When a couple first announces their engagement, they start to hear a lot of “warnings.” People tell you your first year of marriage will be the hardest, but most joyous, year of your life. But, when you throw a chronic illness in the mix, it brings a whole new perspective to the world of newlywed life.

Zach and I dated for the better part of seven years before we married. Thankfully, he understood my cystic fibrosis journey and, for the most part, understood what it entails. However, until you’re living beside it every day and enduring the ins and outs of caring for CF lungs, you can’t fully appreciate the workload. What he didn’t get to see when we were dating is the emotional toll that CF takes.

Doing my treatments in front of him has never been an issue. In fact, when we were teenagers, he would make special trips to see me when I was in the hospital (which was a big deal because it took more than two hours to drive to the hospital), and when we were dating, he got the “privilege” to stay overnight in the ER with me. Needless to say, I think he “got it.”

But in marriage, when he gets the raw and uncensored version of me, it can often be challenging. There’s the coughing all night and tossing and turning, fighting a bit of depression, and not being able to just go somewhere at the drop of a hat because we have to make sure I’m physically able to handle it and I can bring my treatments along.

However, we handle it, and it IS our normal. He made it clear to me that he loves every version of me. And the part of our vows that read “in sickness and in health” was not just a formality for our lives. It stands true every single day. On the days where I feel wonderful and then the next day when I can’t seem to make it out of bed easily … he gets it, and we plan to make sure that I’m as healthy as I can be.

Marriage takes two. As a CF patient, I have always been very independent; you have to be to a certain extent. When you’re married, though, there is this beautiful vulnerability that you start to discover. It is a safe place with your partner. You learn that your spouse truly does accept every part of you. And that has been such an important lesson for me to learn.

My husband has such a graceful way of letting me know he is always on my side and has my best interests at heart. When I have a day where I am just tired and I do not feel like doing my treatments or taking my pills, he gently reminds me that I need to remember who and what I am fighting for. Not only am I fighting for me, but I’m fighting for him as well. I’m fighting for a long, healthy, happy, and full life for us.