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Rotten luck…

So, just to add to my sad little tale of woe, it appears I now have dry rot. Well, not me personally, but my flat. Although, it seems like quite a good analogy for my brain!!

According to Wikipedia (all hail google and Wikipedia), dry rot is “wood decay caused by certain species of fungi that digest parts of the wood which give the wood strength…”. Yes, this is very much sounding like the MS & epilepsy that ravages my brain and body on a constant basis…And the treatment? Removal of the offending, affected wood and chemically treating the surrounding areas. Sounds a bit savage, but that is the “cure” for certain types of epilepsy and both afflictions are “controlled” chemically. Oh and no, it’s not covered in a standard buildings and contents insurance policy.

The whole dry rot condition is brutal, devastating and requires treatment. Expensive treatment. Epilepsy and MS are much the same. If you’re lucky though, the treatment is free.

Dry rot tends to be an invisible condition. Usually, you don’t know you have it until you want to redecorate or renovate some part of your house (or, as in my case, your neighbours do). As with epilepsy and ms, it’s usually something significant that triggers the eventual diagnosis of the disease. You can’t always guarantee a person’s health based on their physical appearance. These are just 2 so-called invisible illnesses, there are so many. In my immediate family, there is epilepsy, ms, depression, congenital heart defects, Sjogren’s Syndrome, arthritis and dementia. Everyone knows someone who suffers from an invisible illness, although they may not know it. Diabetes, lupus, lime disease are just a few others, but it’s mental health issues that spring to most people’s mind when the term is used.

The last few weeks have been hard. (I seem to say that a lot at the moment!). The dry rot situation left me teetering on the brink of I don’t know what last week. I was meant to meet the builders but instead, I begged my brother. We were going to go together. My brother arrived at my house and I lost it completely. I had a meltdown of epic proportions. Floods of tears, hyperventilating, snot, inability to talk coherently and a steady unwavering conviction that I couldn’t take any more. My brother hugged me for the first time in 46 years (we’re not good at emotions in my family) and he went to the meeting alone and declared he would deal with everything, the builders will deal with him and all I have to do is move out when I get told to, oh and pay for it.

My brother seeing me in the state I was in was a helluva shock for him I think. We’re not good at emotions and we’re all guarded with each other in my family. I find frustration and anger easier to show than fear. It was that fear that my brother got the full brunt of last week. I don’t think for a single second he thought his sister would be crying on his suit jacket that day. This same brother who won’t sit on my sofa in case he gets a cat hair on him, was dealing with me dripping tears and snot instead. Kudos to him. He stepped up and was there when I truly needed him.

There is a point to this rambling about tears, snot and diseases you can’t see. We don’t always know what a person is going through. We don’t know what battles they face on a daily, hourly or minutely basis. We don’t always know what drives certain responses that are sometimes inappropriate. We don’t always show how we are truly feeling to those that really need to know. There is a myriad of reasons for this.

We are often quick to jump to conclusions and even quicker to judge. My house shows no outward signs of being ravaged by rot, but it is. I show no outward signs of being at the mercy of one disease that could kill me at any moment and another that could leave me in a wheelchair, but I am. My dad said to me many many years ago that I had ice water running through my veins. My brother saw last week that I don’t.

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If wishes were horses…

…beggars would ride, but it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

I love a wee idiom or two.

I’ve been trying to find an idiom I could use to make light of (because god knows there seems to be no reason) or would aptly describe my latest medical mystery. A sight for sore eyes maybe? That could, at a real push, be sort of manipulated to mean that an answer, a proper answer, an answer with a definite yes or robust no, would really be very welcome now. The situation is really getting on my last (optic!) nerve.

It’s not my last (optic) nerve yet. The prognosis doesn’t look encouraging though.

