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Living with Crohn’s Disease: My Story, Chapter 5

My journey picks up again in April 2004. The day was finally approaching: My Missionary was coming home. He had been gone 2 years. For the past 2 years, all I’d seen were pictures like this:

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But he was finally coming home. I would finally see his face. Here he is with his Dad, who picked him up in Chile after he completed his mission.

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It had been 2 years since the last time I held his hand. 2 years since he hugged me close. 2 years since the last time I felt his kiss. Everybody cautioned me not to get my hopes up. “Guys change when they are on a mission. Most of the time, couples don’t get back together when they get back. People change a lot over the course of 2 years.”

Dude, I know that. Don’t you think I know that? I’ve seen it. Hello, life-changing diagnosis over here and Tim knows nothing about it… I get that things change. And I’ve watched friends get their hearts broken when they write letters for 2 years, and it doesn’t end up working out. I know the statistics, and they didn’t make me love Tim any less. Or make me less hopeful. If heartbreak was in my future – then so be it. I was all-in. I was headed straight for it. We’re talkin’ stay in bed for weeks, watch sappy movies, never recover, type heartache. That would have been me. If you know me at all, then by now you understand – I don’t do things halfway. If I’m in, I’m in. Risks be damned. Maybe I didn’t wear all of these feelings on my sleeve at the time, but those closest to me knew. And I knew. I was marrying Tim Sannar. Whether he knew it yet or not.

One day, I was driving to work and my phone rings. Weird… whose number is this? It’s TIM! Oh my gosh, it’s Tim. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Oh, my word – listen to his voice! How I’ve missed this voice. Words cannot describe the feeling of hearing that voice for the first time in 2 years. My heart was racing, and pounding so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. Of course Tim, is same old Tim. Cool, calm, collected and throwin’ game down, even fresh off the mission. He wants me to come meet him at the Portland, OR Temple when they get off the plane and spend the weekend with him and his family. I knew it. I knew he loved me. I’d prove all those naysayers wrong, once and for all! Um, YEAH! I’ll be there. That was me NOT having any game. I could write a whole separate post on dating and “having game” as we called in back in the day. Am I revealing my age? Anyway, some girls have it. Some girls just don’t. I always had it. I managed to keep a pretty level head when it came to boys. Until right that very second. It was gone. It abandoned me completely. Gone, was all rational thought.

Hours turned into days as I waited until I could see his face again. It felt as if time stood still, or worse – started moving backwards. When I finally found myself packing and getting ready to leave, I was suddenly nervous. What the heck am I going to say to him? Is he wanting us to be together? Is this the obligatory “check and see if we still have anything together” before he moves on to someone else? Oh my GOSH, what do I WEAR?? I was 23 years old, give me a break. So I put on my best outfit, a skirt and a top – and back then, trust me – I could rock it. I got in my little silver Honda Civic hatchback and I drove the 3 hours to Portland where my long-lost boy was waiting.

Oh my goodness, the nerves! And the adrenaline that was coursing through my body when I parked my car… I thought I might pass out. There he was. I saw him and all of the anxiety disappeared from my body. Suddenly, all I could see were images of our life before he left. My heart felt all the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place, while my mind was reliving every happy moment. I ran, in heels, across the temple grounds and jumped into his arms. I didn’t walk. I didn’t prance lightly, so as to remain a lady. I ran.. no, sprinted towards that boy I had missed for the last 2 years. The boy I’d marry.

A couple pictures from our weekend road trip to Colorado, when he was still just “that kid we hung out with.”

Red Rocks

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Then he was a little more…

US

And then I was done. Totally in love.

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We spent our weekend catching up and reminiscing. It was wonderful. We spent time with his parents, I met his friends from home, we had a picnic under the stars… it was all so perfectly cliché. I’ll spare you the sappy details, but there was some kissing. :o)

Then sadly, the weekend came to an end and it was time to go home. Back to reality. We were standing beside my car, saying goodbye, and I’m not sure what it was that hit me in that exact moment… Maybe it was the way his hug felt a little awkward. Maybe it was the way he said goodbye. Or maybe it was the casual way that he said he’d “call me.” But instantly, I knew. He wasn’t sure. Holy crap, is this happening?? He isn’t sure! He won’t say it but I can tell. What is going on? I know he’s feeling what I’m feeling, I know him well enough to know that… so what’s the deal?

Weeks go by, no phone calls. And as we covered earlier, I have way too much pride to call him. If he wants to talk to me, he’ll call.  …finally, a phone call. He offers some lame excuse as to why he hasn’t called, something about being in Utah visiting family. As if the entire state is devoid of phone lines. He starts talking about moving to Arizona with a mission buddy and playing on a Rugby team. ?? Um, okay. Panic is starting to set in. Because I know I want to be with him. He is THE ONE. But I’m not that girl who is gonna act all needy on the phone and want an explanation as to why he was all over me in Oregon, only to ditch me. However, at the same time – I’m NOT the girl who just kisses boys for no reason. So what’s a girl to do??

She just sucks it up and hopes he figures it out. That’s what she does. And that’s what I did. I let him go, do his thing in hopes that he would realize that I was his “The One.”

