The Biggest Challenges of Long-Term Illness

Someone asked me the other day to summarize some of the challenges of this past year. It’s hard to put that in a blog post. It’s hard to even verbalize, and just the task of writing those things down feels a little daunting, but if I can, I think it might be helpful for others who are walking a similar road to know they are not alone in their painful journey.

And putting things in bullet points might actually help me to see how small these challenges are in light of God’s immensity. As I describe these challenges, I’m not complaining, I’m just giving you a partial picture of our daily life.

The Biggest Challenges of This Past Year:

1. I miss my man.

LeRoy is still here, he’s still with me, and I’m incredibly grateful for every day that he has life. But in so many ways, he’s gone. I miss holding hands as we walk side by side (he has to tightly grip the handles of his forearm crutches as he slowly navigates terrain that, in the past, he could easily run across). I miss him reaching over for me in the night, and drawing me close to his side—as things are now, it would cause him excruciating pain if I even accidentally rubbed up against his “bad” leg.

I miss watching him run and play with our little ones, carrying them on his shoulders, or dancing with them in circles. I miss watching him preach in the way I’ve heard him deliver the Word for decades. I miss doing ministry with him, counseling couples, speaking as a team in conferences, and traveling together. I miss having spontaneous moments of fun, playing games with friends, or jumping in the car to take an unexpected mountain drive together.

I miss having just a normal day with him. I miss my man. I miss him as my protector, my hiking buddy, and my lover. I miss him.

2. The most difficult challenge in all of this is watching LeRoy writhe in pain, seeing him suffer every day.

He said to me this morning, “I would not have thought it possible to endure this much pain for this long of a period of time.” He’s a tough guy. I’ve seen him take some hard physical hits and never flinch (my 1,200 lb mare pressed him against the horse trailer and cracked his rib once, and he didn’t let it slow him down a bit). But this pain has pushed him beyond his limits, he’s had to give in and use pain meds, which he’s never done in his life. The loss of mobility is not as hard for him to deal with as the excruciating muscle spasms, the intense burning, and the searing stabbing pain in his leg and abdomen area. Seeing him suffer, and being helpless to alleviate his pain, is crushing me.

3. Resisting the roller coaster’s pull.

The odd thing in all of this is how encouraging his doctors have been throughout this journey. Encouraging, even though we’ve seen no significant improvement. Sometimes I wonder if they are just trying to keep the patient from going off the deep end of utter hopelessness, or if they are really sincere when they paint a rosy future. There are days when I believe them and think recovery will happen, and there are days that seem this will never end.

There are times that I picture us traveling across the country to see our little ones . . . and then the present reality hits. There have been times (not recently), in my first waking moments, when I almost forgot that we’re pretty much home-bound and LeRoy can barely function. There are significant ups and downs through this process, but we’ve worked hard at resisting the emotional roller coaster. We both know, and remind ourselves, that our eyes must be fixed on who Christ is, His character, and what we know of Him . . . rather than the ups and downs that come with long term illness.

Our hope is not dependent on, nor tied to the things of this world: health, prosperity, even relationships—though they be precious. Our hope is the steadfast anchor of the soul—the God who came to earth to rescue us from our fallen condition and the coming judgment we deserve.

4. Learning a new rhythm and bearing a heavier load.

LeRoy has always taken good care of me. Not only did he take care of every bit of vehicle maintenance, keeping the tank full and oil changed, but he did the special little things that speak love. He always opened my car door for me like a gentleman (every single time), and usually added a kiss or loving touch to my back as I got in the car. And I always knew when I came home from the grocery store that he’d be on the porch waiting for me, so he could jump into action unloading groceries. At home, he helped with things like the laundry, he’s never been a cook—but he’d unload the dishwasher or hang out with me in the kitchen and talk. Every single thing about our daily life has changed. And it’s hard.

