Hey Dolly Dealer!

Hi all! For those of you that don’t know me, I am Deborah’s partner Ryan. You have all read Deborah’s story so far, but I thought it would be a good idea to let you guys see things from a different angle. This is my side of the story. Make yourselves a brew, position that biscuit tin within easy reach, get comfy and strap yourselves in because here we go…….. 
May 2017, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and there I was sat on the toilet at work frantically trying to book tickets to see Micky Flanagan at the Sheffield Arena for his upcoming show the following month. I’m not sure how long I sat in that cubicle watching the little circle spin around whilst waiting for confirmation, but for my troubles all that I ended up with was a sore backside and shattered dreams. My Internet browser session had timed out! Typical! Just my luck. I’d missed out again. Or so I thought. My friend had managed to get through and was just about to buy the tickets when she asked if I wanted one. Boooom! I was back in the game. Like old milk, my luck was on the turn………in a good way! 
Fast forward to 24th June 2017, a day I will never forget. My friends and I were enjoying a few beers in the pub beer garden before the show, the sun was out, and there was a buzz of excitement in the air. After a long painful stint on the dating scene, I had made the decision to stop looking for “The One” and concentrate on myself for a while. I felt incredible for the first time in a very, very long time. Life was good. We made our merry way into the arena full of excitement and overpriced lager to take our seats for the gig. The lights went down, the show started and I was happier than a pig in…….well, you get the idea. 

Halfway through the gig, the interval came around. My face was hurting from all the laughter, my bladder was full of lager and it was my round. I made my way to the bar, which was already packed and as I was deciding which que to join, I heard the most infectious laugh coming from somewhere in front of me. Two women emerged from the crowd and joined the que near me and being young(ish), free, single and ever so slightly inebriated, I very quickly found myself standing behind them. All thoughts of “taking time out to concentrate on me” had left the building. I swear that at one point, the lady with the laugh turned around in slow motion, tossed her hair, angels were singing, wind was blowing, I’m talking serious movie moment here. In my head I thought I could stroll up behind them, strike up a conversation with a winning ice-breaker and leave with another four pints of lager and a phone number. The reality is that I stood behind them and did nothing. Disappointed in myself for being such a coward, I stood back and quietly chuckled at their antics. The lady with the infectious laugh noticed me laughing at them both and loudly whispered something to her friend. I’d been rumbled. Fully expecting a grilling from them, imagine my surprise when I was offered a Dolly Mixture. I don’t even like Dolly Mixtures, but I took it anyway and conversation ensued. I was in! I couldn’t believe my luck! Within minutes she asked me if I thought I could fit one of those round Dolly Mixtures in my ear and proceeded to pop it in there. I was so amazed that this woman was giving me her attention I just stood by and let it happen. Before I knew it, we were at the front of the que and I had 100% fallen head over heels for this amazingly funny and beautiful woman. I was just about to ask for her phone number when my friend appeared to help me with the drinks. She must have thought that my friend was actually my girlfriend, because she quicky said her goodbyes and scuttled off back to her seat.

All through the rest of the show I couldn’t stop thinking about her and when it was time to leave, I waited by the exit for my brother and found myself searching the crowd like some kind of Terminator-esque cyborg. I knew I had more chance of inventing a cure for the common cold, but there I stood…… scanning…… scanning……. scanning…….. TARGET AQUIRED. Could it be? Yes! There she was heading towards me. What the hell was I going to say to her? I was totally unprepared. Luckily, she saw me and came over for a chat. I was not going to let this chance go begging. We had a photo, exchanged Facebook details and went our separate ways. On the journey home I must have checked my phone more than a hundred times. I didn’t want to seem too keen and I wasn’t even sure if she was even attracted to me so I told myself not to text her until the next day, but then a message came through. It said “Hey Dolly Mixture guy”. Trying to disguise my utter excitement I casually replied “Hey Dolly dealer”. 
That was the story of how I met the love of my life Deborah and the rest is history. 
Fast forward to 2020. Arguably the worst year in recent history for everyone on the planet. Going into lockdown I thought “How bad can this be?” Working from home, spending more time with my family, learning how to video call and coming up with new and fun ways to go out without actually going out. How wrong could I be? 
I’m not very good with dates, but if you have read Deborah’s blogs you will already know the details. When Deborah first became ill, I remember putting it down to her being exhausted as she was still going out to work during lock down. Days went by and she was getting worse. I quicky became exhausted, both physically and mentally. I was now in charge of all housework, shopping, cooking and cleaning. All whilst trying to fit in some work here and there. Anyone that says being a full-time mum or dad is easy needs a good hard slap in the face! Deborah was soon going in and out of hospital and so her son was packed off to his Nanna’s house until things calmed down. I suddenly had time to take in what was happening. Seeing Deborah deteriorating like that was heart-breaking and because of the safety measures in place I couldn’t even go to visit her. I often found myself sat at my desk staring at my laptop. Why was this happening to such a wonderful human being? I had to wait 34 years to find my soul mate and now 3 years on I had no idea if I would ever see her again.

