A Second Opinion: Your Wife's Support and Tough Love When You're Sick

When you're sick, there's nothing like a wife's loving support -- and her taunting reminders that you should have gone to the doctor when she first told you to.
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"Quit Your Bellyaching"

I'm a big believer in going to the doctor -- as long as my wife is the one who is going. And she feels pretty much the same way about me. So when one of us gets sick, we have a lot of inane discussions like this:

"You should've had a physical," I tell Diane as she sits, wrapped in a comforter, trying to get down some soup to quell the antibiotics churning her stomach.

"I told you, I'm not getting a physical until you see the dentist."

"Well, I'll go to the dentist once you get your physical."

"Why should I get a physical when you still haven't done those smear-test things from your last two physicals? You do understand that they won't detect internal bleeding while the samples are sitting in an envelope on your dresser, right?"

And so on.

We've been having some version of this exchange for years. But as couples age together, the same exact conversation can end up being about something completely different. Before, they were just preventive medicine "double dog dares." Now what underlies them isn't so funny. It's the unspoken fear between loved ones that says: "If you die before me -- of something that could have been prevented -- I will never let you live it down."

I do so miss the days of "it's probably nothing." When I was single, and even after first being married, whenever I didn't feel well I always assumed it was probably nothing. And, if I did worry, there was always someone around to reassure me. Headache? Backache? Probably nothing. Quit your bellyaching. And, by the way, that bellyache? Probably nothing.

But now my wife and I -- and all the couples we know -- seem to have changed the default setting to "it's probably something." Fungus on my foot? Could be toenail cancer. Itchy scalp? Could be follicular Ebola.

Not long ago, whenever my back would go out, as it has periodically since puberty, I always anticipated a speedy and complete recovery. Now when I have back attacks, I am nearly paralyzed by fear that I will never walk erect -- or do anything else erect -- again. Actually my back just went out. This happened because...well, who knows why? It's never because I was lifting an anvil or a piano and forgot to bend at the knees. It's always because I slept on it the wrong way or inhaled too emphatically.

Continued on page 2:  In Sickness and in Health


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