A NEWLY-ENGAGED couple have revealed how an inflammatory bowel disease led them to finding their soulmate.
Chloe Meade, 25, and Rhys Thomas, 30, who both have Crohn’s disease, first started chatting on the #GetYourBellyOut Facebook group in 2015 – and now they are engaged.
After striking up a conversation online, the pair from Wales didn’t actually meet in person until two years later, when they randomly bumped into each other in a Cardiff hospital.
Chloe was having an iron infusion while Rhys was having auto-immune injections.
Within just two weeks, the pair were officially boyfriend and girlfriend and last weekend, Rhys popped the question.
Despite having the potentially life-threatening condition, the couple have revealed they are glad they have Crohn’s – because it brought them to each other.
“Never, ever did I think an inflammatory bowel disease group would lead to me finding my soulmate,” said Chloe, a pharmacy assistant dispenser.
“I’m grateful everyday to have Crohn’s, it’s brought terrible pain to my life but also brought me the greatest things in life, my fiancé, great friends and strength I never knew I had.”
Rhys, a translation company director, added: “Even though Crohn’s has massively impacted our lives, in a way we’re glad that we both have it because it has brought us together.
“It was a huge coincidence that Chloe and I bumped into each other in the hospital that one time.
“Chloe was sat in the treatment room and we caught eyes and we started chatting when we realised we were friends on Facebook.
“With both of us suffering from Crohn’s disease we’ve been able to understand and support each other from the very beginning and it has only made our relationship stronger.
“We’ve been through a lot over the last few years, in particular with Chloe having life-changing surgery last year, but everything has just come together for us recently – I can’t wait for the wedding.
“I think meeting on a Facebook group shows that social media isn’t all bad – it’s the best thing that’s happened to both of us.”
Chloe was diagnosed with the disease in 2005 – when she was just 11 years old – and four years ago, before she met Rhys, she suffered an abscess and required emergency surgery.
After the surgery, Chloe was left battling an infection in her abdomen, which resulted in her needing to be tube fed for weeks with a drain fitted in her stomach.
A couple of years later and just weeks after the pair’s chance meeting, Chloe had to be rushed to hospital while attending a wedding.
Rhys visited her every day and their romance blossomed, with the couple becoming official by the time she was discharged.
Rhys said: “While she was in hospital, I brought her chocolates and chatted to her because I wanted to be there for her.
“I also took her on our first proper ‘date’ to the KFC near the hospital before she got discharged.”
The pair moved in together at the end of 2017 but less than a year later, Chloe went through life-changing surgery in which doctors removed a section of her bowel along with her rectum and gallbladder, meaning Chloe now has a permanent stoma bag.
Meanwhile, Rhys was diagnosed at 19 years old and suffers with fatigue, ulcers and painful cramps.
The 30-year-old now has the same consultant and treatment plan as fiancee Chloe.
Speaking about the proposal, Chloe said: “The moment Rhys and I got engaged was very surreal, it’s kind of a blur.
“I heard our song, The Calling’s ‘Wherever You Will Go’, play as I walked up the stairs of the roof terrace and thought ‘it’s happening, he’s actually going to propose!’
“Of course I said yes instantly, it was just perfect, he’d thought of every last detail to make it perfect for me, I couldn’t have wished for more.”
Rhys added: “I’d been planning the engagement for a few months and I was so excited for our weekend in Amsterdam, so I couldn’t be happier that Chloe said yes.”
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