I’ve been given the all-clear from breast cancer, but should I ever have a relapse, I worry that my partner will be excluded from my hospital ward, says Aoife Read.
Last year was the toughest one of my life. In January 2014, having recently turned 30, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through surgery, infections, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, radiation burns, and tissue damage, but I was lucky enough to never have to overnight in the hospital. There are many who aren’t so lucky.
But there was one worry for me that I know most of the people in my situation simply didn’t, and don’t ever have to worry about. If I did have to stay overnight, or for a few days, or a few weeks, or even a month, there would always be a fear that at some point I might come across someone who didn’t approve of my relationship. I was frightened that this would prevent the one person who holds my heart and hand in times of crisis from being with me and supporting me.
Not Next of Kin
Straight patients never have to worry that some nurse might decide in the middle of the night that he or she disapproves of their sexual orientation and refuses admittance to their partners. There is nothing that nurse can do to stop a married couple from visiting each other in a hospital. My partner is not my family, so she can’t be named as my next of kin, and as such could be susceptible to being banished from a hospital ward if I was to ever fall ill again, even if we were civil partnershipped. Under that law, you don’t automatically become next of kin for your partner. You have to ask for that privilege.
It won’t be enough that she sat up nights comforting me, that she has held my hand and strengthened my resolve to fight. It won’t be enough that she means everything to me. It won’t be enough that without her I would crumble into a million pieces. None of that will matter if someone in authority in a hospital has issues with my sexuality.
Putting My Life Back Together
Thankfully I got the preliminary all-clear. I still have to have three-monthly check ups and won’t be officially cancer free for five years. But for now its time to start putting my life back together, and part of that is that I want to marry the woman I love and settle down. She has born all the weight of my illness on her shoulders, who has looked at me with passion in her eyes, even when I lost my hair and gained a ton of weight because of the medications I was on, who has loved me because of who I am.
Regardless of the outcome of the referendum on May 22, she has my heart for life. It would be wonderful if we were afforded the same protections going forward as my straight married friends have now, protections that would see one less worry on our shoulders, should I ever have a relapse.
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