So the results of the tests that I talked about here, are back. Sort of. The X-rays were “clear”. Clear of what I’m unsure of and frankly too scared and tired to ask. This time I actually got seen by the ophthalmologist I should have been with on my last trip to the hospital! Maybe that’s the miracle I’ve been waiting for? More likely he couldn’t find a minion…Anyway, after announcing the “good news” about the chest x-rays – I have one, that’s good news and it’s “clear” so I should be grateful for small mercies; I thought the only way is up! I allowed myself to feel hope! After all, it was the x-rays and the bloods that were determining my future! The bloods were also claimed to be a combination of “fine” and “inconclusive” so I felt quite secure in my hope. Then, in the blink of an eye (haha) he ripped my comfort from under me.

Sod.

After examining my eyes. Again. Then repeating it. Then numbing the eyes with the horror that is the “yellow liquid”. He starts to make noises such as “hmm” and “well”. The cold feeling is back in my chest. (I suspect they can’t see a cold feeling on an X-ray). I wanted to weep. However, my eyes were already crying lemon tears and the numbness was having none of it! Apparently, the optic nerve in my right eye is deteriorating. This is new. It has always been the left eye that has the caused the most concern. The right, while not a particularly happy little bunny, was trying its best to be good. I asked the obvious question – what??? (Said in a slightly high-pitched, very unbecoming, almost screech like tone). You were only supposed to tell me that I don’t have ocular sarcoidosis, you weren’t meant to be introducing more problems!!

Apparently, he’s not sure why it’s deteriorating. So, he says we need to look at the previous images taken of your eyes. Sounds reasonable I think. Do a comparison. See what has changed. Until he asks me if I have them. Numb eyeballs are trying to do a shocked expression. I can feel the expression in my soul, but bloody eyes are yellow and not playing by the rules. No, I don’t. But they are right there in your little computer that houses my bloody medical records that are now resembling an A4, small print, pdf version of War and Peace, but with the emphasis very firmly on war! The numbness in my eyes spreads to my mouth. This is an unfamiliar feeling for me. I’m not often lost for words. He then seems to come to the same conclusion himself but decides he can’t really decide what the images are showing and he needs to confer with one of my neurologists. And there was me thinking I was actually in the presence of an ophthalmology god. Silly me.

So, my temporary dumbness dissipates and I ask him what it all means. Apparently, it all means jargon. Followed by a bit more jargon and with a generous sprinkling of not sures. It could be demyelination associated with MS that may require an intervention (I do not know how many times I’ve heard that term when describing my conditions) but if it isn’t that, then he doesn’t really know. They don’t think its NMO, they don’t think its Ocular Sarcoidosis, but it could be another type of optic neuritis, but what type remains a mystery. I wonder if they get paid by repeat visit based commissions….?

I wish I had an answer. Actually, any answer will do right now, as long as it’s the final one. It doesn’t even have to be a pleasant one, but this not knowing what I’m dealing with is just hellish. I don’t feel my sight has got any worse and I’m still dog-tired, so nothing much has changed there. So, this news came as a bit of a blow. And its news that has no immediate answer. I don’t know how to deal with that. If my nerve is going to continue to deteriorate and I’m going to lose my vision in that eye, then I want to know. Now. I want to be able to prepare. Train the cats to be guide dogs (then take them to the office as such hehe) or at the very least make a viable plan for the rest of my life. (Sounds dramatic, but it’s how I feel therefore it’s valid). As it is, I’m just about back to square one.

The only real difference between square one and now is that I do have MS, I do suffer from incredible fatigue (as opposed to the general knackered-ness I used to feel), and I glow bright red twice a day (thanks drugs!).

So, I wish for answers, but until I get them I shall continue to be that squeaky wheel that keeps making enough noise that it really irritates those that have to listen to it, but might be just loud enough for someone medical to do something about it.

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Still Standing…although…

…my knees are a bit wobbly!

In grand terms, I’m still trying to get my head around having Epilepsy and MS.

It took me quite a while to accept epilepsy into my life (and into the lives of those around me), I know it will be the same for MS. Yet, it somehow feels like I have a bit more to lose now.

Frankly, today, yep I’m on a bit of a downer. The whole situation seems very overwhelming for me and I know it also is for my family. Although this is my blog and these are my thoughts and feelings, I am extremely aware that it’s not just me this affects. I have the luxury of being able to get my thoughts out in writing, as I know me better than most and I know I would struggle to successfully say what I am able to write. I don’t know why that is. Although, I suspect it’s because this is my chance to free-wheel, as it were!! I get to write without having to clarify, justify or question what I’m feeling.

