When I was a girl, I always knew I’d get married in my thirties. I don’t know why, it just had a nice ring to it. But I never fantasized about what my dress would look like, or my ring, or the cake or any of that stuff. I didn’t even think about what my future husband would look like. I just figured all of those things would fall into place. And, in one way or another, they have.
I met Kevin in 2006 in San Francisco while I was getting my second degree. I decided to try online dating because most of the people at my school were either half my age or commuters. We exchanged e-mails then met for breakfast one morning. We seemed to hit it off right away; I thought he was funny, cute, intelligent and witty. He treated me well and with respect.
We dated in San Francisco for almost two years and he cheered me on throughout my grueling coursework. Things seemed to be going well… until I started to get sick. I started developing all of these strange symptoms, like: body aches, rashes, spiking fevers, extreme pain in my teeth and gums, and worst of all, extreme (and often disabling) fatigue. So, at the urging of my family, I flew to Houston (where I am originally from) to seek medical care. I was hospitalized almost immediately and had almost every specialist in a quandary. Because I didn’t have the familial support system that I do in Texas, I ended up moving back.
Over the next six months, I was in and out of the hospital, but I did get one diagnosis out of it: Beta Thalassemia Minor. This mild, genetic blood disorder is usually left untreated, but I also had something else (autoimmune) which was aggravating it and making it worse. I sought a second opinion, and got my second diagnosis: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or Lupus, a chronic illness in which the body’s immune system mistakes its own organs for foreign invaders and attacks them.
On the one hand, I was relieved to have finally found some answers to my condition. However, on the other hand, my heart sank to know that I have a lifelong illness with no known cure. Over the next six months, I was in and out of the hospital, getting blood transfusions, skin biopsies and surgery for infection. Worst of all, the levels of my blood were worsening. I received my third diagnosis at the beginning of last year: Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. Basically, my body was attacking its own blood. On the bright side, Kevin moved to Texas to be with me and has been an angel, working from home and taking care of me. Also, at that time, I became eligible for disability benefits, which isn’t much, but helps.
Last summer, I had a bone marrow biopsy and then started receiving injections to stimulate red blood cell production, which helped for a while. However, my health took a downward turn and I increasingly became more dependent on blood transfusions, which was about every month.
October 2008 was a bittersweet month. Kevin and I got engaged on the 11th and we were both elated. Then, on Halloween, I went into the hospital for my bi-weekly injection. The blood test results before my injection showed very low levels. I was admitted, and received blood.
However, while I was in the hospital, my blood doctor noticed that my spleen was enlarged. After deliberating with his colleagues, he decided that I needed it removed. So, on Novemer 10th, I had surgery to have my spleen removed. In all, I spent 17 days in the hospital (beating my record of 16).
Since then, I have been recuperating from the surgery. Afterwards, the surgery raised my blood levels to almost-normal levels. However, I am still struggling with my Lupus, which has been hampering my healing. What is most disabling is the extreme fatigue—which makes it almost impossible to plan things.
During these past two years, but mostly during my time of recuperation from surgery, I have seen the depth of love Kevin has for me. He changes my dressings tirelessly and without complaint, he knows when I am having a bad flare day, and when I am having a good day, reminds me to not overdo it. He has basically adopted all of our chores and still has energy to work his 9-5 from his computer. There isn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for me, and always tells me that “it is the minimum you deserve,” a phrase he has always used in reply to my gratitude.
I thought, after all I’ve been through, I deserve to have a $50,000 wedding, complete with the Anne Barge dress (I’ve thought about the details a little bit more these days!) and the cake, and the finest food… but after much thought, I decided that if anyone deserves a beautiful wedding, it’s my fiance, Kevin. I wouldn’t be here without him.