The bone-dead exhaustion reminds me of when I was a nursing mom of an infant that wouldn’t stop crying for six months. People regularly tell me that I look tired and need to get some rest. I’d love to get some rest—but there are the relentless waves of duties, that keep crashing in each day, duties that can’t be delegated to others and seem to stretch far beyond the horizon. I’m in the kitchen more than I’ve been in years, done more paperwork and complicated financial transactions, than I thought possible, I’ve become a regular pharmacist it seems, as I fill large pill boxes and keep up with when prescriptions need to be refilled, I’m a nurse and sometimes a doctor. The level of manual labor and care-giving keeps me in a state of mental and physical exhaustion—and LeRoy feels so badly about that—he wants to carry the load, but he just can’t. I can’t even ask him to carry out the trash. He’s quite limited by his physical disability. And just typing the word “disability” in reference to my strong man still seems so strange, so unbelievable.

5. Battling financial fears.

When I first opened the envelope that held his astronomical hospital bill, it took my breath away. I immediately fell to my knees in prayer, crying out to the Lord for help. LeRoy was too ill for me to even tell him about it, but I asked a small group to pray for our needs. God has been faithful, and many of you have come alongside to help in this season of need, and we are eternally grateful. There are still medical bills, and weekly prescription costs, but the recurring financial fear is primarily related to our future and LeRoy’s ability to provide. It’s a fear I have to battle, and preach to myself the truth that God will not abandon us. We may have to make some sacrificial choices, but He will be faithful to provide for our needs.

6. Planning is impossible.

I’m a planner (which adds to the temptation with financial fears). It helps me to look down the road and organize myself according to what I see coming. I like to be prepared. I like to anticipate and face future events or responsibilities with a smile. But, when every day holds unexpected dangers (a fall, a series of excruciating muscle spasms, a vehicle that I can’t repair myself, a phone call from a medical clinic that requires time and attention, a new infection, another appliance breakdown, a reaction to a new medication) it is impossible to look ahead and set a regular schedule. No day looks the same because the day is always interrupted by unexpected or urgent needs.

The repercussions and life complications multiply quickly when a husband has a serious illness. It is impossible to have a solid plan for the day. And when I don’t have a plan, I tend to get a little overwhelmed. I’m learning to live with a completely open hand, to remember that God’s got this, and He has a plan, I just need to rely on His agenda rather than making my own.

7. Missing time and ministry with our church body.

I have a long post in my head about our church family that I hope to put in print at some point. Our church is incredible. I wish you could meet them. I’ve never heard of another church who stands like this through a difficult season with (really without) their pastor, who continues to support and love deeply—when the shepherd is only on the receiving end, and can give nothing in return. We miss them. We try to make it to most Sunday morning services, but there have been many weeks we’ve missed. And pretty much all of our ministry to them has been laid aside. LeRoy sends out text messages with devotional thoughts or Scriptures when he can, we intercede together for our body, we do what little ministry behind the scenes that God allows (and provides grace and strength to accomplish), but it is a far cry from what we desire to do for our church.

8. Losing out on family time.

He weeps when he sees pictures of our little ones growing up so quickly, very aware of how time is passing by without the opportunity to laugh with them, listen to their stories and little songs, love on them, and invest in them. This is the hardest challenge of all, for both of us. We have brief visits with those who live close, and we’re thankful for that. But we haven’t been with those who live across the country since Christmas. We FaceTime, write letters, and send packages . . . but that isn’t the same. The ache and longing to be with them is almost unbearable.

Those are the challenges, but I could write a much longer post about the good provisions God has showered on us. I keep hoping to write a gratitude series, listing all of the providential blessings through these past ten months.

When Suffering is Good
I’m encouraged that the doctors still seem hopeful for LeRoy to experience recovery, maybe not full recovery, but to be more mobile than he is now. And truly, this season, though horribly hard, is necessary in our lives. God is stripping much that needed to be removed, pushing us toward growth, and allowing us to see Him be faithful to His character. And all of those things are good.

We’re both weary, tired of it, and I so miss walking beside my husband and being able to hold hands (or for him to support me if I’m stumbling), to just have a “normal” day, but those things are not worth trading for the necessary work God is graciously doing through the pain and suffering.