I began to worry that I wasn’t doing enough work and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t concentrate on anything for very long. One day I received an email from my manager explaining that all the members of my team had been given a £10 voucher as a thank you for the hard work we had put in during the first few months of lockdown and I broke down in tears. It was the tiniest of straws, but my goodness did it break this camel’s back. To hear that I was actually doing ok at work when I thought I was failing was too much for me emotionally. Just when it seemed that we were getting nowhere with a diagnosis, we got the answers we had been waiting for. Deborah’s mum broke the news to me that it was MS. My heart sank when I heard those two letters and my body felt like it weighed a tonne. It took all my strength to hold myself up. Inside I was screaming but I had to hold myself together, because Deborah’s son was sat in the next room oblivious to what was going on around him. It felt like my world was crumbling down around me and all I could do was stand by and watch it happen. 
After a few days and a hell of a lot of googling, I learned that MS does not have to be all doom and gloom if managed properly which was a huge relief. As the weeks went by and I watched Deborah getting stronger and stronger, I began to feel hopeful that things might actually be ok in the end. 
We had to wait a few months until Deborah had her first infusion and it was a relief to me that things were finally moving along in the right direction. Or at least that’s what I thought. 
It was a Sunday night in October and I’d been for a nap after one of Deborah’s world-famous Sunday roasts. I woke up feeling a little groggy and went downstairs for a drink. I spoke to Deborah and noticed that there was something not quite right. She seemed very quiet and couldn’t make eye contact with me. What had I done now? Had I left the toilet seat up again? Had I accidentally peed on the bathroom floor again? Eventually I asked her what was wrong and after a long talk she said it wasn’t working and she wanted me to move out. Was this some bad joke? How long had I been asleep for? Did I even wake up? This was really happening. I hadn’t been hit this hard since I was knocked down by a car when I was seven years old. The next day I packed my things, drove back to Sheffield and moved into my parent’s house. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had to throw some homemade cheesecake in the bin once and it nearly killed me, but this was another level of hard. 

Five days went by and although we text each other every day I was still surprised to hear from Deborah on that Friday morning. I knew there was something not right about the situation we were in so when she asked me if I could go over to see her to talk, I jumped in the car and drove back to our house. I even changed into my best shirt and jeans, trimmed my beard and put on some aftershave like it was our first date. I was determined to change her mind and in sheer desperation I thought that a splash of scent and a nice shirt might just do the trick. 
It felt so strange to be knocking on my own front door but when Deborah answered with tears in her eyes, she greeted me with that winning smile that I fell in love with all those years ago. I’d never been so happy to see her, despite this horrible situation we both found ourselves in. We sat down to talk and she told me that I deserved answers to all the unanswered questions I had about this break up and wanted to tell me her real reasons. 

Everything she wanted to say was in a letter that she had wrote at 3am that morning. The jist of the letter was that she did not want to be a burden on me when the MS got worse and did not want that kind of life for me. I could see how much pain she was in and genuinely felt that this was the right thing to do, but it was not what she wanted. I pleaded with her for the next hour or so and told her that it was my choice and my privilege to look after her when things got bad, but she wouldn’t have it. She was resolute in her decision even though it was killing her inside. As I was leaving to go back to my parent’s house, I told her I was having none of it and this is not where we end, then got in the car and set off on what seemed like the longest thirty-minute journey ever. 
As I was driving, I heard a text message come through so when I pulled up at my destination, I picked up my phone to see who it was from. It was Deborah! What had I left there? I mean, that was the only reason I could think of for her to text me again so soon. I had to read the text two or three times to make sure that I wasn’t seeing things. My perseverance must have worked because she wanted me to come back home right away. She had realised that she couldn’t go through all this without me and was so sorry she had put me through this.

From my many hours googling, I had discovered that MS sufferers sometimes have something called “brain fog” that basically means all cognitive thinking and reasoning go straight out of the window. This was one of those episodes. I couldn’t accept Deborah’s apology because there really wasn’t anything for her to apologise for. It was this damn MS doing all the talking. 
A few months on and our relationship is stronger and we are closer than we have ever been. I won’t lie and say that it is all plain sailing, but there is hope and after the year we have all had the future is starting to look a little brighter. 
This has been a version of events from my point of view. The aim of this guest blog is to represent the loved ones of MS sufferers and highlight that although, in comparison it is nothing compared to being an actual sufferer, we as partners, friends and family can suffer because of MS too. I hope that by reading this, other people in this situation can find some help from my experience and maybe even share their stories too. 
If anyone tries to tell you that superheroes only exist on TV and in movies, tell them they are wrong. I should know. I fell in love with one. 

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