In sickness and in health…

Today, I’m not sharing a food post. Sorry. Today, I want to express my gratitude and love for someone very special. If you are looking for food – check back tomorrow! 😉

Most married couples express their love and appreciation for each other with wedding vows. All of those sweet little phrases, promises and words can have such value and meaning. We were no different. In all honesty, we expressed those thoughts in the form of vows TWICE. Here’s our story:

Senior Prom

In 2008, my husband and I had a civil ceremony with our parents at City Hall at the young age of 20. We were high school sweethearts and were attending college together, living together and had just welcomed our first child, a son, three months before the ceremony. I grew up Catholic but my husband didn’t. He recognized himself as a Christian but didn’t really attend church anywhere. When we started dating, he began going to Mass with my mother and I. I didn’t want to push my Catholic faith on him so when we decided to marry – we kept it simple. We said our first set of vows in the front of a fake, plastic tree with a very rigid, hurried Justice of the Peace. Not exactly romantic but it worked.

Wedding 1... excuse the tuxedo tshirt....
Wedding 1… excuse the tuxedo tshirt….

Just over a year later, I began to get sick. At first, nothing crazy – I simply thought I had a bad case of the flu. I quietly kept my issues to myself and we managed to finish our college degrees and get good jobs. We were well on our own and making a good life for ourselves. My “flu” never went away and after losing a lot of weight and quickly began to deteriorate – my husband intervened and we started to get help. We also learned we were expecting our second child, a daughter. We made it through that pregnancy and welcomed our second, beautiful, healthy and perfect child. Unfortunately for me, that pregnancy and child birth only seemed to magnify my issues. At this point, we began extensive testing.

I was tested for many, many different issues – gall bladder problems, thyroid issues, Lyme disease, colon issues, etc. I had many scopes, labs, blood work, etc. Nothing really came back solid for a couple years. In 2013, I was finally diagnosed with a severe gluten sensitivity, other food allergies and autoimmune issues. I was at what I thought was my lowest point possible, yet my husband was always there. Better yet, he decided (on his own) that he wanted to get married in the church.

Side story- I am not one for surprises – holidays, birthdays were never really a surprise. I always managed to figure things out. When my husband proposed the first time, I found the ring receipt a few weeks prior. It didn’t have a lot of detail but due to the cost and our lack of funds, I knew it was a big deal! However, he did surprise me for the actual proposal. He knew I always wanted to be proposed to in the snow. That particular winter, we just got a lot of ice. We were out of power, I was pregnant and he was late getting home. I was cranky. He was late because he was asking my older brother for permission to marry me. He came home, I yelled and he got on one knee. Obviously, I said yes.

On Valentine’s Day in 2013, I was cranky for other reasons. I was weak, tired and sick of being sick. I wanted to have romantic plans but that can be difficult when you both work crazy jobs, have a 4 year old and an infant. I expected flowers – 6 roses from my dad and something from my husband. It was the same thing for as long as I remember. I was surprised to get home from work without an armload of flowers. My dad was short on funds so I told him it wasn’t necessary to get me flowers (even though he had since I was in grade school). My husband had already got home before me with the kids. They were in the back of the house and I needed to start dinner. I (angrily) yelled and asked what they wanted for dinner. No response. I asked again – nothing. Finally, my crew of three emerged in white t-shirts. My son, totally pouting as if he’d just been scolded (because he had). My sweet little peanut in her dad’s arms. My son’s shirt said “Will you”, my daughter’s said “marry” and my husband’s said “me?”. I stood there, obviously confused because just 5 years prior, I stood in front of that silly fake plant to marry him. Finally, he spat out the words on their shirts and then said “in the church. I want to marry you in the church.” He pulled out a little black box with a wedding band that matched my first engagement/wedding ring. We didn’t have the money to afford the actual bands that came with the ring the first time. I instantly dropped to the floor crying because of surprise, anger (that he actually surprised me) and pure love for the man of my dreams. Not only that, he had decided he wanted to be baptized in the Catholic church first.