That’s when things took a turn for the worse. Apparently, I was holding in more stress than I realized, because I had a pretty severe Crohn’s Disease flare. I was at work one day with my best friend Brittany. We sat across from each other and worked as Mortgage Processors for Countrywide Home Loans. It was a great job, we loved it. On this one particular day, though, I felt really awful. I had been suffering with canker sores for a long time. This was not new territory for me. But there something different about it this time. I felt really sick, and instead of just the canker sores inside my mouth, the outside of my lips were burning. I kept looking in the mirror to see if there were sores or something there, but there weren’t. They were getting more and more red though, and I was really feeling terrible. So I called my Dad and asked him to meet me at the doctor’s office. We barely made it there before closing time. They took my temperature and I was running a high fever and they had NO CLUE what to make of my mouth. I mean none. Even with a Crohn’s Disease diagnosis – this was strange to them.

They sent me to the ER. And we’re waiting. Because, that’s what you do in the ER unless you’re bleeding to death or complaining of chest pains. Finally, out of frustration because his daughter is practically hallucinating at this point, my dad gets up and complains to the front desk. “She’s not back in a room yet?” Seriously? They can’t even keep track of who is back there and who isn’t? So they look over at me laying on the chairs and realize I look decidedly unwell and come take my temperature. Right there in ER waiting room. 105.9 I can’t tell you the speed with which they raced me back to “room.” They actually didn’t have any rooms available, so I was put on a gurney and wheeled back to what can only be described as a closet, made into a makeshift hospital room. I remember almost nothing of what came next because I’m pretty sure they pumped me full of all kinds of meds. I do remember laying there on the gurney though, and looking at my dad. “Finally.” And whatever they gave me, knocked me out.

I woke in an official hospital room. Guess they checked me in. And everyone was around me, looking confused. Even the doctors just had no clue what to make of my mouth. Over the course of the next few hours, my lips broke out into full on sores – all over. The pictures I’m about to post are not easy for me to share… but we committed to full disclosure right? I wish that we had been more on the ball and thought to take pictures when all the sores were broken out. But these were actually taken towards the end of my stay, the sores were mostly healed and just the swelling remained. Although, even the swelling had gone down in these pics…

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They were so swollen and covered in sores, the doctors rushed me to the ICU. Nobody. Had. A Clue. I spent 4 days there while they monitored me and used Prednisone to get my flare under control. It seemed to do the trick, but we got no answers. None.

On my last day there, my mom was painting my nails and trying to get me to do my make up. “It’ll make you feel better to try and do something normal.” Seriously Mom, I don’t care about putting my make up on right now. Friends came and went with flowers and well-wishes. And then in walks Tim. “Oh… that’s why you were trying to get me to put make up on.” All of the worries and doubts completely left my mind and I don’t know why. Nothing had changed. Yeah, he came to see me but he hadn’t expressed that anything changed. But when he sat down next to me, I just held his hand like it belonged to me. Like he belonged to me. I remember laying there, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had just grabbed his hand like we were together… and I felt really embarrassed. But we sat there just the same. Holding hands and watching a movie. Who cares about whether we’re together or not. I just needed him there. And he was. He drove all the way from Oregon, to be there.

I later learned a lot of interesting things from his side of the story:

I learned that he wasn’t necessarily “doubting” what was going on between us. He says it was more about wanting to play and have fun before actually settling down. He says he never doubted his feelings… who really knows if he’s telling the truth though. It’s not like he would say, “Yeah, I just didn’t like you.” :o)

I also learned that when he heard I was in the hospital, (my mom called his mom) he dropped everything and borrowed a friends VW Bug to get there. A VW Bug which broke down on the way. He left it on the side of the highway and skateboarded the rest of the way.

I learned that seeing me in the hospital scared him half to death and that he knew right then he wanted to get married and that playing with friends suddenly didn’t seem so important.

I learned that he was terrified of what life with me would be like. What does life with the chronically ill look like? This one hospital stay was all he’d ever seen, and it was scary. Could he handle it?

I learned that when he left the hospital, he went straight to the temple. The same temple where we would be married in just 8 months. He sat in the temple and he prayed. Hard. He prayed for guidance. He prayed for answers. Can he handle the challenges that Crohn’s Disease promises? Can he take care of me the way my illness will require?

Lastly, and most importantly, I learned that Heavenly Father comforted him. He left the temple that day knowing that not only was he able to take care of me, but that he was supposed to take care of me. He left the temple knowing that he was mine, and I was his. Finally.

…I told you so.

** Leah **

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5 comments
5 comments… add one
  • marla kay February 12, 2014, 4:46 pm

    …sigh*

  • Baby Making Mama February 21, 2014, 5:47 am

    Oh my goodness I love this! SO sweet. Ya’ll… love ya’ll. And I’ve never even met your husband. Also, I’m reading your story backwards apparently.

    • Leah Sannar February 23, 2014, 8:36 pm

      Thanks Jenn! We’ll have to remedy that and get together this week. I’ve never met your husband either! And thanks for reading my story – even if it is backwards. Does it still make at least a little sense? :o)

  • Camey July 27, 2015, 11:03 am

    This story gave me tingles! It’s what you read in romance stories!

    • Leah Sannar July 27, 2015, 3:06 pm

      Haha, thanks Camey! Though, it didn’t feel that way at the time! I totally thought he was gonna ditch me! :o)

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