Imagine two people with the same chronic disease meeting through a support group, falling in love and getting married.
That's exactly what happened to Lodi residents Lorraine Ramsey and Wesley Bowers.
The couple met through the Crohn's and Colitis Buddy Foundation after Bowers needed someone he could talk to one-on-one.
Ramsey called Bowers, who lived in Pacifica at the time, for the first time on Nov. 16, 2010. Never did they think they would hit it off so well. They became engaged in March 2011 and got married on Oct. 6, 2012.
And all because Bowers had his colon, rectum and large intestine removed.
Ramsey, who will turn 37 on Nov. 29, was in a position to empathize — she had the same surgery when she was 21.
They are thankful to have each other in their lives.
Despite their physical hardships, they have careers. Ramsey is a marriage and family therapist intern at Valley Community Counseling in Stockton and teaches English part-time at San Joaquin Delta College. Bowers is a reporter for the Milpitas Post newspaper.
"I would say that what I have been through since my diagnosis in 1993 has been hell," Bowers said. "I've been in and out of the hospital at least half a dozen times for various surgeries and procedures. I've had about half a dozen blood transfusions, I've almost died because a medication worked too well and killed off my blood cells."
With their engagement and marriage, Bowers moved to Lodi and commutes to Milpitas. Ramsey was born in Lodi and has lived in the community her entire life except for 10 years in Chico.
It's worth it for Bowers.
"After the procedure, I was very depressed," he said. "I didn't know how to tell people who weren't friends or family. I really felt I was going to be alone the rest of my life because, growing up in the Bay Area, I kind of became jaded and felt a lot of people where were, let's say, shallow when it came to physical appearance."
Ramsey was also concerned that she might be alone for the rest of her life. Neither of them had previously been married, nor do they have any children.
"Although you can't see the bag I wear as a result of my procedure, my biggest fear was ever becoming intimate with someone and having them freak out when they saw what was attached to me," Bowers said. "I also felt that explaining things to them would also be awkward, and after that conversation they'd never want to see me.
"I'm so happy I met someone who understood what I went through and actually experienced what I went through," he said.
Ramsey is thankful to find someone who accepts her for who she is.
"It's very difficult to understand what (Crohn's disease) is like," Ramsey said. "I'm thankful for someone who loves me for me, all the different aspects of me. He's very tolerant."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.