WASHINGTON • As someone with a chronic disease, my dating criteria have always differed from the so-called norm. While many women might look for a partner who will bring them chicken soup and cough drops when they get the occasional cold, I've always sought someone who would take me to my annual colonoscopy.
It may not seem like the most romantic act. But, to me, it means everything.
At age eight, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, where the lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores, or ulcers.
An eight-year-old couldn't care less about boys and dating, and I was extremely fortunate that my mother was able to take full-time care of me. She accompanied me to every doctor's appointment and to every colonoscopy. She also has ulcerative colitis, so there was a sense of camaraderie and a lot of jokes about faecal matter.
When I started dating in college, I was aware that eligible guys might not want to take on someone who had an irritable bowel disease, but I got lucky with my college boyfriends, who never batted an eye when I told them about my condition.
My mum, of course, still took me to colonoscopies during summers at home in New Orleans, and I didn't give much thought to the fact that there was no one my age and of the opposite sex there with me.
A couple of years after I moved to Washington, I landed in the hospital for a week due to a particularly nasty flare-up. My disease had worsened and it was time to re-evaluate how we managed my condition. My mother, of course, dropped everything and flew to Washington to be my caretaker and patient advocate.
She navigated hospital protocol, did my laundry and made multiple trips to pharmacies and supermarkets. Friends from graduate school visited me nearly every day.
I felt so lucky to have a strong support network. But at age 25, I couldn't help but think that it would be nice to have a boyfriend in that room.
My mother took me to my colonoscopies every year after that. I consider myself acutely independent, so it was difficult to admit that I needed help and then ask for it.
In the end, I knew that I wanted someone else there to take care of me, especially because I was required to have someone come to my colonoscopy with me.
I cherished those trips my mother made to Washington, even if they were not necessarily the most enjoyable. Still, I wondered each time if someone else - someone intelligent, snarky and looking to stick around Washington - would be taking me to my annual procedure the next time around.
I was dating and had a few relationships, but I always seemed to be single at my hour of need.
Now I am fortunate to be able to eat whatever I want, travel wherever and whenever I want and lead a very active life. I am in remission and ulcerative colitis does not affect my day-to-day life. But managing my disease is still a part-time job.
It was a huge part of my life growing up and shaped who I am today.
I was never going to settle for a partner who could not get on board with that part of me, but I worried that I would never find someone who, in addition to meeting my other criteria, would take me to that colonoscopy and do it with pleasure.
Last November, my boyfriend took me to my colonoscopy. We had started dating in July and, in September, I told him to clear his schedule for a fall morning that would involve watching me come out of a propofol-induced nap as I passed copious amounts of gas.
He didn't flinch. He already knew I had ulcerative colitis from my Facebook posts, but there was no guarantee he would be up for the nitty-gritty.
When I told my grandmother that he was on colonoscopy duty, she exclaimed that it might not be such a good idea to show him that part of me so early in a relationship.
I understood her perspective, but to me it was the ultimate commitment test, which he passed with flying colours. It meant the world to me that he was there. Even better, he loves a good poop joke.