One Arizona December day, when my wife was fourteen, she took a baseball to the jaw that knocked her out cold, her brain sloshed. Her teammates gathered around her as she attempted to come to, temples burning. Months passed before doctors figured she would be a candidate for surgery to clean out damaged cartilage where mandible joined skull. Metal plates were screwed in to where soft tissue-lined sockets used to be.
Nine years later, when I met her, I could not tell she had had surgery. Scars were faded, range of motion had returned, and her pain was minor—yet persistent. As her new friend, I was all about helping her find relief. Thankfully, a maxillofacial surgeon in Vancouver succeeded with cortisone injections.
Six months later, we married, and together life was good. New careers, budget home, sons one, two, three in forty-three months, school roles, church service, loyal deep friendships.
All the while, mandibles bumping on steel.
Twenty-three years later, on a bright blue day, while hiking Mt. Baker, something twigged, and Shelaine’s smarting became stinging. Zinging. Jabbing. It was more than just downhill to the trailhead.
I learned quickly what happens in a relationship when one person takes a hit physically, emotionally, vocationally. I had to choose each day to support her, adjust, and find new patterns. Together we went from three nights out per week to three per month at most, and we learned to accept help and love from friends and community who cared deeply for our plight.
Shelaine’s jaw journey trudged on month after month, then into years, as specialists scratched their heads as to best next steps. Finally, she received the most radical option—total jaw joint replacement. We entered that season knowing her pain would increase, but with hope for long-term relief. And we continued to make choices regarding work, rehab, careers, and relationships.
Next Tuesday, January 23, Shelaine will provide a glimpse of her sojourn from pain, to surgery, to renewed health and redefined self. She does so at the book launch of her personal memoir, But Pain Crept In.
I am so proud that she persisted, and praise God for his hand of healing.
I hope you can join us in the celebration.
House of James Bookstore, 7 p.m., Abbotsford
Bill Strom, Author
I am a believer by faith, a professor by vocation, a husband by choice, a father by blessing, and a friend by hanging out. Along the way I have learned about close relating through my experiences, biblical models, and social science research. Hopefully my ideas and encouragement show up here in ways meaningful to you.