This week is Parkinson's Awareness week and I will be blogging about my experience as the partner of a person with Parkinson's, but first here is the story of how we met.
When my fiancé and I first met, he was on his stag night and we were strangers - he was roughly six weeks away from marrying someone else. Before you brand me a dirty harlot, please do read our love story.
It was March, most of my friends have their birthday's around September-January and in 2010 most of us turned 30. With another friend turning 30 in May 2011 we decided to have a weekend away - the destination we chose was Bristol. I have no idea why but we did. Many things happened to change the course of that weekend. Firstly the apartment we were staying in was changed last minute and we ended up staying in a different location than we had already planned, my friend and I were invited to a wedding and so ended up going up a day later and, that special night in question, had a group of very ungentlemanly lads not stolen our minibus, we would have arrived back to our apartment 30 minutes earlier. So when we did get back to our apartment, we saw this -
I really wasn't too bothered about this random stranger. My friend Karen, who's pictured, went to stand with him because there was a rather dodgy looking man near him and she was worried he was going to be mugged (I've only just noticed said man has his trousers undone!). When she reached him he was absolutely freezing cold, so drunk he could hardly speak and had no phone or money on him - I mean where could he store these things in his little swim costume?
(He was meant to be Baywatch Barbie)! So we took pity on him and allowed him to warm up in the reception area to our apartment. After trying to get some sense out of him we realised he had no idea where he was staying (we discovered years later he had almost reached his hotel before we accosted him) and it could potentially be dangerous to send him back out in his state at around 3am in the morning and so someone suggested he sleep on the couch. Being the only mammy of the group at the time I was very much against it - he could be a psycho or a serial killer - but they told me I was being paranoid. Still, I took all sharp objects into the bedroom with me and booby-trapped the room with items outside that he would knock over should he get up at night, and when he did get up, I was out there like a shot, supervising his toilet trip (door closed) until he went back to the living room.
Here in Exhibit A, the dramatic return of said sharp object to the kitchen when he left.
So the following morning, again being a mammy used to being up early I got up, showered, changed and went in to the living room to surprisingly find our stag was still there, pretty worse for wear! I believe I got him some paracetamol and water and we talked. He told me about his fiancé, the colour and the theme of the wedding and I recommended he pop in to Harvey Nichols to get her an amazing gift. I told him where we were from, brief chit chat and then it was time for him to go. He was a builder from Wiltshire but we didn't truly believe him because he was too well spoken with a good body, not a beer belly in sight (sorry builders, I promise I don't stereotype you anymore).
A week later I received a random message on Facebook from someone called Ryan - the stag! He had remembered the town in Wales that we were from because he was meant to deliver a disability bus that had been built by a company he worked for years previously to our town - crazy coincidence huh?! We have also seen the bus many times! Anyway he thanked us for looking after him. Over the next few weeks we sent a random message here and there, completely platonic of course. I asked about the wedding, he responded, nothing intense. Then he disappeared. A few weeks later he messaged to say he wouldn't be online for a while. Unfortunately the relationship had broken down, they had called off the wedding and he was taking some time to adjust. My 10 year relationship had ended in 2007 and although it was four years previous, I still remembered the pain, so we swapped numbers and chatted. After a little while I offered him a trip to Wales, completely as friends of course! My children were going to be with their dad for the weekend and I offered him the spare room, he accepted.
I picked him up at Swansea station, he came in for a hug and as he always laughs, I jumped back. The reason I jumped was because I felt something I hadn't felt before, my body lit up, it felt like sparks were flying through me, that thunder bolt when two souls re-connect - it's true people! I'd felt nothing when we met, possibly because I'd closed off any feelings as I knew he was taken but the feelings I felt when we re-connected were intense and I knew I wanted to be with this man. So we went into Swansea and that's probably when I fell in love because I discovered this man loves to shop and I mean really loves to shop! He'll shop anywhere, people hate shopping with me because I can shop for hours, he out shops me!!!
That evening we talked, my idea was that I'd help fix him, what happened in fact was that he fixed me. Within about half an hour of talking he ripped down a wall I didn't know I was hiding behind. I'd recently been diagnosed with depression and had been given anti-depressants and he helped me battle my demons. He was my knight in shiny red spandex. The weekend stay turned into nine days. In that time he ended up in A&E with me when my then two year old said she's swallowed a penny (she hadn't) and I had laughed like a hysterical fool when the nurse called him daddy!
It will be six years on April 16th that we re-connected. In that time he joined my business and helped it grow in a way I could have never -we work amazingly well together (in different offices). We've had a beautiful daughter together and he's taken my oldest two on as his own - they worship him and know how lucky they are to have such an amazing man in their life. He also gets on very well with their biological daddy who is also happy that he's in their life, they regularly talk and the girls' biological dad is always joking that they'd better be careful when they have boyfriends because Ryan will be there watching, it's beautiful!
But we've also been handed what could possibly be a life sentence, Ryan was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's in 2014 at the age of 36. The social man I fell in love with, the one that helped me through my demons is now fighting his own battle, anxiety and depression being one of the symptoms of his condition, which he manages as best he can. He is regularly in pain and as there's no cure, he's deteriorating every day.
This is what true love is all about. Love is not a Disney movie. Your partner may not arrive in shiny armour, mine arrived in a mankini! Instead of moving into a ready-made castle, you'll build a home together. Your love may bring little princes and princesses in to your life, they may be of the fur variety. Your vows to have and to hold, in sickness and in health may be something you truly do end up honouring. And you may face challenges and devastation that they never warn you about in the movies. But love, love prevails all, it really does, you just have to work bloody hard for it.
I adore love stories, please do feel free to share your love story with the world in the comments below. If you'd like to know more about our Parkinson's journey, please feel free to follow me on Twitter.