To My Fiancé Who's About to Marry a Woman With Crohn's Disease


My Grandma recently told me people cry at weddings because they know the couple has no idea what they’re in store for — the good, the bad and everything in between. As I prepare to marry the man of my dreams on June 4, her words have stuck with me, especially since I’ve battled Crohn’s disease for nearly 11 years and lived with the fear of what tomorrow will bring ever since.

As most people who’ve planned a wedding and gotten married can probably attest, these last few months leading up are filled with anxious excitement and a great deal of emotion. I told my fiancé, Bobby, I had Crohn’s disease on our third date in August 2013, and since that time he’s been nothing but compassionate, patient and strong for me.

Oftentimes with chronic illness, we can become so accustomed to our support system we may unknowingly take them for granted. A few weeks back, my fiancé wrote me a letter about what it’s like to watch the one you love fight a chronic disease — and not just anyone, but the woman he’s going to marry. It was a real eye-opener for me. He talked about the first time he experienced a hospitalization with me during a small bowel obstruction in February 2014.

“I realized just how important you were to me and that I did not want anyone but me to be in the position I was in to always console you and just be there when you needed someone. We had been saying ‘I love you’ for several months by then, but it was in this moment I knew that I wanted to be there for you always.”

Since I was diagnosed at age 21 with Crohn’s disease, I’d be lying if I said dating was easy. I oftentimes joked that I could quickly see a guy’s true colors during the difficult days. One boyfriend broke up with me the week I was diagnosed. I had just gotten into my parent’s car following a weeklong hospital stay. I needed a wheelchair because I was too weak to walk, and he decided to end it over the phone. Another blamed the high price of gas and said he would rather fish up north in Wisconsin than visit me in the hospital. To this day I can remember how disappointed I was that night watching the Fourth of July fireworks reflect off the hospital window with my mom. With time, that disappointment transforms into amazing clarity.

man and woman in hospital bed with flowers
Natalie and her fiancé, Bobby.

Then, you meet the person. It’s so different and it all makes sense. You meet the one who doesn’t go running in the other direction because you have an invisible flaw. The man who instead of being scared asks questions and wants to educate himself so he can be stronger for you. The one who holds your hand and looks you in the eyes as the nurse struggles to get your IV for the fourth time. The one who pulls over at gas stations while you’re running errands and holds your hair for you in the parking lot when the pain gets to be too much. The one who brings home your favorite Popsicles and chicken broth when he knows you’re struggling to handle solid food. The man who cheers you on during your injections and then puts the shots in the sharps container after, no questions asked.

When I walk down the aisle towards Bobby this June, I can say without a shadow of a doubt I have the best partner and man and everything I need to fight this illness as bravely as possible. He wrote me a letter — and now I want to write him one.

Dear Bobby,

As you’ve seen over the past few years, my health is often a mystery. One day I can feel perfectly healthy, and the next I can call you 20 times while you’re at work from a grocery store bathroom as I lose all feeling in my arms and legs from the pain and need you to help me immediately.

While Crohn’s will forever be a part of me, I want you to know I promise not to let it define me or us. I don’t envision our lifetime filled with sickness, but rather happy, feel-good days and times we need to be brave and conquer challenges. I promise to fight and endure and always do what it takes to be healthy for both of us. I don’t believe in happenstance, and in my heart I feel you came into my life because your sense of calm can comfort me during the worst of storms. I promise to always communicate with you openly and let you know when I’m struggling.

One of my biggest fears is being pregnant and never knowing what the next day will bring. I fear the thought of an unexpected flare-up or needing surgery while I’m pregnant. Visiting high-risk OB-GYN doctors and doing injections with a baby bump were never something I thought would be a part of family planning, but I have faith that just like other hurdles we’ve overcome, we’ll make it through.

My fears of this disease have nothing to do with me quite honestly, but with you and our future family. I don’t ever want to drag you down or make you miss out on events with family or friends because I’m having a “bad day.” I never want our children to think of their mommy as “sick.” And my biggest fear of all is passing along this dreadful disease to our offspring. It breaks my heart to think of our babies having to battle this — and knowing it was passed down from me. As a woman and your future wife, these are the types of thoughts that cross my mind.

You always tell me you never worry about things you can’t control, and I vow to do my best to be better at that. It’s comforting to know we’ll be a team and you’ll be by my side through all that life throws our way. I promise to keep a positive attitude and do all I can to manage this disease, whether it’s through lifestyle or medication, and to lean on you when I struggle to stand up on my own.

When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005, it felt like my world was crashing down. While the journey since then hasn’t been easy, meeting you, falling in love and getting to marry you has put it all in perspective and given me the confidence to know I don’t ever have to fight this alone.

Thank you for holding my hand and my heart and defining what it means to love unconditionally. I can only hope everyone with a chronic illness is blessed with a partner with the ability to understand and empathize like you.

Love you always — thank you for being my rock,

Natalie

engagement photo of man kissing woman
Natalie and Bobby. (Photo credit: J Elizabeth Photography)

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