Courtesy of Susan Sweatt
When I first found out that my husband needed a liver transplant, I was scared and overwhelmed. He and I had reconnected several years after high school, got married, and became a great team. We built a nice life together, enjoyed family life with our two boys, and spent 30 happy years of marriage together.
We both knew he could die before a transplant became available. Even though he was sick, he worried about me and made sure to teach me all the things I needed to know about how our home functioned and our finances. I knew I had to keep a smile on my face, stay positive, and hold my emotions inside to stay strong for my husband and sons despite all the extreme stress I was feeling myself.
When the call came that the transplant was available, my husband, older son and I stopped everything we were doing and jumped in the car and headed to the hospital. I was in the middle of yard work at the time and did not even stop to take a shower. I could not stop shaking as I told my younger son to hug his dad and tell him he loved him as he might not see him again. Thankfully the transplant was a success. We had three more good years together before his cancer came back in his bones and spine and eventually took his life.
I stayed very stoic taking care of my boys and family that were staying with us for the funeral. I felt that I needed to put my grief on hold to take care of everyone else. People told me how well I was doing but that was only on the outside. Inside I felt shock and numb. I would only cry if I was alone and the grief would overcome me.
I endured the death of my father, sister, and husband as well as my youngest son being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in the span of a few short years. Eating became a constant source of ready comfort in a time of incredible stress and sadness as I tried to put on a strong front for everyone else. I turned to food with no thought or care that I was gaining weight or really caring about how I looked or felt. I would get annoyed sometimes when none of my clothes were fitting but would just go out and buy a larger size.
On the third anniversary of his death, the dam broke. I had been shoveling snow from our driveway, slipped, and slammed my teeth into the ground. The only dentist appointment I could get was on this sad anniversary. On the way to my appointment, I started sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so alone and missed my husband terribly. I realized how I had let myself go by gaining so much weight and was feeling so unwell. Not only did I miss my husband but I was also missing some physical activities that I loved like skiing and bike riding, which I could no longer do because of my weight.
That’s when I made a U-turn.