Tomorrow I will have been with my soulmate for 11 years, 6 of those in marriage. We're excited to have some child-free time, for 24 hours we get to be sweary, loud, drunk, selfish, out of the house after 9pm type people (although we'll probably just curl up with a takeaway and watch an uninterrupted film... bliss!).
However as this year's anniversary comes round, I'm also contemplating some serious brain fodder. For most of us with children, losing them are our worst nightmare. We are wrecks when our children are ill or hospitalised, fearing the worst. If you have a long term partner, when we go through horrific loss, when we ourselves are struggling with physical or mental trauma, we cling to them for support and strength. It's not a conscious choice, you just expect that person to always be there for you, as you are always there for that person. The unwritten, never needing clarification, unwavering tower of strength by your side.
But what happens when it's that, that is in the balance?
Losing a partner is something I've never really thought about, as I guess my anxious mind has always been preoccupied with losing the things I feel to be more vulnerable and at risk.
As I've talked about here before, my hubster has chronic Lymphoedema in his right leg - a diagnosis that took almost three years, lots of head-scratching and baffled looks from specialists and a shed load of painful and invasive tests. We are still none the wiser as to why he has it, how or what will happen with it. It usually affects women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer or people with stomach or gastric tumours. If not those, then it's from some kind of significant trauma to the area. It is extremely rare to have none of those things happen and suffer with sudden onset lymphoedema, yet, here he is with it.
Having lymphoedema leaves you more open to infections like cellulitis, even from a simple knock. Hubster's condition has him coping with a swollen foot and leg up to his mid-calf, red, itchy, hot and very easily damaged (a small scratch can cause excessive bleeding and immediate infection risk). You try to be as careful as possible but with an oversized and painful limb, full time job, walking everywhere and a 4 year old who summons the energy and calamity worthy of a Tasmanian devil sharing a house with you... there are going to be unavoidable issues.
We had one episode of severe cellulitis last year, which was scary as hell. Hubster ended up hospitalised for a week and was extremely poorly. His leg turned black at points, it took a good while for recovery and changed us as a couple. We both realised how vulnerable we are to a point but it was the first time, I think we were both in shock and after recovery we pretty much carried on as usual. This newest infection though rocked my very core.
Saturday 16th July was the day - exactly two weeks ago. It was a normal day and we did normal things. There was no damage to hubs leg as either of us can recall. We went shopping, we had fun. In the space of 2 hours from 12 noon til 2 everything changed. My hubster went from being as right as rain to feeling a bit 'off', then a backache rolled in, then all of a sudden, huge fever. I'm talking blue lips, dripping with sweat, vomiting, hallucinating fever. 2 hours...that's all it took. I recognised the symptoms from last year's attack only this year it was stronger and far quicker (last year it took 48 hours to progress to this kind of stage). While I was on the phone to 111, shaking and trying to keep our 4 year old away from the scene unravelling in our bedroom, I could see his leg ballooning and getting fire-red visually and physically. We were told that A&E were informed and he was to get there immediately (thank goodness for both of our parents' support here so that we didn't have to rely on the fantastic but severely overstretched ambulance services). His stats were so bad he was deemed 'very poorly' by the attending nurse and doctor and taken to resus. Those hours waiting at home with our 4 year old for news were some of the worst of my life.
To cut a long story short, he stabilised there and was eventually transferred to a ward. We caught a massive infection very early, I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn't called called 111 immediately - there was still that bugging little voice in the back of my head at the time thinking it was a nasty virus and was I overreacting? There was still that voice in hubster's head too, as he whispered through struggling fevered breaths that he was OK and just needed to sleep.
The reality of losing my rock, my tower of strength... the person who has become such a part of me that I almost feel as if we are extensions of one another and will always be, it suddenly hit me. Standing in the kitchen alone on that Saturday night, with our 4 year old sleeping soundly in bed, staring out of the window into the world's slumber, other people pottering around in their own houses, journeying through the streets making their way home, turning off their bedroom lights... life was going on but I was here, without a part of me. I could lose that. That which I never even considered a possibility. It could be gone.
So two weeks later, massive amounts of medication, IV, needles, testing, swabs and all sorts of recovery and here we are. Almost ready to celebrate 11 years together, 6 married. It feels different this year. I don't think I've ever been so thankful to have this man in my life, or more scared that I might lose him.
If you have a partner or someone just as important in your life, hug them close. It's all too easy to become used to each other's supporting ways with regards to the external worries, fears and illness you both fear as a team and with that, forget the other person is an individual and also vulnerable themselves. We will always be a team, an unstoppable force with unquestioning support and love for each other but this experience taught me to try and stop once in a while and remember that my partner, my tower of strength, my 'always there' should be cherished rather than expected.
Who is Julie?
30 something, mother of two gorgeous boys, lover of one gorgeous husband, perpetually living in a dream world full of wine, chocolate and artsy crafty things.