Don’t get me wrong. I want people to ask me questions. They often ask about things I haven’t thought of for myself and they often help me see with fresh eyes. Sometimes though, the questions I don’t have answers for scare the living bejesus out of me. It often feels like it’s all “me, me, me,” and do you know what, sometimes it is!! That said though, I know there is no way at all I’d be standing on wobbly knees if it weren’t for the people around me. My family aside, my friends and loved ones are what makes this situation bearable. The ones who call me out on my crap (Sarah – I’m thinking about you especially here :0) ) because they care. The ones who are brutally honest with me and can deliver that honesty with just the right amount of tenderness, keep me strong. The ones who just allow me to be me whether I’m wallowing or moving mountains, without saying a word. The ones who go out for lunch or dinner with me, knowing there is a good chance I’m going to talk/moan about my situation. The ones who sit next to me while we watch tv. The ones who push me on in the gym. The ones who make me laugh when I think I will never laugh again. The ones who let me cry and then ask if I’m “done now, because I’m missing the rugby”. All of them, serve to remind me that I’m not alone and I can do “this”.

So wobbly knees to hell with you!! Hmm – except after a million squats, then you can be as shaky as you want!! I’m changing my life to adapt to that which I need to adapt to. Some of you may not recognise me when I’m done, but that’s ok. Some may choose not to stand with me anymore, but that’s their choice. Others may decide to walk with me, though they’ve never travelled my path, that would be brilliant and I thank them. 

I choose to accept there will always be birdshits on the path of life. I choose to remember that if I stick my head in the sand, I leave my ass exposed. I choose to recognise that if I don’t make decisions about my life, then someone else will do it for me. 

I choose me.

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Epilepsy and ???????

This is going to be a hard one to write I think. Although, the good thing is that, unlike with the last post, I’m actually not having to use voice recognition software. My sight has improved a little. What hasn’t changed, is that I have a second neurological disorder. In reality, I don’t know much more than I did when I last posted, but I need to write this down in order to get my feelings out and some of you have been with me on this journey from day one. If I can’t share it with you, then who….?

Epilepsy has been part of my life for nearly 30 years. I came to terms with having the disease (yes, I can call it a disease…Epilepsy and Words…), a long time ago. Of course, I still have bad days; days of “why me?”, but on the whole, I think I deal with it pretty well. The last couple of months, a new distraction has come my way. It turns out, final diagnosis pending, that I have a second neurological condition. Aren’t I the lucky one! Multiple MRIs, innumerable blood tests and antibody tests, medication galore, a stay in a hospital and the threat of a lumbar puncture later, I still don’t have a name for this new affliction. All I know for sure is that it’s degenerative, it’s cruel and it’s brutal. It tried to take my sight. It preyed on both my optic nerves and brought a degree of terror to my life that I haven’t felt for decades. My eyes aren’t the only recipients of this torture. Other parts of my nervous system have also been attacked. The severity of those attacks is still up for debate. Apparently, it’s “early days” and “too soon to be certain”. I’m still trying to get what’s left of my brain around that!

I’m still finding it all hard to take in. I can’t say I have fully come to terms with what’s going on. I think that’s mainly because I don’t really know what is going on! What I do know is this. I’m not the same person I was just 2 months ago. I can’t help but think I’ve been given a kind of challenge. My brain has thrown down a gauntlet; I have no real choice but to respond. How to reconcile the brain and the body? How to balance the head and the heart.? How to rise to the challenge, fight what is proving to be a bloody battle and not lose my essence? The past weeks have shown me some hard truths and tried to teach me some tough lessons. I say “tried to”, because I don’t think I have really come to terms with enough of this situation to truly be able to know what I’m being taught.

