I met my boyfriend shortly before his first surgery. His illness was pretty epic. He had been sick for maybe ten years with UC when we met. He moved to the UK to change careers and started training as a teacher at the school where I worked. It was not an easy school to work at, even for someone experienced. I’d hate to think how hard it must’ve been on immunosuppressants and steroids and in constant pain. But he managed to do it all and still remain cheerful. The staff and the students all loved him. No one knew how sick he was. Not even his best friend I think. I suppose he had learned to keep it from a lot of people by then, but he was really unwell.
A few months later he was hospitalized with shingles, as the drugs had weakened his immune system. We were friends by then and he tells me now that he’d already fallen for me, but decided he was in no state to contemplate women or relationships due to his health. I knew he had colitis, but I knew bugger all about the disease apart from that it affected the bowel. A few months later he had his bowel removed as a matter of urgency and had complications from his surgery. We kept in touch through our mutual friends and he returned to work after the summer.
We became great friends when he returned to work. Weirdly, his illness was partially responsible for us getting together. UC had nearly killed him, but it made him so grateful and positive about being alive after his first operation, he was so awesome to be around. His love of life was contagious and I loved hanging out with him. I’d never known someone with such a unique perspective. He used to tell me how great it felt to feel the wind and rain on his face after months stuck in hospital. Anyone who could be positive about the English weather had to be something special.
I knew he had an ostomy, but it didn’t bother me. He was so much healthier because of it and I was just so grateful he was around, bag or no. I let him tell me about his illness and surgeries when he was ready. We took a while to get together. The only reason I hesitated was because we had become so close as friends and we had a close knit group of common friends, that we both sensed it had to be all or nothing if we got together.
Since then we’ve not let it hold us back: I nicknamed his ostomy Oswald and we saw the funny side when he made noises, we saw the bright side to Oswald when we went to psy trance festivals in the middle of nowhere and managed to convince the medical team to let us use the medical tent loos (even though we spoke zero Hungarian), we realised his limitations when moved in together a matter of weeks after his second operation (and subsequent infections). Tip: Do not allow your significant other to try to move house post op, coming off tramadol and morphine.
The most difficult part of being with him was seeing him get down about having Oswald. I was so into this guy, I couldn’t have cared less if he had an ostomy or not. It didn’t scare me off but it really upset me that it made him uncomfortable, self-conscious or less confident at times. He avoided being completely naked around me at first which I understood, but his bag never put me off. It had saved his life. I fucking loved that thing.
There was one time, not long after we got together, when we were staying at our mates’ house. We’d had a lazy morning and were in the early stages of our relationship where you shag each other’s brains out. Then… the worst thing that could’ve happened happened. A leak. A significant leak. In bed. Pretty much right after a really lovely moment. Looking back now, we both think it’s pretty fucking funny. Not only did it occur at THE MOST (well, almost the most) inopportune time, but also: we weren’t at home and our best mates knew what had just gone on. But, despite it being embarrassing at the time, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. It kind of got the worst out of the way pretty swiftly and we were able to get on with our lives. So what if it happened again? I don’t think it did happen again after that actually, but it took the fear out of that situation.
Two and a half years on, Oswald is gone and my boyfriend has a fully functioning j pouch. I have always said to him that if something goes wrong down the line, I’d welcome Oswald back with open arms. That bag made our relationship rock solid from the start. We had to be open and honest with each other from the get go. I became my boyfriend’s emergency contact/next of kin for his surgeries fairly early in our relationship. It brought us together in lots of ways.
We will get married in a week’s time.
And here’s a note from her boyfriend:
This is a letter my girlfriend (now fiance) wrote to my ostomy (and associates) after I had a serious shit party in my car, (leak, I think it was in the car on my way to work) and was just a bit pissed off.
We named my ostomy ‘Oswald’ and in truth we thought of ‘him’ as a third person (I’m sure you would get that).
Our relationship with Oswald was a love/hate kind of thing. We loved him for helping me be alive (just a small thing really!) but we hated him for being an arsehole. To be honest, we loved him more than we hated him.
We got together after I had my ostomy. We had been good friends before, we got together. I was all sorts of nervous but we worked out. I know Patches has written you an email describing how it all went so I won’t double up here. I just want to say that I really think it’s definitely possible to to start a relationship, even with an ostomy (shock horror!). All you need is someone who understands and is loving. Bec has been the most amazing person. I will be forever indebted to her for the way she looked after me and treated me (even when I did shit the bed). Her sense of humour was infectious and only served to made me laugh. Constantly!
Yep there will be arseholes. There will always be arseholes out there, with or without an ostomy. I read somewhere before that an ostomy is like an arsehole filter. Keeps them arseholes away. So, I figure, if somebody is all weird and shit then they are just not for you (sometimes, they mightn’t be arseholes, just not educated or open minded enough).