Colleen and Andrew....

Andrew and I met during the summer of 2003. We both worked at a local theme park. Andrew had recently graduated from college and the theme park management job served as a source of income until he figured out what he really wanted to do. I was working there to earn some cash before heading back to college to complete my final semester. Even more pathetic, we met in a store called Totally Tweety. It doesn’t get more romantic than that! Andrew and I were friends first. We spent time together during the summer and when I returned to school, we kept in contact via Instant Messenger (remember that thing?!? I guess that shows my age!).

I eventually graduated from college (woohoo!) and moved back home. Soon after arriving home, I learned that one of my theme park coworkers was moving to Texas. I didn’t know her very well and didn’t really care, but a few friends mentioned that they were going to stop by the theme park to wish her well. They asked if I’d like to come along. I thought Andrew might be there, so I decided to go and look extra cute – you know, to remind Andrew that I was back and here to stay. Andrew was in fact there and I played it cool, only mumbling a polite hello to him. Well, my plan worked because I received a text message from him a short time later asking if I wanted to grab lunch. Soon after, we were a couple.

I distinctly remember the moment Andrew told me he had CF. It was only a few weeks after we had started dating. Andrew showed me the large scar on his belly – the result of a surgery performed when he was just a tiny baby. He told me that he had Cystic Fibrosis and gave me the impression that he really didn’t want to talk about it any further; he just wanted me to know. I was stunned, but refrained from asking any further questions. Andrew seemed completely healthy to me. He cleared his throat or coughed every now and then, but I never thought much of it. I never even noticed the enzymes he took before a meal or snack. After I left his house that night, I cried during my drive home. The minimal knowledge I had of CF stemmed from a high school health class. I only knew that the disease affected breathing and it wasn’t good. I didn’t know the severity of Andrew’s CF, but I couldn’t believe this new relationship was beginning with such a revelation. That night as I drove home, I told myself it was fight or flight. I was either in this relationship for the long run and was willing to deal with the challenges that CF would bring or I had to get out right now. Complicating my decision was that fact that I had lost my dad unexpectedly just a year prior and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to handle Andrew’s disease. Ultimately, I decided to stick by Andrew. I figured there are no guarantees in life – we just have to make the most of the relationships we have and the situations we find ourselves in. We’ve been together ever since and it remains one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Andrew and I married in 2007. We both wanted a family, but decided to wait until our careers were established. Finally, in early 2012, we felt ready to proceed with IVF. Andrew had landed a great teaching job – one that he had been working towards for years. I finally found a job I enjoyed after searching for two years. Everything was falling into place and I was so sure our first IVF round would be successful since I had no known issues. Our Reproductive Endocrinologist was confident and told me I’d be pregnant in a couple months. Great! I even had it planned out that our first baby would arrive in October, right around our fifth anniversary. Perfect. You can probably imagine where this is headed. Retrieval went great. 17 eggs were retrieved and 11 fertilized. I thought I’d have enough embryos for future frozen transfers and would never have to do IVF again. My naivety is humorous now. When I went in for a five day transfer, I was told that only one embryo had reached the expected blastocyst stage. One out of eleven. I was shocked and confused. A couple weeks later, I’d learn that I was not pregnant and our first round of IVF was a complete failure.

Fortunately, our second IVF round a couple months later resulted in our now five year old son. We did a third round of IVF, which resulted in our now three year old son.

We hoped to add another little one to our family, but a frozen transfer and fourth round of IVF were unsuccessful. If you’re keeping track, that’s hundreds of needles, about fifty trips to and from the IVF clinic, five transfers, four retrievals, and one massive emotional rollercoaster. But most importantly, we have our two amazing boys. And I’m eternally grateful for those two sweet red heads. Motherhood has been the greatest gift and I don’t take it for granted.

Andrew continues to teach middle school and I continue to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Andrew is diligent with all of his medications and does his therapy vest daily. I always thought that I’d be the strong one in our relationship, enduring multiple rounds of IVF, supporting Andrew though CF clinic visits, tune-ups, kidney stones, and unexpected viruses. However, this past year threw me a giant curve ball. Our fourth and final IVF in August 2017 resulted in a devastating early miscarriage and an indication from our Reproductive Endocrinologist that it was unlikely we’d be able to have more children. Work has been incredibly stressful over the past year. I found my role and responsibilities changing multiple times and feared I’d lose my job. In June 2018, I unexpectedly lost my younger and only brother, which completely broke me. And in July, we had to say goodbye to our rescue dog of 10 years. Most people experience these losses or challenges throughout their lives, but I experienced them all in less than one year. I was completely shattered and found myself leaning on Andrew for support. I’ve always considered myself extremely tough, but I just wasn’t sure how to persevere when it felt like my heart had been broken repeatedly. Time eventually heals and I’m beginning to feel more like myself. I’m continually reminded that my family is my world and Andrew and I make the best team. We will always support each other. We will always pick each other up. We will always be each other’s biggest fans. I’m extraordinarily grateful for my husband.

Andrew and I have been married for 11 years and he is inching towards his 40th birthday (a year and a couple months to go) – a major milestone. We’re hoping that the years ahead bring us more joy, continued health and healing, and unexpected blessings.

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