Epilepsy tried to teach me to be strong – but I’m not strong enough. Epilepsy tried to teach me resilience – but I’m not resilient enough. Epilepsy tried to teach my humility – but I’m not humble enough. Epilepsy tried to teach me to be brave – but I’m not brave enough. Epilepsy taught me so much, but it seems I have so much more to learn. I haven’t worked for 2 months, my sight isn’t good enough and another seizure floored me a month ago. Suffering a fit was no great surprise. A combination of stress and the, almost, total lack of sleep really made it a bit of a foregone conclusion! That being said, seizures always knock me for 6 and this one was no exception. I’d only got my chipped teeth fixed at the beginning of the year too!!

Anyway, as is always the case following a fit, reflection takes over at the top of my list of things to do. This time though, my mind was in overdrive anyway and I find that I haven’t been able to fully process the seizure and piece together the events that lead up to it. I’ve blogged before about how I need to be able to put together the timeline in order to start the process of acceptance that I need for me. So, while I know what the trigger for the fit was, I’ve lost time and I don’t know how to fill those hours. Maybe I’ll get to that later…

My jigsaw is featuring heavily in my thoughts at present. The corner pieces are still valid, 45 years worth of the big picture are in place, but what is next? Someone I trust said that you don’t have to have all the jigsaw pieces gathered to know how the picture is going to turn out. That’s very true. So, what do you do when you can see the pattern and don’t like what is forming? Well, you just pick new pieces and use those, right?!

Easy! Job done! haha – if only!! Picking up new pieces means forming new patterns and changing, what may well be, deep-rooted behaviours. For some folks, I dare say those changes may be easy, for others it may require them to embark on the toughest of journeys. It is true that some changes are easier to make than others and it’s also true that what is easy for one is another’s worst nightmare. That’s what makes us individuals. That’s what has been going through my mind. I look at the pieces already laid and I see patterns, I see a lot of habits that aren’t helpful to anyone least of all me. I don’t have all the bits, but I can predict what will happen if I don’t choose a new colour scheme for my brain!! So, it’s time to redecorate. Re-evaluate what is important and what is just window dressing and learn to adapt.

I’m removing toxic people from my life. If they don’t notice, then it proves they have no real place in my life anyway. I’m trying to care less about things of no real consequence; I’m trying to figure out what those are! I’m persuading myself to be open to opportunities and to stop letting fear (or laziness!) from making my life little.

None of us knows what will happen tomorrow, or indeed in the next hour. We can plan what we want to do and map out our days and hours by the minute if we want to, but we simply have no way of knowing what life is going to throw at us at any particular point. There is a saying I can’t quite remember how it goes but it’s along the lines of – “there is nothing more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than the hour”. In broader terms, death truly is the only real certainty in life, but when it will happen is anyone’s guess. So, this leaves the terms of life wide open really and it’s up to the individual how they choose to live it. Life throws spanners at us all the time. Some miss and some get stuck in the wheels, it is up to us to decide what we do about them.

I have achieved much in my 45 years. I’ve seen and experienced extraordinary delights, cultures, people and places. Adrenalin has coursed through my body and driven me to experience some of my wildest dreams. I want to stop saying that in the past tense. Epilepsy taught me so much; this new test will teach me so much more.

 

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Dear brain…

Dear brain,

For 30 years now, you, my body and my soul have been fighting. My body and soul are exhausted from the constant feuding, the intermittent bloody battles and the never-ending war. You have waited, until this time, to play your trump card. You held the hand that no-one saw coming. You were nurturing another neurological affliction alongside, perhaps marginally overlapping, my epilepsy. Well played.

The past 3 weeks have been the most frightening of my life. You still refuse to give up your secrets though and confirm what, exactly, you have in store for me next. My sight is failing – will it return? The nerves I so desperately rely on are scarred and battle weary – will they ever heal? You know the answers, dear brain, please reveal them.

I’m tired, I’m scared and I don’t know how to deal with this. The irony is not lost on my soul. You, brain, control this. You, in all your wonder and secrets, hold the key to everything that I know as “life”. What did I do to wrong you so? Are the 23 tablets I took this morning to help you, along with the 3 more I have to take tonight, not enough for you to know I want you to heal? My soul needs you to heal, my body can’t live without you.