And perhaps that will be a future post . . . what God is teaching us, and the necessary work He is doing. Until then, thank you for your prayers. As we move beyond infusion number four, we want you to know that, truly, God is good, He alone is God, and He is worthy of all our worship!


  • Cathy

    Praying that our Lord may comfort you & give you strength & that one day He will decrease the pain & increase his strength,allowing both of you to minister again.

  • Nancy Catlett

    Thank you for sharing!I can identify with you. I am continuing to pray for you & Leroy. “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms;”…
    In love and prayers always, Nancy Catlett

  • Kristy

    Hi Kim, I sent you an email. I don’t know if you got my last one, it’s from a gmail account instead of comcast. Let me know if you don’t receive it so I can update you with my new email.

  • Rebecca Einwechter

    Prayers for you both, dear friends! May God strengthen you, comfort you, and give much wisdom!

  • Trina Crescenzi

    Thank you for sharing this! I believe the Lord will not waste your pain and your tears. He is teaching all of us through you to cherish our own husbands even more. My husband does most of the same things you mentioned and to imagine him not being able to do those things would be devastating. Your attitude is amazing and a monumental testimony to the faithfulness of God! Praying for healing and strength for you both! ❤️

  • Donna Doverspike

    LeRoy and Kim,

    I am praying that God will give you the comfort only he can give. I am praying for complete healing for you both. I pray that people will come along that can do the things that need to be done for you,car,repairs and financial help too. In Jesus Name Amen

  • Sandra Grammer

    Hi. I read your post after Tim Challies linked to you. Just want to say thanks for validating everything I feel in my similar circumstances. My husband has been ill with stage 4 colon cancer for 2 years. Thank you for making it ok to say that you miss your old life. That you struggle with the burden of caring the load for both of you. I am not complaining either, but there is a reality that beyond what people see, especially if you aren’t a complainer. Yes, God is at work to conform us to the image of his son, and grace abounds, but it is still a hard path. May God have mercy on you both and may he grant you the strength you need for every single moment.

  • Debra

    Kimberly- I have read some of your blogs and don’t claim to begin to understand! I read your husbands book and really believe this is an attack from Satan! He comes to Rob kill and destroy! You said you are open and don’t know me but please ask God if you should entertain my emsil! I have wanted to write for quite some time! There are BIE clinics all over north America . I can’t stress how amazing these clinics are! I have gone and many I know have been healed of so many diseases and illnesses. Please just look it up online! What if this is the answer you have been praying for! You have nothing too lose and perhaps everything to gain. There are many things in our body that get out of whack that medical Doctors have not been taught! These people can heal Lymes disease for example!! Please look it up! Your husbands book is so necessary for men to read to change families ! That is why he has been afflicted! Please ask God about this – before you discount this email ! I bless you and declare your husband is healed because of what Jesus did on the cross- in Jesus mighty name!!! God does not give us sickness to teach us a lesson just like we as parents don’t wish that on our kids and He can’t give what he doesn’t have – GOD IS LOVE

  • Rebekah Beene

    Oh precious friend. I so very very much relate. Esp #1. My husband is so exponentially better than this time last May. But I miss things. And if I focus on those things I get very sad. I have to work hard on rolling the bullet points onto the Lord. Occasionally I feel like stomping my foot like our 7 year old granddaughter! The blessings are there even in the reality of long term illness and the healing that takes far longer than we want. I would love to meet you in person someday and give you the biggest hug. In the meantime I am praying and continuing to ask God to do what only He can do! And that’s supernatural.

  • M

    Kimberly, thank you for sharing your story and articulating your thoughts as you have. It is encouraging to know that someone understands the awesome weight of responsibility of being a full-time carer and the sacrifices we have to make. When my wife began suffering with mental health I stepped away from a career to care for her and raise our baby. Initially this was meant as a temporary break, but it became apparent my lovely wife was never going to be the same again. Yes, we do have to find a new rhythm to our lives and that changes so often; some seasons we are so overwhelmed that a balance is impossible to find. It is very burdensome and brings other pressures, even to our own health. We too miss out on a lot we used to take for granted like time together, or with our church family. But God is good and has used these years to mature me into the man I am today, and by his design, I will continue to be shaped by his grace.

