All right, I told you at the get-go that this would be about my life with CF, and transplant, and all that stuff. Well I really can't talk about that without bringing the "yucky love stuff" ( My Best Friend's Wedding ) into this. So here we go. But don't worry, there's fun medical stuff in here, too.
First off, I have never been exceedingly experienced in matters of love. I've had two boyfriends in my life, five crushes (two of which became boyfriends), and am the worst flirt this side of Kingdom Come because I am so obvious. Ask anyone who knows me. Really.
But that aside, I met Mark (name's been changed) my freshman year of college. I met him at the Capital/ Muskingum College football game (which was our Homecoming game that year) because I was going to the dance that night with one of my friends from high school, who happened to be Mark's next door neighbor. So Eric (my friend from h.s.) had brought some of his friends along to watch the game. It was a freezing cold day, but we managed to stay for the whole game. I didn't really notice Mark all that much at first, but a few days after the game, he IMed me. (Yes, love in the 21st century...) One thing lead to another, and we agreed to go out on a date together.
I was nervous. First off, I didn't know much about this guy. Second, I had no experience with guys, really. But after telling Mark that in no way would I do anything physical with him, I agreed. We ended up getting food from McGhetto (the McDonald's near campus) and eating it at Wolf Park in Bexley, across from St. Charles' Prep. The date went well--I got my second kiss that night (and since my dad and other relatives read this, we'll stop there :)). We began dating pretty steadily, and by Halloween, we were officially an 'item.'
Now the issue always was, "when do I bring up the CF?" I mean, it's kind of a conversation killer. :-D I think I brought it up about three dates in, because I didn't want to get too far into this and then have him back out. Ever since high school (and rejections from musical choruses and show choir, most likely due to my CF), I had been really, really reticent about telling people about CF. I mean, first of all, it's not really their business. I told people on a "need to know" basis. When I auditioned for college choir, I didn't say a word and got chosen for Women's Chorus. I never told my professors. Hardly any of my friends knew. I liked it that way, because I liked to be judged on who I was, not what my genetic code was. I could do just about anything (at this point) that other people could do, so no pity or making it easy for me. I was going to pull my weight, thank you very much.
Mark, fortunately, was good about it. And the CF existed as sort of a hypothetical for the first two months of our relationship. I was doing OK, my drug regimen was fine, everything was cool. Yeah I was having headaches and joint issues (another common CF complaint), but that was all do-able.
Our relationship progressed quickly. He met my parents and I met his parents on a weekend in November, post-election (whew!). It wasn't until finals week of our freshman year that he actually came into my world at the Resort.
I knew it was pancreatitis again as soon as it began. My parents were coming to take me home, but I knew better. When they arrived, I told them what was up. I turned in my Cultural Pluralism paper (on the experience of Catholics in America), we dropped off my research books at the Bexley Library, then I went home, called clinic, packed a bag, and headed for the Children's ER, where my thoughts were confirmed. One thing about pancreatitis--you never forget what it feels like.
It was a Friday, which meant that Mark was going to visit me on his way home. After getting a lovely corner room on 5T and turning on CNN so we could watch then Gov. Bush and Vice-President Gore on TV with the election results (finally!), I told Dad to call Mark and let him know. This was going to be fun, I thought. I jealously guarded my privacy, and never even let my friends come visit, at first. I never wanted anyone to see me in the hospital, not even my siblings. My parents were OK. But like I said, it had to do with the whole protection of image and how I wanted people to think about me. Eventually I got over this. But I knew that if Mark and I were going to have a long-term relationship, then I had to get him in here, no matter how uncomfortable it was for me.
I was on a happy dilaudid/ phenergan combo when Mark finally arrived later that December night. My dad said later he look absolutely petrified in the elevator. I don't blame him--we're eighteen, this isn't normal. Most 18 year old couples don't spend their Friday nights at Children's. (Although it's so fun!)
My dad left us alone for awhile and Mark sat tentatively on the edge of the bed. "You OK?" he asked.
I nodded languidly. "Oh, I'm great." I pointed to the IV stuff. "Trust me."
He nodded, tried to laugh but didn't quite succeed. The drugs were starting to take effect by now, so I squinted and looked at him, dizzily proclaiming that I saw him in triplicate. I think this scared him just a bit. :) I forget how long he stayed that night--it may have been all night (in fact I think it was). He very good about that and was a real sweetheart. That was when I finally began to feel comfortable with letting someone else into the craziness that was my life. I didn't have to be all Superwoman all the time. It was a nice feeling.
Mark stayed through the weekend and then went home to do some work for his dad. He lived on the other side of the state, in Darke county, so it was about a two-hour drive. I was in the hospital about a week, getting out before Christmas (yay!). I am proud to say I have never spent Christmas in a hospital, thank God.
The rest of my freshman year passed uneventfully. I sang in the chorus of Verdi's Requiem with all the other choir students and Cap's orchestra that April, which was awesome. My family and Mark and Eric came. (this was a supreme sacrifice for my father, since he has no musical background and the Verdi was three hours of Latin!) I started my English and poli sci classes and met some of my favorite professors, Dr. Summers and Dr. Marilley, who were great. That summer I worked at the pool near my house...and Mark and I got engaged.
Yes, OK, it was quick. We hadn't even met at the beginning of this post. But I really felt like he was The One. He was OK with my religious beliefs, my political beliefs (our third date was spent with me converting him to the Republican cause--go me!), and, especially, the CF. I knew that was a hard thing for a lot of people. I had sort of convinced myself that no one was really going to take the "whole package" of me. And I was in love. So in June of that year, we became engaged, with plans to marry after we both finished college in 2004. Unfortunately, my health was about to get a lot more dicey...