Happily Married Couples Living with Chronic Illness

“For better, for worse. In sickness and in health…” those are the words many people include in their wedding vows, but it is likely most are looking at the far future and old age, rather than the impact of a chronic illness hitting them well before then. Chronic illness can bring new challenges to relationships, but they can also bring partners closer together in love and support. Here are some of those couples happily married and living with chronic illness:

Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan

Jim is better known as the comedian, but Jeannie is his writing partner and producer who maintained her sense of humour throughout her treatment for a benign brain tumour that has left her with some disability and several months of needing to be fed through a tube, leading a role reversal for Jim to be the caregiver. He cancelled his shows and took on the role with energy and, being the couple they are, humour was what they used to fight through it all from diagnosis through the months of recovery.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen struggled with postpartum depression, which left husband John Legend needing to support her through it. When you love somebody, you want to understand how they are feeling. Empathy is a crucial part of being supportive, and John seems to understand that, reading up about postpartum depression to understand what it is and really just be there to help. John worked hard to be both present and compassionate so that between them they could work a way forward together.

Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, at the age of 29 and was most concerned that his wife would feel “burdened” by his illness. Yet when he told her he had Parkinson’s disease and asked her “Are you in for this?” her response was simply “I’m in for it.” and from that moment on he had no sense of being a burden. Although there have been struggles, particularly when Fox was drinking too much after diagnosis, they have a happy marriage, accepting that each is doing the best they can.

Brandon and Michi Marshall

Brandon Marshall, a player with the New York Giants, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2011 after years of struggling with the symptoms — which made it difficult for him to reach out to his wife, Michi. “If she hadn’t held me accountable — if she hadn’t loved me, hadn’t shown compassion during my weakest moments, I would have probably lost everything,” he wrote in an essay in The Players’ Tribune. Together, the couple created Project 375, a foundation dedicated to breaking the stigma of mental illness and encouraging others to speak out and seek help.

Rob and Marisol Thomas

Singer and frontman for Matchbox Twenty Rob Thomas, has seen his perspective on life transform due to the 14-year fight his wife has had with Lyme disease. The disease made the abnormal become acceptable, but watching his wife become someone he didn’t recognise was one of the hardest battles. With it taking so long to get a diagnosis, Marisol now has to manage multiple infections flaring up with a mixture of pharmaceutical medication and holistic therapies to deal with symptoms including visual disturbance, numbness, seizures and constant pain. She currently feels like she’s just existing … and fighting to hopefully one day live again.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Cutter Dykstra

Famous for her role in Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn Sigler went public with her multiple sclerosis diagnosis at the same time she revealed her wedding to Cutter Dykstra. First diagnosed at the age of 20 and has had to work hard to find peace with her body betraying her, and to work with her body and not against it. Sigler has said that her husband supports her both physically and emotionally, helping her realise that MS does not define who she is. As anyone with a chronic illness will understand, she still has her moments, there are still days where it just seems impossible, but her mantra is to do the best that I can with this because she has no other choice.