THIS HAPPENED is an ongoing series where readers share firsthand experiences living with an ostomy.
I have to share the story of how my husband and I met. For one reason, it's too special not to share. And another reason, he wasn't just getting me in the relationship... he was getting my health “baggage” too. So now I'd have to tell him everything, and then hope he wouldn’t run away.
Prior to meeting Geoff, I was depressed and lonely. I had been looking for "the one" since I was 13 or 14-years-old, and now I was 23. My siblings were all married and out on their own, one even had a child. So I guess I probably felt left behind. With all my health issues I wasn't up for dating much, yet I was always looking for that one guy that would make my life complete.
Where I was at the time with Crohn’s, didn't lead to meeting many people anywhere close to my age, and I didn't go out much in general due to not feeling well. Plus, I'm just a homebody anyway. I got the suggestion from my mom to try eHarmony. I was floored that she would even suggest this because it was such an out-of-the-box idea that I never expected would come from anyone in my family. But I went with it.
The site asked many questions to get the best idea of my interests so that they would be able to match me with a potential suitor. After filling out the necessary information, I was given a list of male matches that I could contact. I sent out a few messages, but the only one who replied back to me was my now husband.
We communicated through the eHarmony site briefly and then realized we were both on Facebook, so we communicated that way for a while. But of course, sooner or later we'd need to meet in person if this relationship was going anywhere. This was where I was most nervous, and not only because we would be meeting for the first time, but because I was meeting someone I'd only spoken to online.
Now I have seen enough movies, TV shows, and news reports to know that people on the screen may not be the same person who is communicating with you. With this realization, Geoff suggested we meet in a public place and in our case, that was the food court of a mall. I got the approval of my family before the outing, and thankfully he looked like his profile picture.
We decided to eat at Longhorn Steakhouse, and this story to follow has provided us with a yearly tradition to celebrate. As we walked into the restaurant, the manager was standing there. Apparently, I had a large grin on my face because he asked Geoff if he just proposed. We told him that we'd just met. He takes us to our table, we order and eat, and the manager comes back to our table with balloons and their Chocolate Stampede dessert. He apologizes for embarrassing us (although we were more humored than embarrassed) and says our meal is taken care of. Every year we go to Longhorn around the time of our first date and we always order the Chocolate Stampede. This year we happened to get the dessert for free!
A few weeks after meeting in person, I realized I would need to be upfront about my health issues. It seemed unfair not to share issues that would inevitably be a part of his life if things grew more serious. I'm not good at explaining things verbally. I need visual aids. But I didn't want to show my own ostomy to a guy that I had known for just a short time. However, I always have spare ostomy supplies and accessories with me just in case I need to make an emergency change. I used those to give him a more visual idea of what I was trying to explain. I don't know how much he understood, but he didn't run away in disgust or fear.
On one date at the beginning of our relationship, the ostomy bag I had on sprung a leak while we were at a restaurant with some of his friends. I was subtly trying to get his attention to let him know this and to find out where the restrooms were. He just kept saying hold on because he didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I learned that I would have to be blunter (this is still the case). Once he figured out what I needed, he was apologetic and helped me the best he could.
That was the first time I changed my ostomy appliance outside of home or work, and this was the first time I'd met his friends. I'm not sure they were aware of the situation, but I almost wish they were. It was embarrassing because it seemed like I was in the restroom for a long time… and it was a single occupancy restroom so people were waiting on me... and it had leaked enough to get my shirt dirty. I was thankful to have worn a long sleeve shirt under a short sleeve one. I just took off the dirty one and was good to go. As embarrassing and gross as that was to me, Geoff still stuck around.
He was also with me when I had surgery to remove the rectal muscles. And he despises hospitals. But he tried to stay the entire time I was there. We continued dating, and seven months after our first date he proposed. Six months after that, we were married. Our 7-year wedding anniversary was just last month.
This post originally appeared on Crushing Life with Crohn’s.