Last Christmas was my worst one on record. It should have been the happiest – the first Christmas we had as a family of four, our baby girl being born in the summer before. Instead, we’d had the year to end all years, my husband had spent eight months in hospital after suffering a major thrombosis in May. He’d had to have surgery to remove 3m of his small bowel, after two huge blood clots formed due to a blood disease he never knew he had.
He was finally allowed home a few days before Christmas, but although he was home, he was being fed through a drip, had a temporary stoma and a massive wound from the surgery, which bled fairly regularly and meant he was unable to venture very far. Our home was transformed into a hospital, with an extra fridge installed for all his medicines and drip stands to hold the 3kg of fluid he needed daily. Our shed and the upstairs of the house was crammed with boxes of medical dressings and nursing supplies. But he was home, we were together as a family again and the relief to be away from the hospital environment was immense. Added to that, he’d just been taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where he’d been seen by a consultant who gave him a glimmer of hope about his condition. He was confident he would be able to operate in the new year to reverse the stoma, get rid of the colostomy bag, the drip and at least some of the medicines he was taking.
Funnily enough, for all the sadness I felt at watching him being at home but so weak and vulnerable, he looks upon last Christmas as a happy time, when he was given the freedom to come home and think positively about what was to come. I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for that, and after the hard times we’d been through it helped me stay positive too. At the back of our minds was always the thought that we’d nearly lost him, and anything was better than him not being here at all.
So we got through Christmas, pretending to our children that everything was fine, and daddy was home and it would all be ok. Baby gal was far too young to know, of course, but first born seemed relatively unaffected by the whole situation, accepting it in the way we’re told children just do. We really wanted to cancel Christmas, forget it was happening and take to our beds for a month, but clearly with two kids that was never going to be possible, so we did what most people would have done, and carried on “as normal”. The day after he returned home, we went to a Christmas concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic that we’d bought tickets for months earlier, thinking he would be so much better than he was. Looking back, I’m wondering how we actually managed to go, reindeer headgear on and jingle bells in hand, trying to ignore what was really happening and get into the festive spirit.
This year, we’re booked into the concert again, and hopefully it will be a much more regular family outing. Throughout all those months when things were at their worst, all we wished for was for things to be normal; no dramas, ups and downs or major revelations. And I’m hoping that’s what it will be like this Saturday. We’ll get up, get ready, go to the concert, have fun, feel festive, be a family, come home and go to bed. No drips, no dressings, and no dramas.