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Living with Crohn’s Disease: My Story, Chapter 3

When faced with anything unknown, the first instinct is typically to just soak up as much information as possible, and learn as much as you can. And that’s exactly what we did. We became like sponges – and what we learned was pretty scary. Despite the delightful and hilarious way we found out what I was wrong with me, (my Crohn’s Disease diagnosis) this disease sounded pretty awful. Fighting chronic inflammation for the rest of my life did not sound pleasant. And now that I’m a Mom, I can only imagine how my parents must have been feeling. I’m sure this is not what they had in mind when they imagined the bright future of their 20 year old daughter. But you take it one day at a time, and cross each bridge as you go. We stuck together and kept talking to the doctors… and as I settled into the idea of a lifelong disease, with no known cure, I started to think about what that meant for my future. Can I have kids? Can I still play sports? Will I be able to hold a job? What can I eat? More importantly, what CAN’T I eat? I’m gonna need to be able to drink Dr. Pepper. If I can’t drink Dr. Pepper – … well I don’t even know what I would do. And there was one question, that despite all the other huge issues I was dealing with, plagued me in the back of my mind. It might sound silly to worry about this in the face of what I was going through, but to me as a 20 year old woman who very much wanted a family someday, this was a very important question. “Will someone want to marry me, knowing I have a chronic illness?” And when I say “someone,” I should point out – I already knew who I wanted that “someone” to be. These days, I call him “Hubbalicious.” But let’s back up a bit and start this story at a time when I didn’t know, and my husband-to-be was still a question mark.

In Chapter 2 I talked about moving to Provo, UT when I was 19 with a friend of mine and that I met my husband Tim there. But I didn’t mention the big gap between when we met and when we actually got married. By the way, I do realize this sounds more like our lovestory, than a story about my Crohn’s Disease diagnosis. But for me, the two stories entertwine so much, that it’s hard to keep them separate. So many big things were happening all at the same time, that I can’t really explain how Crohn’s Disease affected my life without talking about my husband and our relationship.

I was actually dating someone else when I moved there. He was a sweet guy but we hadn’t been dating long. He would send me letters and we were kinda doing the long distance thing. One night soon after we moved there, my girlfriend and I went to a social activity for our church at The Marriott Center on the BYU Campus to play Capture the Flag. Afterwards, we all got into our friend’s car (who happened to be Tim’s roommate) to go get Slurpees and there weren’t enough seats… so this tall, skinny, (and pretty obnoxious from what I could tell) guy offered me his lap in the front seat. Seriously dude? I did not want a Slurpee that bad. I don’t even like Slurpees… I look back on it now and laugh now because the 7-11 was about 2 minutes away and it’s not like he was hitting on me… at least I don’t think he was. Were you hitting on me Hubby? Anyway, it was so not a big deal. I’m not sure why I was so anti-Tim’s lap. Now it’s one of my favorite places to sit! Anyway, my friend volunteered to sit with him (I’m pretty sure she had a crush on the driver) and I took a seat in the back. He was goofy and obnoxious… He didn’t seem to take anything seriously. We were good friends with his roommates though, so we were always in the same group, and after we got to know him, we realized he’s just Tim. Crazy, goofy, funny Tim.

Not very long after that, the guy I was dating long distance, showed up to my apartment in Utah on a surprise visit. I was so surprised! He drove all the way from Seattle! We hung out for a while and got caught up, but I had sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, because by the end of the day – I knew I had to tell him: I just didn’t feel that way about him anymore. It felt awful because he was a great guy, and I knew I had hurt him. It was not fun, and even though I had plans to go with friends to a bonfire, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and cry. There is a significance to this story that has to do with Tim, I promise. Because this is the first time, I looked at Tim and saw a glimpse of something more. Me and my girlfriend ended up giving Tim a ride to the bonfire and I was crying in the backseat while I told her all about it. He really had no idea what was going on, he just knew my boyfriend had come to see me and that now  I was crying. And for me, this is when it all changed: I’ll never forget this… he said, “Do you want me to break his legs?” I know it sounds dumb, but I knew then that I liked him a lot more than I thought I did. He made me laugh out loud while I was in the middle of crying, and I knew he meant it. He didn’t like seeing me cry, and I saw a glimpse of something sweet, instead of just being silly all the time. As the days went by, we became better friends and ended up going on a road trip to Colorado with my roommates for their brother’s homecoming game. That was when our friendship turned into something more. It was on accident of course, because we went to go get Subway for everyone – we ended up sitting in the restaurant for what felt like hours and missed the game. I can remember sitting across from him, listening to him talk and thinking, “This is a really good conversation, how have I never seen this side of you before?” We were pretty much together after that.

