“Don’t even tempt me.”
That was Ashley Pierce’s response when her friend Tammi tried to set her up with Walter. Having spent a good portion of the last 10 years in a Las Vegas hospital bed, Pierce didn’t even want to entertain the thought of dating.
Besides, if he was anything like other guys she had pursued, she didn’t think he’d be able to handle it. He’d back out. Four years later, they are engaged. He never backed out.
“I never thought someone would marry me with my conditions,” 26-year-old Pierce recently wrote in a Facebook status.
Her conditions? Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis—chronic inflammatory conditions that affect the gastrointestinal and digestive tracts and include complications ranging from abdominal cramps to malnutrition.
For Pierce, the most extreme cases were when the doctor told her parents she wouldn’t make it through the night, either because she had stopped breathing or was dangerously anemic, weighing in at 63 pounds. On more ordinary days, she experiences stomach issues and a chronic cough, among other non-terminal-but-annoying symptoms caused by medicines that suppress her illnesses.
According to a report published by the National Health Council, nearly half of Americans have at least one chronic illness, with that number expected to grow in coming years. If this number sounds high, it’s worth noting that the category of “chronic illness” can include minor cases of asthma or oral herpes or major conditions like Crohn’s.