To start Sign Your Name, I’ve posted each of the significant days that I logged on Facebook starting with Gail’s last day: July 29th 2018.
To put these posts in a proper chronological order, I’ve had to date this entry before she passed but, of course, in reality it was written in 2019.
Original posts taken from social media are denoted by italics. If I’ve wanted to explain something further or add comments then these are in standard font. After working on this for six months, I launched the site proper on the first anniversary of Gail’s passing. I can’t feel I can do anything else for her that will mean so much.
When I’ve caught up with what I feel are the relevant social media posts – I feel they are significant in that they reflected my moods and feelings at the time – I’ll spend some more time on grief and what I’ve learned about it.
Be aware though, this blog has no answers. As I keep getting told ‘Everyone is different’. It’s just that I found aspects that no-one told me about and no-one seemed to understand. All I want to do is document how I felt – I hate the word ‘journey’ in this context but insert it here if you wish – create a blog to honour Gail and have something to refer too if anyone asks.
This could quite easily become a blog about healthcare and the strains on the NHS but I’ll try to avoid that and just say that Gail suffered from SLE – System Lupus Erythematosus – better known as Lupus; an evil auto-immune disease for which there is no cure, in which the body fights itself thinking it has diseases it hasn’t got. I’ve written an article or two on it and I may point you in the direction of that later but, for the time being, let’s just say Gail was in constant pain but bore it with an incredible stoicism that I could only marvel at.
Part of Lupus is that it attacks various organs at will and one of the common ailments is a ‘fatty liver’. This is the liver of a heavy drinker and one with which the person having that liver had probably better stay away from alcohol. Gail didn’t. It was part of her personality to be the life and soul. She was vibrant, attractive, fun to be around and seemed to dance in a spotlight that was permanently on her.
She did – as they say – ‘like a drink’. Not in a way that would mean she came home in a wheelbarrow at 3am – she never did anything like that – nor was she ever out of control and stupid. But she might have two when I’d have one. We talked about it, of course, but she was determined to live her life to the full, aware that she had been diagnosed having ‘very low prospects for a long life’ when she was still in her 20’s. She was 56 in July 2018.
Ultimately though, Lupus attacked her liver badly in late 2017 and she was diagnosed with Cirrhosis or End Stage Liver Disease in spring of the following year. It’s then you find the person who was so desperate to live life on their own terms suddenly wants it to go on a bit longer. She’d had spells before where she’d just stop drinking – hardly the actions of an alcoholic I’d suggest – but she stopped completely in the autumn of 2017. Gail was fighting hard throughout the summer and it says much for her spirit and determination that, although she was unwell, the end came as a shock for me and also, it was confirmed later, the Doctors.
When I left her on the evening of Saturday 28th, I stopped off to speak to a Doctor and ask how she was doing. “She’s very ill, of course, but we just need to balance things and get her stable, then we can get on with improving her health”. “We’ll get there” he called out as I closed the door. It was likely had she survived this she would have had a liver transplant as the hospital were happy that she wasn’t an alcoholic, had given up when needed and could lead a normal life with a new liver.
I didn’t get to the hospital in time the following morning. I’d had the ‘You might want to get here’ call but, unfortunately, my local hospital where she’d been for the previous month, just five minutes drive away, had transferred her to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge on the previous afternoon. Cambridge was an hour’s plus drive.
I have a reputation for never being on time. I even missed my wife’s death.