It is funny how life messes with you. I had my whole life planned out. Did everything I had to do. Finished school, went to the dreaded army, studied diligently and then worked extremely hard and made a lot of money. I ticked all the other boxes too, got the pretty sporty girl to say yes, had two children ( boy and girl ) put them through private school, attended their sports events, was even a deacon at church. When I got to fifty, I made enough money to retire and buy a house on the beach. I was going to travel the world with my beautiful wife, as my kids would be in varsity. Everything went according to plan…………..until my wife found something strange in her breast.

And then her world fell apart, and so did mine and everything we thought was a given, was threatened. I never saw this coming.

We trusted our doctors ( we did have an amazing team ) but we went from one surgery to another to another and then what we envisioned to be a pretty normal recovery process to an absolutely revolting roller coaster that almost destroyed my marriage and my relationships with all close family.

How can things go so wrong, so quickly?

One would think the worst part of this journey is the times in the doctor’s office getting bad news, or the hours waiting in hospital hallways whilst your wife is in theatre, or the times you have to phone and relay the bad news, again and again and again. It was not for us; our nightmare started the day we thought things would get better. The day my wife came home.

We could not wait to welcome her home. We bought every single green ( her favourite colour ) balloon and decorated the house and our bedroom with flowers and cards. She was so weak that I carried her to our room ( this seems almost romantic right? Like a newly wed couple – I can assure you it was not, she was in excruciating pain and she did not smell or look like the love of my life anymore )

I am man who prepares, and we had everything in place for her return, a commode and that funny thing you put on the loo so you get up easier, even a grab handle by the loo and a special grab handle at the bath. I had frozen casseroles and quiches and all her favourite drinks. We were advised to get a homecarer but I did not want a staff member to control and keep busy and honestly, to be under my feet in my own bedroom. Sarah also did not want a carer, I would be her carer.

When I laid her down ( at great pain, she was sore everywhere and my heart broke in a million pieces to see my strong wife reduced to a bag of bones ) she just could not get comfortable, it did not matter how many times we fluffed her pillows. Then we brought her her favourite meal, she projectile vomited this everywhere. Then we had to change her bedding but she was so sore, we failed dismally. This is where we started and it got progressively worse over the next few weeks.

Sarah was so weak she could not get out of bed, we had to take a bedpan to her. It was awful, for her and for me. I could hardly change a nappy when our kids were little, imagine trying to clean up my wife after her very sore stomach had to work. Imagine that time of the month. As much as I am complaining it was worse for her, she lost her dignity, she felt humiliated, she was totally vulnerable and relied on me for everything.

As much as I tried, I could not cope. I started resenting her. I hated it when she called for help.I hated bathing her. I thought she was fussy when she threw up the food I lovingly prepared. I detested the repeated trips I made to the pharmacy and filling prescriptions. I was impatient for her to improve but she just got sicker. It felt like my entire day was consumed with feeding her, giving her medication and the dreaded dreaded ablutions.  I got frustrated to a level that I wanted to pack up and go. I resented my kids being away at university whilst I had to cope with the disaster my life became. I think a tiny bit of me hated her.We felt so isolated and helpless.

It went on for weeks, finally we decided to book her into a recovery lodge. This option was given to me right at the beginning but I felt that is a cop-out. How can I give that responsibility of caring for my wife to someone else? Did they forget the part where it says, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. I was adamant we would cope at home.

I drove Sarah to the lodge, ( it really looked like a lodge, stunning, nothing hospitally about it! )On arrival the staff checked her in and then I was told to come back after a few hours. A part of me felt like I was deserting her, the other part was jubilant, it felt like complete and utter freedom.  A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt guilty but the overwhelming feeling was relief.

I returned later in the afternoon. I found Sarah sitting up in lazy-boy, her hair was blown dried the way she liked it ( not how I did it ) she was in clean pyjama’s having a cup of tea and home-made biscuit ( made according to her dietary list I sent through ) I sat next to her and we watched some tv and chatted, no mention of pills or therapies or bathing was made. All that was under control.

The owner called me outside , she poured me a gin and tonic and we sat at the pool. She looked me in the eye and said, from now on, your role is to be Sarah’s husband, and only that. We will do the rest.

That was the moment I got my wife back.

I went every day to see Sarah, some nights I stayed over. But I never saw her compromised again, I never had to help her wash, or go to the loo, or feed her. I could  just love her and treat her like that beautiful girl I met at varsity. Once I saw her like this, I think she started remembering who she was, and she just got better and better and better.

It is a few years later, Sarah is still ill, but highly functioning. We often think back to the turning point in her recovery journey, we will always be grateful for that respite care.