I’m on my knees and begging you now. I’ve tried hard to be strong these past decades. I know that I haven’t always been able to meet your expectations and I know that I have often shrouded you in a dark depression. I haven’t had the courage to ask for help when I needed it most and I know that must have caused you pain. Please don’t punish me.

I resolve, here and now, to be better. I want you to heal, I need you to be well and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Please don’t take my sight. There are so many wonders in this world that I’ve been too afraid to explore. I want the chance to see them.

I don’t want to have to use this voice recognition software, I don’t want to be afraid. I know that my sight can be restored, maybe not to as good as it was, but enough to do the things that still need to be done. I want you back brain. Remember how it used to be for us? It can be like that again, just tell me how. Show the doctors what you need. Please.

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She’s beautiful

5th May 1945

Dear Ted

It’s difficult for me to write you as we are complete strangers, but I’ve heard of you through B.. and no doubt I was mentioned to you perhaps in a letter.

To explain my writing to you –  in B..’s (or did you call him Tommy?) well anyway, in his personal effects one or two of your letters were returned and I felt I must write and break the news to you – even so I’m afraid it’s very delayed.

Last July – the 21st, I heard that B.. was reported missing over Essen. One of his crew was reported POW seven weeks after and he wrote us that he was the sole survivor. Since then, I have heard officially that B.. and the crew are buried at Schoppingen in Germany.

Unless you have heard from any other source I don’t doubt this news will be a great shock to you. Naturally, it was a very bitter blow to me – after four months of married life. He was a good guy and well thought of.

I found your home address in amongst books, papers etc and I’m hoping your mother or wife will pass it on to you wherever you are. If you have written at all, I expect your letters will have been returned so you’ll know now just why.

I trust you are in good health and spirits at the latest turn in this darned war.

Sincerely yours,

P..T..

PS Tommy has a daughter too – what a pity he didn’t know she’s beautiful.

The above letter was written to my Uncle Ted.  It’s one of a few letters he received, that have survived intact from his time serving during and after World War II. I was going through some of the letters today and this one made me sit quietly and think, as it has done every time I’ve read it. Yesterday (27th January) was Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the nazi death camps. The letters that my uncle received tell only a fraction of the human stories behind the tragedies, behind the atrocities. The letters are a sobering insight into the true cost of fighting tyranny. The memorials serve to not only remember those that lost their life but to remind us that we must never let it happen again.

I personally find it slightly surreal and incredible that on the same day that we remember the millions that died in the nazi death camps because of their religious belief, sexual orientation or political standing, POTUS signs an order “protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process”. Interestingly, though this order is publicised as an action of his first week in office, the actual order has yet to be published. Its widely reported that this presidential order bans refugees and those from 7, predominantly Muslim, countries.

There seem to be no such qualms about publishing the order that reinforces the intention to build a wall between the US & Mexico.

Actions have consequences. It’s simply physics. Actually, I may take the liberty of rewording that, there is, in my opinion, nothing simple about physics! Newton’s Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Now Newton may have been talking about motion, but the law is just as applicable, I think, to human behaviour. In simple terms, actions have consequences.

I was speaking to my friend (the little minx from my last blog post). She told me how she had come to a new school, struck up a friendship with a boy and had no thoughts about who and how people were linked by friendships. Her actions had completely unintentional consequences. She said that she just lacked an awareness of what was going on around her and she feels that trait has actually followed her through her life. She had no idea of the profound effect her actions were having on me. She gave me another example of a throwaway comment she made that was relayed back to her decades later. Again, she spoke with no thought for the consequence. She wasn’t being deliberately cruel or spiteful – she doesn’t have those bones in her body -, from her perspective, in the case of X, all she was doing was making a friend and the case of the throwaway comment, she was just thinking out loud. We all do it. We all do it multiple times a day. What we don’t all do is have the awareness to realise when we should just keep quiet. Little Minx (she’s gonna hate me for dubbing her that) has learned the lesson, though. She now has enough self-awareness to recognise her occasional lack of sensitivity to what it going on around her.