The surprise proposal
The surprise proposal

The wedding details were miniscule. It was a small, intimate ceremony of close family and friends and a small reception and very little dancing – we don’t have rhythm. This time I did wear a dress and make him get a tux. Our daughter was the maid-of-honor and our son the best-man. It was perfect. So we got to say those coveted vows twice. We call it “more married.”

The "real" wedding
The “real” wedding

Fast-forward and we are now facing what is proving to be our most difficult year yet. That gluten sensitivity is now a likely severe Celiac diagnosis. We’ve been through a long couple years of diet and lifestyle changes, more labs and testing, IV therapies, etc. To say that it hasn’t been easy is an understatement. More disheartening is that it won’t be getting easier in the foreseeable future. Next week, I have an appointment to get a central port put in my chest because my veins are weak and it’s likely the IVs will continue. In addition, my doctor is checking into the best possible hospitals for Celiac research and treatments. I’m simply not thriving like I should. I am on a completely liquid diet, except for the 30+ supplements I take each day. I am unable to absorb nutrients and I cannot maintain a healthy weight. There are lot of speculations and worry present – mainly about my future quality of life and underlying issues or complications. I am scared and frustrated but there is one thing that I do not lack. Love.

It's the little things....
It’s the little things….

That man who helped me create two perfect children; the one that actually married me twice; the one that squeamishly stands by my side at appointments; the one that makes sure my “emergency” bags are in the car; the one that willingly eats whatever gluten-free, allergy-friendly creation I make; the one that works so hard to take care of us; the one that that loves our God so much; the one that helps teach our kids the importance of family, love and faith; the one that does whatever he can to comfort me; the one that leaves me sweet notes on my most difficult days (or the good ones); the one that is always by my side when I need him; HE loves me. He supports me. He encourages me. He LIVES out those vows every day.

We never dreamed that one day we’d be living “in sickness” over health. We never dreamed that we’d be dealing with this. I jokingly refer to our situation as the “fine print” in that marriage license that he apparently didn’t read. There are so many things happening in my life so fast that I don’t know which way is up or how I’m going to get through the days. However, his hand is always there to pull me up and guide me in the right direction. We know our situation can be worse – it has proven that to us many times already. However, he never fails with it. Sure, we get discouraged but we have faith that there is a purpose to our madness.

My best friend
My best friend

The future is always uncertain, but I know that the love we share and our faith will get us through anything. In light of all the marital woes of the world, true love does exist. I firmly believe that God put us in this world for each other and he knew our path. If there is one thing in life that I can be eternally grateful for, it is him. We all have a story; we all have a past; and we all have a future – and I’m just blessed that they all involve him.

*Disclaimer: while this is mushy, sappy and overall nauseating to some – don’t think for a second that we don’t have our fair share of disagreements. I loathe the way he shaves his beard right after I clean; he hates the fact that I have a strict “clothes must be picked up” rule but yet, I don’t follow it; I get frustrated at his inability to make a decision at home; he gets annoyed with my extreme need to try and plan every detail of our lives. We have our issues, but we love each other more. We suck it up and deal with things. Life’s not always roses and butterflies but you have to find the beauty in the weeds and moths to make it work.*

4 thoughts on “In sickness and in health…

  1. Melody Lloyd says:

    I am sorry to hear that you are having such hard times with your health. I hate to hear that you are going through all of this. I am so happy for you, though, that you have such a beautiful family and such a loving support system. I hope doctors can find a solution to help you absorb the nutrients and regain your health.

    • crstultz says:

      Thanks Mel – We all have our “cross to bear” and I guess this is mine. I am happy for my family too! I’ve learned it is all about perspective.

  2. Charlotte Daniels Johnson says:

    I am so proud of the young woman you have become Courtney, and what you have accomplished! It hurts my heart to hear of the illness that continues to haunt you, but am very glad you have an awesome support system. I look forward to following your posts and trying your recipes!!

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