How do you know if it’s true love? Perhaps it is when you can’t stop thinking about someone. Or maybe you can’t stand the thought of not being with them. Or could it be moving in together, or getting a pet, or a proposal… Or how about because they’ve just showered you and changed your catheter bag?
I think it’s fair to say that some of the romance has gone from my relationship over the last nine months. And if not the romance, then certainly the mystery. No boundary has been left uncrossed; no piece of dignity left in tact.
We are being tested like nothing else, and I can’t think of a single other person who could handle everything being thrown at us like my boyfriend has. He has put his own life on pause, giving up the majority of his freelance work for the time being in order to become my carer. I often say to him that we’re lucky that our roles are this way round, as there’s no way I could do as good a job caring as he is. That is unquestionably true.
No task is too big or too small, no request too ridiculous. When I’m in hospital, he is there all day, every day. He drove me to nearly every single radiotherapy appointment – 33 weekdays in a row, mostly involving waiting around in the car for an hour because there wasn’t a space. He listens when I’m feeling sad or angry, and always knows what to say to make me laugh and snap out of it. He is undoubtedly the reason that we are so loved at the Royal Marsden. Even when I’m sitting in the chair feeling rubbish, he is still able to carry on chatting away. He makes me every single meal – and washes it all up afterwards. After my last operation, he helped me do everything – from standing up and sitting down to getting in and out of the shower, remembering to empty my catheter bag, taking the right medicine at the right time and a million other things as well. He comes to every single appointment I have, bearing the brunt of the news we receive as we try to unpick it together.
What is happening to me has changed his future too – and it continues to do so. Fertility has been one of the major issues to be considered throughout, though it is now off the table. That is something we will have to learn to live with and get used to together, and is just one of the long-term effects we have to deal with. An illness that initially appeared to be due to last a few months – including recovery time – is still rumbling on, with no visible end in sight yet. My boyfriend is somehow able to adapt to all of this, remaining certain that our future on the other side will be a bright one.
I don’t know what I’d do without him, though fortunately I don’t have to answer that. I do know how lucky I am to have somebody who is willing and able to look after me so well, not just physically but also mentally. I want to say thank you, both to him and to anybody else out there who is in his position: you do an amazing job. An endless stream of thankless, menial, repetitive tasks. I feel like I get all the glory while he is behind the scenes doing a hundred different things to hold the whole thing together.
Without that incredible support, life would be unmanageable. So thanks a million – and yes, I owe an awful lot of cooking and washing up duties in future.