Love: With and Without Disease

  • When I met Rob over 6 years ago, I did not ‘have’ MS nor RA.  I was just a regular, seemingly heathy, person who was ready to meet someone.  Although my medical records did have hints of what was to come, I carried no significant diagnoses.

    We were set up on a blind date through a local dating service.  Rob’s life and interests were described to me as were mine to him.  When we met and compared notes, we both laughed at how we were described to each other.  In fact, from that description, I wasn’t quite sure that Rob and I would have had enough in common.  But he saving grace was that he had played cello through college, even performing in a regional orchestra.  Now THAT was something interesting to learn about.  It’s funny….he was told that I was a teacher, omitting the part about my career pursuing music. 

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    Our first date didn’t happen.  Rob stood me up.  Actually he was getting sick and called the restaurant to cancel.  I showed up to be told he wasn’t coming.  Not a smooth start to a potential relationship, but we tried again the following weekend.  I hoped that the restaurant maitre d’ didn’t recognize me and notice that I wore the very same outfit from the previous week.  I liked the outfit and thought it was attractive.  Perfect for a blind date.

    Our first meeting was nice.  Rob had to leave by a certain time, however, as he was meeting friends to drive to Richmond, VA (which is a 1.5-2 hour drive) to attend an orchestra concert featuring music of the Lord of the Rings movies.  REALLY?!  The Fairfax Symphony, a group with which I regularly performed, had played that same program the week prior.  Nice...Rob’s friends were music people too.  Music people are special, and very cool in my humble opinion.

    So when did disease enter this relationship, you might be asking?  The very next week.  I was visiting my doctor and mentioned some odd and unexplained symptoms.  Tingling and numbness in my left arm.  I thought that I had a pinched nerve from having swam (backstroke) squarely into woman who was casually moving through lanes at the pool and not paying attention.  Granted I was moving very quickly because I was wearing flippers on my feet, but I wished she had gotten out of the way.  Swimming backstroke with the flippers was my favorite as I loved the feel of slicing through the water with it gliding over my shoulders. 

    Only a month later, Rob was rubbing my back and I noticed that my left shoulder blade area was numb.  Time to call my doctor and when I saw her again, she ordered a set of MRI scans to look at my neck area.  That started the ball rolling on the multiple sclerosis diagnosis which took four more months to become official.  I didn’t hide any of this from Rob as it was occurring.  He later shared that he didn’t understand what was going on, but he understood that it upset me.   

    Only six months into our relationship and I was “damaged” goods.  I was diseased.  I was scared and crying a lot.  Rob couldn’t SEE what bothered me, as I looked the same, but he offered support and a shoulder to cry upon.  Rob could have ended the relationship right then and there.  He did not.

  • A short 12 months later, I was again crying at night but for a different reason.  This time it was from the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.  The pain was excruciating and nothing I did seemed to make it going away.  A couple of nights, Rob almost threw me in the car to take me to the emergency room because it was obvious I needed help.  This time he was scared.  He could visibly see what was going on and ‘felt’ my pain.  We didn’t know that it was RA, but we both knew that something was terribly wrong.  Instead of running, Rob held me and tried to comfort me.

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    Here was the beginning of our relationship as challenges were through in its path early on.  Hard to say exactly we ‘fell in love,’ but health seemed to have little to do with it.  Perhaps ignorance of what might come in the future was to our benefit.  By the time words like chemotherapy or permanent disability entered our vocabulary, we were strongly bonded and connected. 

    Rob loves me for who I am...with and without disease.  I am a lucky girl.  In fact, we are getting married later this year.  In the next post, I must tell you what craziness there has been in the past 31 days as plans for the wedding are speeding along.

    As Valentine’s Day - the day of love and romance - is approaching, I wish you the warmth of a relationship which holds you in its embrace, with or without chronic illness.


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: February 11, 2012