When I talk about my life in Provo, its important to realize is how short my timeline was. I moved there the last weekend of August 2000, Tim kissed me for the first time on Thanksgiving day, I went home for Christmas Break (which is when my parents freaked out over how sick I looked) and I moved home at the beginning of January. So I spent 3 months with Tim as “friends” before he even kissed me, then a couple weeks together (one of which he was in Disneyland with family) and then I went home. But believe me when I tell you, that’s all it took. I knew then that I wanted to marry him. It’s hard to explain because he was so different than the guys I had dated in the past, so I couldn’t really make sense of why I liked him so much. All I knew was that he made me feel so special, he always made me laugh, he had awesome blue eyes, and all he had to do was look at me and I knew how much he loved me. Plus he was a really good kisser, and we all know that always helps. I guess what made him different is exactly what made me love him. Moving home was so hard for me because I was in love. I was leaving the boy I loved behind, for what felt like no reason at all.

Over the course of the next year, we kinda went on and off with the long distance thing. Remember, this was the year that I was going through all my testing and trying to figure out what was going on. Meanwhile, Tim was preparing to serve a mission for our church and so he eventually moved home to Oregon where he grew up, which was only 4 hours away from where I lived in Seattle. So we did get to see each other, but it just wasn’t the same. It’s hard to be in that situation and see a future for your relationship, because not only were we not living in the same state, but we knew he was leaving for 2 years. When he served a mission for the church, he could only write letters and sometimes emails… there would be no phone calls to each other or face-to-face visits. So staying together was really not logical and kinda felt hopeless. We visited each other when we could and saw each other a lot of weekends…. but that’s really all it could be at the time. So, while he knew that we were testing and trying to figure out what was wrong with me, he didn’t really know a lot about the details. Because let’s be honest – is that something a girl my age would have been super open about with a cute boy? Probably not…

The first time I met his parents, I drove to his home in Oregon to stay the weekend. It was terrifying because it’s not like I was going to his house for dinner. This was a weekend visit. It was scary. But only until I walked in the door. His parents were so kind and so welcoming and for their life, they could not figure out what I saw in Tim… at least they liked to tease Tim that way. :o) Anyway, his mom made dinner for us that night and I picked up my fork and knife to cut the meat she had made. Well, I didn’t know this at the time – I just thought cutting meat was really awkward – but apparently, I was doing it wrong. And Tim did not mind making fun of me and straight up giving me a lesson in how to do it correctly right there at the dinner table in front of his parents. It was horrifying. To this day, he teases me about the way I used to hold my knife. You should see it, he has the impression down to an art form.

In April 2002, he left to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Antofagasta, Chile. He knew about my diagnosis and answered the question that plagued me without even knowing it. A beautiful letter arrived at my house not long before he left. I still have it. No, I still treasure it. And will do so forever. I will keep most of it private, but I wanted to share just a small excerpt.

“I love everything about you. I love your canker sores and your Crohn’s Disease, and your hair long or short. I love your family and just everything about you. I want you to know that whatever happens while I’m gone, will be for the best.” Heavenly Father is watching out for you and will make sure that the right things happen in your life. Whatever you do in the next 2 years will be great, and a good influence on everyone you meet.”

I felt so happy and so sad at the same time when I read this letter. He had basically just accepted that I would probably get married while he was gone. I mean, it felt like he was saying goodbye. It broke my heart – didn’t he know how much I loved him? It’s hard for this to make sense to people who haven’t been in the situation, but clinging to a girlfriend isn’t the way to start off a 2 year mission. That just makes it so hard to leave. I knew how much he loved me, and now I knew how ready he was to serve this mission and do what he knew he needed to do… because he was willing to let me go, in order to do what he felt was right. He let me go with no hard feelings, and didn’t ask me to wait.

…Of course I waited anyway. :o) You see that picture? – who wouldn’t wait for a cute guy like this, who writes a letter like that?

Tim-Leah

** Leah **

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