Last week I celebrated my 4-year anniversary (or stomaversary) with “my little guy”! Today I’m celebrating another anniversary. An even more significant one in many ways than my stomaversay, because it’s my 20th (yes, you read that right!) anniversary with my big guy – my husband, Mikey!
I often argue with my sister about which anniversaries we should celebrate especially now that we’re married. We’ve only been married since January 2014, and of course we have celebrated our 2 wedding anniversaries, but today is our 20 year ‘meeting’ anniversary (first date, kiss, maybe some hanky panky!). How can we not celebrate that?! Neither of us could ever remember the exact date we met, and all those things happened around the end of September of 1997 (we were both very young!!) so prior to getting married, we have always celebrated our anniversary on 30th of September (it also seemed an easy date to remember)!
This weekend we are off on a romantic weekend away in Lille, France (this post was written in advance!!!), but I wanted to write something for this special occasion to express how much I love and care for Michael, and how much he means to me, but also to give hope to any of you single ladies (and gents) out there with Crohn’s or an ostomy who may be feeling alone or worried that you will never meet “the one”.
Michael and I had been together for 12 years before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and I sometimes wonder if things would have been different had we only been at the beginning of our relationship, but I don’t think they would.
A big part of this post is a mini interview with Michael so he can give you his side of the story. I think that’s probably important for anyone reading this. You guys know how you feel and what it’s like for you, but what about from a partner’s perspective? Before that, I want to do a bit of tribute to Michael so he knows that after 20 years, I still think he is one hell of a guy!!!
Michael. My Mikey, you have been my rock throughout the years. I could write pages and pages about you, your never-ending and unwavering support and what it and you mean to me. Not just any guy would have hung around through the shit (literally). Not many guys would be happy to be relied on so heavily to support us financially, as well as do a lot of the cooking and cleaning and shopping. Not many guys would put up with the irritable moods, being snapped at for no reason (the steroids used to make me incredibly irritable and irrational!). Not many guys would have helped administer enemas every night, or squeeze puss from abscesses (ah what romantic memories!!!). Not many guys would sit on the bathroom floor as I was sitting on the toilet in excruciating pain. Not many guys would cry because they could see how much pain I was in. You did all this and more.
You give me hugs when I need them the most. You help keep me sane. You make me laugh. Sometimes you drive me crazy, as I know I do you! We have such different personalities but also enjoy a lot of the same things, and somehow, we make it work! Communication is the key!! Like I’ve said before, if one good thing has come out of my Crohn’s, it’s that we are even closer now than we were before. It’s been an emotional and physical roller coaster over the years, but even when I was at my sickest and in the middle of a Crohn’s flare, you kept things real, and helped me focus on things other than being sick. You made life worth living.
For the 4 years I was very ill, we were living in limbo and put our lives on hold. I felt isolated, and in many ways the disease isolated you too. We have some awful memories from those days, but we have lots of happy ones too, and despite everything, we still had (and continue to have) so much fun together. Thank you for loving me and supporting me as much as you do. I hope you know that if the roles had been reversed I would be right by your side too. The wonderful thing now is that I am well, my ostomy does not phase you in the slightest, and not only has it given me my life back, but it has given us our lives back. We have travelled the world and been on so many adventures together and I can’t wait to have many more adventures with you, my Mikey.
Now onto the interesting bit! I asked Mikey to answer a few questions about our relationship, in particular what it’s like for him having a partner with Crohn’s disease and now a permanent ileostomy.
1. When we first met would you have ever thought that we would still be together 20 years later?!?!
Actually, no. Does anybody think about that at the time?!? If you know me, you know I’m a “take it as it comes” kind of guy. I don’t really plan anything, and I’m incredibly laid back about almost everything. Having said all that, I’m super happy and impressed that we’ve been together for as long as we have and we’re still best of friends and lovers to boot!
2. Do you remember our first date? How about our first kiss?
I remember our first real date, it was to Chilli’s and we talked about everything and nothing. It all went really well. We munched on Mexican type foods and I paid for it all. I remember thinking to myself I hope she likes me after all we talked about, I was a stupid 19 year old kid when we met…
First kiss… Umm, think we had that before our first real date. From memory we’d had a few drinks with Chris and your cousin at your mum’s place and we stayed up all night talking. Think it happened then. That was probably the fourth or fifth time we’d seen each other.
3. What do you think is the key to a happy and healthy relationship?
- talk lots! always talk through issues
- be free spirited and up for anything
- take a break from each other every now and then, both parties need space
- common interests help
4. I often say that a lot of guys would have run away and not been able (or wanted) to handle life with a partner with a chronic illness and all that goes along with that. What made you stick around?
Those guys are just stupid!
That’s a no brainer, I love you no matter what! Just because you’re sick it doesn’t change the way I feel about you.
5. We have many memories together both good and bad over the years. Since I was diagnosed in 2009/2010 what is your worst and best memory?
My worst memory… I’ve never seen anyone in as much pain as you’ve experienced with Crohn’s disease. This still hangs on in my mind. I’ve seen some pretty gross things too, but nothing like the pain I’ve seen.
Best memories. Sitting beside you while you’ve been basically glued to a toilet, just talking and being supportive. Crying and laughing together during those moments. This may sound creepy, but watching you sleeping soundly is a pleasant memory as there was no signs of pain or distress.
6. What’s the hardest thing about living with someone with inflammatory bowel disease?
Being helpless to really help! Being there and being supportive is easy, but you really can’t do anything to take away the pain, the fatigue or the anxiety.
7. As you know I used to have coping mechanisms especially for when I was going through a bad Crohn’s flare up. What are some of your coping mechanisms?
Having your mum there to talk to about it. I would say I probably buried myself in work. I used to work ridiculous hours, perhaps that was a coping mechanism of sorts, unconsciously though. I didn’t mind a drink either. Maybe a little too much sometimes.
Gaming! This is a coping mechanism for everyday life though. It’s a good outlet, and a great way to take your mind off anything that’s stressing or worrying me.
8. What’s the best and worst things about living with someone with an ostomy?
The best thing is having the person from before the illness come back! Not only has it removed the pain, but it’s also enabled you to carry on living as if it never happened, barring a few small changes.
The worst thing… Hmm… I must throw it out there. The smell when you empty. But, this is tamed with the oils you can use. However, you never use these as home!
9. How does my having an ostomy affect our relationship? Do you think my having an ostomy has stopped us from doing things as a couple or doing things we wanted together in life?
It doesn’t. It hasn’t stopped us from doing anything. Why would it? It’s re-enabled our ability to travel, go out to concerts, long walks or riding. There is nothing that it prevents us from doing.
10. How does my stoma affect our sex life?
Same as above, it hasn’t. Sure it makes some sounds at inopportune times, but that doesn’t worry me. We often laugh about it!
11. What’s your favourite feature of mine? (I just had to throw this one in)!!!
I don’t know that I have a favourite feature. I love all of you! I love your caring nature, I love your eyes (those two different colours!), I love your bum! I can’t separate you out, it’s the whole package for me.
12. Do you ever worry about our future because of my ostomy or Crohn’s disease?
Nope, I don’t actively think about it actually. Each day as it comes, and enjoy it all.
Here’s to another 20 years pooh bear 😊 (is it ironic that my nickname for you is Pooh bear?!). You are one of the most caring, loving, easy going, down to earth people I know. I am so lucky that you chose me as your life partner in crime! You’re one of a kind, and I can’t imagine life without you by my side. I wuv woo!!
“I know the despair that comes with watching someone you love suffer and the desperate desire to take it all away.”