her from this work – so I made adjustments. Here are a few examples: She took forever cleaning out our cat’s litter box (standing up and walking with the litter was a challenge)…I bought an automatic litter pan and took over the responsibility. She would get on her hands and knees scrubbing stains on the carpet…I got a SpotBot (this is a vacuum cleaner for spot cleaning).
I really love the fact that she needs me so much, although she thinks it’s a bother. I secretly love it, but the hard part is to watch the woman I love lose her spirit on the difficult days because of endless physical limitations and unrelenting tension/migraine headaches… being a witness to this hurts beyond belief because I don’t have her attention, this disease takes up most of it.