When I was diagnosed with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), I had the words “stay strong” tattooed on my shoulder. I wanted a daily reminder that I must stay strong and accept that some days will be far worse than others.

My husband was such a great support for me. He would stay the night in uncomfortable hospital beds and ask the doctors endless questions about my health. He would speak up when I was too timid to ask questions. He would help me walk when the steroids became debilitating. At every turn, he was there, knowing what to say and ask on my behalf, and always ready to support me. He was my best and unrelenting advocate. He taught me I had to show up, regardless of how I felt.

One day, I was sitting on the edge of my bed crying because I was trying to get dressed to go to work but my joints hurt so bad from the steroids I could barely move. He came in and looked at me and said, “You don’t have to be strong all the time… it’s okay, baby.” That, of course, made me cry more, but he was right. He put me back into bed, called my boss, and said I wasn’t coming in, and he took care of me all day.

Read about the ITP care team

Not only did I have an amazingly supportive husband, but I was also fortunate for a wonderful understanding boss as well.

My husband constantly reminded me that it was okay not to be okay. Having ITP sucks. I can cry, I can be mad, I can be all those things. But I certainly did not have to be strong all of the time. I think it’s important to remind ourselves of that. To lean on those around us, to accept their support and feel okay taking it.

Kristy Coleman with her late husband, Tim. Credit: Kristy Coleman

It’s important to have people in our corner to help us when we can’t help ourselves. My husband was that and so much more. I’ve talked before about how important it is to have a good support system, but I can’t stress it enough because we can’t and don’t have to be strong all the time. I’m thankful for my husband every day but a little extra when those hard days hit and he allowed me to just, be. 

Several days ago, I lost my husband, and as I go through the motions of dealing with his passing, I often hear him tell me, “I don’t have to be strong all the time.” We are allowed to have bad days, hard days, and days we just don’t want to be strong. He was my biggest supporter, always.

Now I’m going to learn how to navigate these things on my own and learn how to advocate for myself as much as possible. It reminds me how thankful I am that he was there for me on some of my hardest days. That’s something many people don’t have. I was one of the lucky ones. 

If you take anything away from this, please remember, it’s okay not to be okay and you don’t have to be strong all the time. Allow yourself the time to feel whatever it is you are feeling. I promise it’s okay. 

I dedicate this column to my amazing, supportive, and loving late husband, Tim.