The point is (yes, there is a point) we aren’t always aware of what is going on around us. We don’t always know what battles others are fighting. That harsh word spoken to you by a colleague may be the consequence of a turmoil they are experiencing of which you have no knowledge. I try to remind myself of this. I admit, I sometimes forget to remind myself of this. It’s not always easy to disconnect from a hurtful comment, but if it comes from a person who isn’t usually deliberately hurtful, then maybe it’s time to ask them if they’re ok or if you can be an ear for them. Maybe if we were all just a little more considerate, charitable and kinder toward each other, there would be altogether less pain in the world. The only actions you can control are your own. The only reactions you’re responsible for are your own.

It’s now Sunday and I’m thinking about P..’s words about her daughter. Her father, shot down over Germany, fighting a war to end tyranny and persecution. Her mother’s letter to a stranger to explain a lack of communication. An act of kindness to put a potentially troubled mind at ease. A simple declaration of facts without effusive emotion, but leaving in no doubt that the writer was a caring, kind person. Widowed after only 4 months of marriage and mother to a beautiful child who would never know her father. All actions have consequences. The ones you see, the ones you anticipate and the ones you have no idea about. Be mindful of this as you go about your day.

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Am I the only one who…

I’m pretty certain, actually, 100% convinced, that I’m not the only one who silently cheers when I read a headline that states the bull gored the bullfighter to death. Hell, I’m also pretty certain I’m not the only one who engages in a little fist pump to go along with said quiet acknowledgement of the bull’s victory. I don’t actually read the article mind you. I find it far too distressing that bullfighting is still acceptable, in some parts of the world.

I know for a fact I’m not the only one who reminisces about my youth with a little rosy glow and perhaps some tinted specs. I was chatting with a friend about this very topic, and in particular, first love a few days ago. I hope she doesn’t mind me reproducing it here to dramatic effect… Actually, I know she won’t mind because I said I was going to, and if the subject of my first love happens to be reading this – yes, I know you know who you are – then, I hope your memories are as fond as mine. To spare his blushes, I won’t use his real name but will refer to him as, simply, X.

I think I can safely say that the loss of X at the tender age of 10, was my first foray into heartbreak. I cried rivers over him. Sadly, he was not the last boy I have cried over. We first met around the age of 6 at school (no brainer really). We became virtually inseparable very quickly and we spent every spare moment we had (you know, that time between school finishing and tea time and then again between tea time and bed time) together. I was either at his house or he was at mine. I loved being at his house, it was so much bigger than mine, plus he had a sister and I’d always wanted one of them. Hmm, was I materialistic 6-year-old or were my preferences borne out of his house having just so many more rooms to play in? I clearly remember that the bathroom was significantly larger than my apartment is today and I can’t get close to describing how wonderful his garden was. So, materialistic tendencies aside, our friendship blossomed into the kind of romance that only kids seem to have. Pure, cute, tender, loving and safe. We were joined at the hip. We would hold hands and kiss during playtime at school (this was the 70s; it wasn’t illegal then!), we would sit in the field behind my house and talk about our future. We were obviously going to be married. We were obviously going to have 6 kids, although I think we both believed that you either bought babies at a special shop or the stork left them under a rose bush. We were going to live on a farm and we were going to be blissfully happy with each other. We never said “until our dying day”, as we didn’t know what death was.

Then, at the age of 10, he got the whiff of fresh meat and I was dumped. I was devastated. The little minx who stole him away from me was a new girl at school. She came, she saw and she got my man! I went from spending all my time with X to staying inside and crying on the floor. Such was my heartbreak. My Mother explained away my pain by simply claiming that I’d never really had a friend before X (bit brutal, I had friends!) and that I was not grieving the loss of my soulmate and future husband, but merely the loss of a friend. I didn’t really understand what she was banging on about then, but nearly 40 years later I can understand that she wasn’t ready to see her 10-year-old married off to some cad who could so easily have his head turned. Then, the unexpected happened, X’s Mother whipped him out of the local primary school and sent him across the country to another school. Well, it was actually in a nearby village, but it could have been another country for all the difference it made. Neither I nor new girl saw him again.

