What it’s like to be in a new relationship when you have Crohn’s disease

In the summer of 2015, I met my boyfriend Niall Roughley. He’s a dream, tall and handsome as hell (yes I’m quoting Taylor Swift).

When we first got together I kept us a secret from pretty much everyone apart from family. I wanted to just enjoy my time with him before other people got involved. I was also keeping a secret from him. My invisible illness – Crohn’s disease.

I was quite ill when we first got together but I kept it hidden from him. I’d fall asleep all the time and blame it on working so much. I’d be in pain whenever I ate but I’d blame it on heartburn or indigestion or the good old IBS. When we’d go out on dates, I’d go off to the bathroom just to have a little cry in there alone so he didn’t see me in pain. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him with this information; it was maybe that I didn’t want pity and sympathy from him. Or maybe he’d run a mile. Past relationships had been tricky.

Little did I know he wouldn’t care about the future and what may happen to me in the way I thought he’d be bothered. I knew at some point surgery could be an option and my body would of course change. Again little did I know it would change as it has.

I finally told him when I was told my medication was no longer working and surgery was my last option. I was given my surgery date – 16th December 2015.

He was amazing and took the news so well. He told me he’d be with me every step of the way and he was and still continues to be.

He even did his own research and asked me questions, which I appreciated.

On the 16th December I had a full right hemicolectomy. Coming around from the operation I was happy to see my family and Niall by my side. Groggy as hell I was told the operation had been a success and a stoma wasn’t needed.

I remember the first time I saw my scar and I immediately thought I’d repulse Niall but that wasn’t the case.

I guess it’s your own thoughts that haunt you, not the thoughts of others.

Unfortunately a few days later I become quite ill. I had tubes coming from everywhere and I was terrified. I had a scan and was told the join in my stomach was infected. I was put on medication to help this.

I still hadn’t eaten anything at this point and was getting weaker everyday. On the night of Sunday 20th December I had gotten out of bed to go to the bathroom when I felt a lot of pain in my stomach. I had to be carried back to my bed. The pain was indescribable.

I was rolling around the bed screaming and crying. I don’t remember this, I think I’ve blocked it all out.

Close to midnight I was rushed down for an emergency operation. The join in my stomach had torn. I had half a litre of blood collecting in my stomach and I was haemorrhaging. My family were told that if I had been left overnight.. I would have died. And I nearly died in the operation.

This still scares the hell out of me and I still have nightmares about it to this day.

From this operation I was left with my stoma. I was sure Niall would run away from me but I was so wrong. The sad realisation hit us that we wouldn’t get a normal first Christmas together.

It would be spent in hospital. I don’t remember much after this, I think I’ve blocked it out – again.

I was bedridden and spent a week unable to move. My family set a goal to get me out of bed on Christmas Day and wheel me around the hospital to the Christmas tree. Again I don’t remember this.

The only thing I remember is seeing the Christmas tree, touching an ornament on it and breaking down. I didn’t want anything bringing to the hospital. It was just another day to us. I was discharged on 2nd January. I was so happy to finally go home and open my presents.

I’ve since had a third operation and recovered well and I’m waiting to see my surgeon for my date for my next operation.

My relationship with Niall is still as amazing as it was the first day/first week/first month. We had our first holiday together and I was super nervous to be on holiday wearing a bikini but Niall helped me feel my best.

He still tells me everyday that I’m beautiful. My ostomy has never affected our relationship.

Our one year anniversary is coming up and I’m very excited to celebrate our first year together with my wonderful partner.

And Christmas. I can not explain how excited I am for Christmas. I’m like a three year old waiting for Santa. Just to spend it at home and to open my presents and to have a Christmas dinner – with my love.

It’s the little things that matter.

A note from Niall: 

What a year, what can I say? It was tough. Very very tough. Since the day I met Heather I knew she was the one, we started to date a lot towards the end of 2015. But little did I know what was about to unfold, for some time Heather had been coping with a disease that I quite honestly knew nothing about, Crohn’s disease. Three operations and a stoma later and my girlfriend was finally healthy again. The main thing that worried her was her image, and I can put my hand on my heart right now and say my feelings have never changed. She’s still the most beautiful person on the planet! I think for a 23-year-old girl to go through what she has , and have the thoughts that she has shows the measurement of her courage. I think in the 9 months since it happened she has gone from strength to strength, showing her body on the beach on our holidays and me taking her hand proudly still showing her off, true love lets nothing get in the way and I’ll always be there and be that rock that she needs from time to time, what a magnificent woman.. And what a proud man I am!

Words by Heather Grant

3 thoughts

  1. What a story I meet my wife who’s got crohns she’s had it for 24 years and when we meet 18 years ago I had never heard of crohns but I still love her like the first day I meet her so I hope u have many years together

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  2. You are both amazing people.Heather,for what She has gone through,and Niall for sticking by Her in Her time of need.I am a 69 yr old retired Paramedic,who suffered for 4 years with Crohn’s before My Ileostomy surgery last February which is not reversible.I have a great life at last,and able to eat everything.Good Luck to You both for the future.

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  3. Wonderful and so glad that Niall saw past the illness. I was in a relationship when I was diagnosed and the other half found it really difficult but we survived and have now been together Over 30 years. Good luck with you life together.

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