Shannon here: Western romance author, Stephen and Janet Bly share a romantic trip followed by a devestating diagnosis. Comment on any post dated May 2 – 7 for a chance to win a copy of Throw the Devil off the Train. If each of Stephen’s posts get ten comments, he’ll give away three copies. Deadline May 7, 11:59 PM central time. Here’s Stephen:
PARIS WHEN IT FIZZLES
7 Helps For Couples When ‘In Sickness’ Hits Stephen & Janet Bly
Paris has been a destination place for us ever since Janet’s years of studying French in high school and college. And Steve insisted that Rome was the city of his choice. So, we found a European tour that included both, plus Venice, Lucerne and London thrown in too.
Bussing along the French and Italian countrysides was tres magnifique.
As it turned out, we celebrated Janet’s February birthday that year in Paris. We stood that wintry day, snowflakes falling all around us, hand in hand at the Eiffel Tower, more romantic than we could have dreamed.
“I thought it was the top of my birthdays we’d celebrated together,” Janet notes.
Steve comments, “Most surprising, I discovered Paris to be my favorite tourist stop, too, even over the ancient ruins of Rome.”
Then we went home. And that was when we got the news.
Within two weeks after our return from gondola serenades and a heart stopping cable car ride up the Alps, we huddled in a tiny, sterile doctor’s exam room. We listened to the light banter in the reception room, a surreal sound as we waited for the biopsy report. We had discussed the possibility of the diagnosis, but nothing quite prepared us for the official stunning announcement: “Mr. Bly, you have an aggressive prostate cancer.”
We couldn’t breathe. We wouldn’t think past that harsh fact. These words threatened to suffocate us, consume us, shatter our peace, puncture our faith. Cancer changed our outlook. It challenged our future together. It questioned our financial foundation. Sometimes life tosses a bomb like that.
But we were thankful we still had Paris.
In season, out of season, we’re striving to learn the secret of being content whatever the circumstances, whatever the reports are from each doctor visit and test taken. And we’ve fully enjoyed the months we’ve been given of reprieve between treatments.
This news intensified our already close relationship, making it dearer than ever in very nitty, gritty ways. Steve had to adjust in major ways. He went from physically and psychologically and sometimes emotionally taking care of Janet to now needing her to take care of him. This has been a difficult transition.
Janet says: “I’ve appreciated being able to do for Steve in ways he refused or didn’t seem to need before.”
Steve adds: “I’ve even apologized for not allowing her to be on the giving end more in our relationship.”
The news changed other aspects too. We don’t like traveling without the other as much as we used to, unless it’s unavoidable or the Lord gives us strong direction otherwise. Suddenly, every hour that we get to be together is a special gift, a treasure. Nothing’s taken for granted. Every touch is sweeter. The laughter and shared events seem brighter.
Here’s advice we’d give any couple when one spouse struggles with health issues. . .about keeping romance alive when every day is a struggle. Pain, sickness, health issues don’t have to signal the end of quality of life nor of love and romance. . . .
1.) Follow your heart and step it up a notch from the norm of your practiced and sometimes routine years together.
2.) Be honest about how this altered state affects your view of your life together. What are you willing and able to be for each other? What’s off the table?
3.) Figure out little daily things that keep the home fires alive. . .actions that are unique for the two of you.
4.) Be determined to quickly forgive a perceived slight, a short retort. Perhaps your spouse is worried. Or not feeling well. Realize neither can be a saint, even under these dire circumstances.
5.) Be honest and frank about finding loving solutions to the complications of illness.
6.) Discover ways to show love in ways that fill new and different needs.
7.) Bring those needs honestly to God in prayer and to your partner when you’re willing to talk about the gut-level stuff. This is true no matter what sort of physical and emotional changes happen.
Steve’s been writing one sentence or one-word notes on heart post-its and sticking them on the bathroom mirror every night. That way Janet knows he’s thinking about her, and she also knows what he’s going through. “I hurt today” keeps us connected as much as “Have I told you lately that I love you?”
Janet doesn’t press for details when she knows Steve is struggling with a bad dream or an attack from the spiritual enemy. She prays daily for him and stays close, letting him know that he still seems desirable to her and that he’s close in her thoughts.
”I took up golf again, a sport I had mostly put aside since college days,” Steve says. “This helped me both physically and mentally.”
Even though Janet doesn’t join him on the links, she enjoys riding in the cart and it gives us another topic to discuss that majors on something he does well. When he feels good about himself, we can feel good about us too.
We also watch romantic movies together, lately from the 1930s and 40s. We talk about the characters and how we relate or not, and what memories this brings up from our own dating and younger days together. This provides a wonderful relief from only discussing about aches and pains. Lack of energy. Old age stuff.
All the changing health-issue needs has given us new love languages for each other. Some days Steve needs a back massage more than a kiss. But some of what is lost doesn’t have to be a barrier to intimacy. In fact, this can often reveal a desperate need for each other even more.
Our theme verse the past few years: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need..” Philippians 4:12 KJV
This article was adapted from a “Romancing The Authors” interview feature with author Patricia Hickman.
About Stephen: Stephen and Janet Bly have published 120 books…his, hers and theirs. Christy Award winner for westerns, Stephen’s newest novel is Throw The Devil Off The Train, a western romance hardback. The Blys have 3 married sons, 4 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild. They live in northern Idaho at 4,000 ft. elev. on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Website: http://BlyBooks.com Blog: http://BlyBooks.blogspot.com.
Come back May 9th for Contemporary Romance author, Staci Stallings’ romantic excerpt and winner’s choice from three of her novels.