Throughout the years, I know that my illness has played a profound role in how others see me. Sometimes, in a not so good way. That can be hard and painful. If you have ever felt that, please know that you are not alone. Growing up, I worried so much that I would not ever be able to find someone that could accept that part of me. My illness is a part of me that is often times still hard for me to swallow, let alone another person. I always worried that I would never find someone who would love that part of me. There have been points of my illness where I have felt real loneliness, a real loneliness in my physical pain and struggle. I have had real experiences in the past where as soon as a boy found out about my illness, I never hear from him again. That created a lot of heartache, and I put up lots of walls. Then one day, someone walked into my life that could help me take those walls down, and heal that heartache and loneliness. And it was in a way that I never even dreamed or ever expected.
I met Adam my first day as a missionary. He was serving as a missionary in the Missouri Independence mission. Time went on, and eventually he found out about my illness. When he found out about it, he came up to me at a meeting one day and said, "Sister Graves, I know that it is possible for you to serve a mission despite your illness, because I have a chronic illness too and the Lord helps me do it everyday." Needless to say, his example inspired me. For the first time in my life I didn't feel so alone. There was someone who could really understand what it is like being sick everyday. I mean, truly, completely understand. He gave me a lot of strength during that time, and helped me understand that with God, all things are possible. I was able to receive an official mission call to the Washington Seattle Mission, and treasured every moment I had live my dream and serve a mission. It was the hardest, most soul stretching experience, yet it is a sacred treasure in my heart because the growth I felt spiritually, the miracles I saw everyday, the people I met that were able to draw closer to Jesus Christ. I will always treasure the helping hands from heaven that I felt each day that carried me, guided me, and pushed me along when I lacked the physical strength. Some of the greatest blessings of my life are a direct result from my mission, and Adam is one of them.
Adam's illness began when he was a young teenager, like me. He has battled his illness so bravely for a little over ten years. I stand amazed everyday at his strength, his determination and his courage. Never once have I heard him complain about his illness. He has an illness called eosinophilic esophagitis. It is an inflammatory disease of the esophagus, and causes severe nausea, vomiting, stomach spasms, and dysphagia (swallowing problems). He is my hero in every way. You would never know the battle that he fights everyday just by looking at him, because he is so full of light, strength, consideration for others and pure kindness. Despite his illness, he is constantly looking out for others and serving them. He has a special kindness and pure spiritual and mental strength that permeate his every action. He is steady and true, and he has captured my heart. He picked it up off the ground and has mended the cracks I thought could never be healed. It's as if he knows what my heart sounds like from the inside. He fills my soul to bursting with joy and hope.
We quickly became best of friends after our missions.
When we first started dating, I was very ill. My pain was high everyday. My back, arms, legs and neck ached constantly and my stomach was in severe pain as well. I had just moved back to Utah after living in Missouri with my family for a time, recovering from my mission. I was still in a hard place physically. These were the first moments we were spending together, and they were spent with him coming to sit with me day after day to take care of me. He would bring me food, watch Disney movies with me, listen to music with me, talk with me, make me laugh, and he would just sit there and hold me if I needed to just cry and breathe through the pain. He would wipe away my tears and just love me the way I was. He would and still is helping me love myself just the way I am. Chronic pain and all.
Falling in love and having the blessing to marry this choice man has been the most beautiful spiritual and physical experience of my life. He brings me closer to heaven. We have had our ups and downs with Adam's health as well. There are some days where all I can do is hold him and pray that he can feel better soon. It is a continual learning process to be able to cope with his illness, and my own. Adam is learning the same thing. It is beautiful strengthening process. We need to rely on each other each day, and through the hard nights. Adam is always there for me. Even when he is sicker, and I'm the one struggling, he reaches out to me and is my safe haven. I have seen God's hand in our relationship from the beginning, and I know that His hand will always be in it.
If you have a loved one who has a chronic illness, I know it is so hard to watch them suffer. You are not alone. It is heart wrenching at times. Also know that your love and care means more to them than words can express. Please, be patient with them, for they are fighting a hard battle. Also, know that your love can be enough.
If you are battling a chronic illness, be patient with your loved ones, for they are fighting a hard battle having to see you suffer. They feel it deeply, and no matter how alone you feel, you are loved. Please remember that. You don't have to battle your illness alone. You are still good, beautiful, strong and amazing even with your illness. You are loved more than you know.
I feel so blessed to have Adam. One who truly understands what my illness and pain can do. I'm not fighting my illness alone, and never will have to fight it alone. Not only does he come to my rescue, but we can fight the battles together. Even among these challenging times of dealing with our individual illnesses, we can have pure joy, happiness, laughter and hope! He will never be fighting alone either, because guaranteed I will be there at his side.To quote one of my favorite bands Mae, "All that I've wanted is standing in front of me, all that I need that's for sure. You came to my room when I was sick and you made me yours. All you could need or expect it will come from me, no one will ever love you more. You're in my world for good and our love will always be the cure."