The friend I was chatting with a few days ago about first loves, is actually the new girl who stole my man. We actually became great friends. She asked me the other day why I didn’t hate her. I answered, quite truthfully, that I didn’t know I was supposed to. It wasn’t her who had hurt me; X was the cause of my suffering. I’ve heard that used as an excuse by those who carry on dalliances with married men/women. The fact that they are not the one actually cheating on the wife/husband, would seem to absolve them from all liability. Obviously, this example is a little different to my childhood love, but it’s an interesting argument to ponder.

With heartbreak number 1 securely under my belt. Comprehensive school beckoned and a whole new game began.

I don’t imagine I’m the only one that had their heart smashed to smithereens as a child. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was hurting so much. My Mother’s attempts to make me feel better failed miserably. Actually, when I really think about it, I don’t think I’ve talked to her about boys since! Oh dear. The first boy I brought home at around 16, was met by my Father and our exuberant Boxer dog! He didn’t come to my house again and I never brought another boyfriend back to meet my parents. The next guy they met had already been living with me for a few months before they even got to hear about him, let alone meet him!

My dad took full advantage of Rusty – the Boxer – and the fact that all you had to do to make Rusty foam at the mouth and look like he was going to eat you alive, was grab his collar. Rusty was a rescue dog. He was the subject of an RSPCA prosecution case and so we didn’t get to know much about him, but my dad was told a few facts when he and my Mother went to see him. My Dad had Boxer dogs all his adult life. I got my first Boxer – Skipper –  when I was a mere toddler. Truth be known, I’d spent months stamping up and down the stairs at home chanting “I want a pony” and getting a puppy Boxer instead (I like to think he was all mine, but actually he was for the family) was simply the best thing to ever happen to me. Anyway, the point is, my dad knew Boxers and knew how to handle them. Skipper had died, I’d finally come out of my room and my brother had started to speak again, and it was time for another dog. My parents crossed the mighty Pennines, passed the dark, satanic mills and arrived at a Boxer rescue centre.

Rusty, or Rastas, as he was then called was approximately 2 years old. This was his second stay in a centre and he was proving extremely difficult to rehome. My parents were his last chance. His previous rehoming ended badly when he was simply turfed back out onto the streets of Manchester to fend for himself. Sickening to do that to an animal. Rusty was wearing a red cat collar. The centre said that he simply refused to have it removed. Rusty was also bald, one of his jowls had been ripped, his jaws no longer fitted together and he had been beaten and kicked badly enough that it seemed a rib or two had broken and healed. My Dad took the lead and collar we’d used for Skipper and put them on Rusty. The centre didn’t think Rusty would walk with my dad or even take to him at all, such was his experiences. But, that could not have been further from what happened. Rusty walked with my Dad as if he was at Crufts. We had our new family member. It wasn’t always easy with Rusty, but he and I formed an incredibly special bond. He was, without any doubt, my dog. I remember when my parents brought him into the house on that first day. I was standing in the kitchen and the back door opened. This thing just charged in, charged through every room in the house, ran up and down the stairs and finally jumped up at my Dad, nearly knocking him off his feet. We definitely had a lot of work to do with this fella. We managed to get his cat collar off and replace it with Skipper’s old one. It was pretty loose for a while, but as Rusty started to gain weight (and fur) it seemed the right place for it to be.

We don’t know the outcome of the RSPCA prosecution case against Rusty’s former owners. I don’t want to know the full horror that Rusty went through as a puppy. I do know that when he sadly had to be put to sleep, he had had an amazing life with a family that loved him very much. Rusty brought a lot of joy into my family and I like to think we gave him a really happy life in return. I’m not the only one who can’t understand why humans treat other species with such cruelty and I commend all those that work tirelessly to try to make sure mistreated animals are represented, rescued and cared for.

In case you’re wondering, I do know what became of X. Although, we haven’t seen each other since we were kids, we are in touch. I like to remind him that he broke my heart and hence ruined me for every man I’ve met subsequently. I suspect he believes he had a lucky escape…!