  • Sandra Diehl

    Thank you so much for being so open and honest. I am so sorry for all that you both and the rest of the family are going though. I am sure all your kids and grand babies miss you as much as you miss them. I never forget you and your kindness and love. Praying that very soon life will be much much better and you get your man back. What a sweet gentleman you have. May God bless and keep you both. Much love and big hugs and prayers

  • Annette

    God Bless you both abundantly for your transparency and faithfulness to share!! My husband has been pretty sick for a couple years, not to the degree of Leroy. But Thanks be to our God for His new mercies everyday, that He doesn’t allow the burden to be more than we can bear and all of the little ways He encourages, they are so precious!!! Keeping the 2 of you lifted up!

  • Carol

    Thank you for sharing so openly. I became my husband’s caretaker as his COPD became increasingly worse. I identify with the exhaustion, inability to plan, and learning to trust Him one day at a time. My prayers are with both of you during this journey.

  • Rita Smith

    Praying for you & your husband. I can identify as my husband deals with severe pain every day. I can see it taking a toll on him every day. You expressed so many of my feelings in this post. So thankful for the Lord’s presence in our livers. I am learning daily to give things over to the Lord. He is teaching me moment to moment to depend upon Him.

  • Miguelina de Ramirez

    Kimberly! Praying for you and your husband!
    God continues giving to you all the strength, you need to glorify Him
    In this difficult times . He always be with you and your husband.
    We can’t understand His ways sometimes but is for sure that he is always doing good to us.

  • Peggy

    Thank you for sharing such personal details. I pray that the Lord will grace your husband with greater mobility and reduced pain, and move you both closer to restoration day-by-day: healing is a process. You spoke of the land-mines that can change our plans, and I appreciate your candor. Understanding that will help me be more patient with myself when managing my own chronic illness, and thank God more that these interruptions are the “new normal.” God bless.

  • Elizabeth Candia Seumahu

    I met you through the True Woman 101 videos. I just found out about your husband’s illness. I was so sorry to hear but so encouraged that both of you continue to display the gospel, and now even more powerfully through this season of suffering. As it is, you continue ministering by your example (in holding on to Jesus, no matter what) to this very broken world. I am praying for healing, perseverance and that by the power of the Holy Spirit you continue to fight the good fight. This World desperately needs the Light and Salt that He brings through the lives of those that display His Glory in this dark and hurting world.

  • Andrea

    The correct term is Lyme. Anyone can heal “lymes”. But God often uses a skilled Lyme Literate Medical Doctor to assist patients diagnosed with Lyme disease.

  • Leslie S.

    Dearest Kim,
    I am so sorry for all you and LeRoy are suffering. I know it is hard to be exhausted, and carry such a heavy load.
    2 Cor. 1 comes to mind — “pressed beyond measure,” yet trusting in God, who raises the dead. I have never walked in the same circumstances that you are in, but I do know what it is like to be under a heavy load that felt like it was crushing me (for a number of years). Although I do not yet have all the answers to the problems of that time in my life, I can tell you that God has brought me out from under that crushing load, and has surely begun His process of healing and restoration. He has brought me into a much better place, and the suffering has produced character that wasn’t there before. He is worthy to be praised…I thank Him for His goodness. I will be praying with you, dear friend, and believing for this crushing load soon to dissipate, and for you and LeRoy to find yourselves in much greener pastures. Our God is faithful. He will not try you above that which you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). He will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
    Love you a lot and praying God’s richest blessings upon you and your family,
    Leslie S. (your old blog friend!)

  • Vicki Halford

    Bless your heart Kimberly!! I can’t imagine! I love my husband & all we do & hang out together so I feel your pain even though I havent been there! Praying for a miracle! I’m reading a book you might want to read on pain & suffering. It’s really good! Embodied Hope by Kelly Kapic. It’s help me see how Jesus is really with us & our emotions when we suffer. Keep heart! Vicki