Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

My husband and I have several rules in our house. Some are relatively silly, some are very serious, but all of them are mandatory. It’s how our marriage functions so damn well, even though we’ve been through so many versions of hell in the past decade. Statistically, couples who go through even a tenth of what we have would be bitterly divorced by now. We’re going on 10 years of legal bondage, so we must be doing something right.

Some rules include:

  • The a/c can’t be below 65F. I’d prefer 60 and he’d prefer 72, so 65 is our compromise.
  • If his snoring is keeping me awake, I can wake him up to kick him to the couch or just go to the couch myself.
  • I’m not allowed to record the full conversations he has with himself (in Danish, his native language) in his sleep to try to translate to figure out what the hell he’s saying.
  • He’s not allowed to record my side of the heated phone discussions I have with the insurance company. (I’ve been known to whittle down how much we actually owe quite significantly… my current record is a $50,0000 bill I knocked down to a hundred bucks.)
  • We live our lives one day at a time. This means we focus on the day, not the painful medical procedures looming on the calendar or the annual heart screening I dread so much because I’m petrified of going into cardiac failure, which killed a mutual VACTERL friend of ours in 2013.

And the big one:

  • We don’t look back, we just look forward. Regrets are very few; thinking about what happened in the past will just keep you there. So we don’t.

Writing this book — a memior about my life as my “thesis” — is breaking our cardinal rule. Now I’m looking back. In the past few days I’ve spent roughly ten hours going through Facebook, reading posts and looking at pictures made and taken at various points in the past ten years, taking notes and screenshots.

Because a chunk of the story revolves around our lives in the year 2012, I’ve focused most of my “research” there. I’ve been trying to look through it objectively, like all the surgeries and many weeks spent in the ICU and all the indignities and all the pain happened to someone else, not me. I rationalize to myself that I am a totally different person compared to that time in my life.

Then I remember that I am a completely different person because of that time in my life. That hellscape of a year made me both weak and strong. The damage done might have slightly decreased my eventual lifespan, but it’s also made me grateful for my life and the people in it. It made me cut (or in a couple cases, loosen) the ties I had with various toxic people around me and surround myself with people who are awesomely supportive and kick ass.

We are approaching mid February, which is when I was the sickest nine years ago. My Facebook “memories” are beginning to show my posts I made about being bounced from one hospital to the next, treatment plans (that ultimately failed) and various random diagnosises. In past years, I’ve made it a point not to look at the digitally recorded memories from early February to mid May, the timespan I spent fighting for my life. Now, I’m going through everything.

Statistically, I should be in the ground. Miraculously, I’m not.

And that’s the whole point of the book.



I am a wife, an aunt, a former journalist who now deals in hospice bereavement. I write about my chronic illness and my grad school experience.

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Emily Hendricks Jensen

I am a wife, an aunt, a former journalist who now deals in hospice bereavement. I write about my chronic illness and my grad school experience.