Not Exactly What I Had in Mind: An Incurable Love Story

Not Exactly What I Had in Mind: An Incurable Love Story

by Rosemary Breslin


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One week in 1989, Rosemary Breslin got a headache that wouldn't go away. After countless tests and treatments, doctors knew little about her strange disease except that it wasn't AIDS or cancer. Two years later, out of a job, in debt, and worried about insurance, Rosemary was invited out by friends—not knowing this would be the night she met her future husband. This is one woman's story about having a real life while facing the question of how long she might live. Serialized in Self magazine. 208 pp. National ads. Author tour. 40,000 print.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812992281
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/04/1997
Pages: 229
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Rosemary Breslin was a journalist and screenwriter. She worked at The New York TimesNewsday, and the New York Daily News. Her articles appeared in ElleNew York magazine, Rolling Stone, and New Republic. The author of Not Exactly What I Had in Mind: An Incurable Love Story, Breslin died in 2004.

Read an Excerpt

The Present
I think I found my husband’s next wife. Since we bought this tiny cottage in the country a few months back I’d been in search of a good breakfast place that opens early. Much as I love diners and beat-up coffee shops, the coffee never has a good kick and the muffins almost always have the consistency of paperweights. I found a great one that serves thick, strong coffee and light, fresh muffins. As I stood on line to order, I immediately turned my eye to the women who run the place. Standing together, they were good-looking, hardworking, hip. They could handle things.
Of the two, Ann’s the one I chose on the spot. I first saw her at the grill, in the early morning rush of farmers and truckers and laborers and newcomers like me, second-home owners from the big city, and she was great to watch. Thin, muscular, hair loosely pulled back, up before four but still looking great as she fills the orders with great efficiency, cutting off slabs of fresh cinnamon bread or flipping orders of thick hash browns.
Ann and I hit it off immediately. We started out the usual way. A smile. A nod of recognition. A wave good-bye after I paid for my papers and order. Then we got to talking. I told her I’d just bought my house and she told me she had been a biochemist in Washington, D.C., who had been lured back to her hometown by her sister, who had taken over a convenience store and turned it into this breakfast place.
Soon I started bringing Tony, my husband, Ann’s future husband, with me. He didn’t come along at first because I get up so much earlier, but I lured him out the door with the image of frying bacon and pancakes so large and light that when they’re placed in front of you, you feel as if you’re a kid in a fairy tale.
Ann already dug me by the time I introduced her to Tony. We’d been checking each other out and romancing each other the way women do, so when Ann saw the way I feel about Tony, he was right in there. Then the other morning, as Tony and I were leaving, Ann said that once in a while she and her sister throw dinner parties at night after they close and she took our number to call us. It was nice because we don’t know anybody yet, unless you count the Terminix guy. But it was long before the dinner invitation that I had chosen Ann for Tony, although I hadn’t mentioned it to him until we were on our way home last Sunday morning.
“You could marry her,” I said, as I shut the Jeep door. “She’d be good for you.”
Tony tried to pretend he didn’t know what I was talking about, but since we’ve had this conversation on a couple of occasions he caught on pretty quickly.
“Will you shut up,” he responded.
“I’m serious. I can see her.” What I meant was he’d be OK with her, she’d understand him, appreciate both him and the love and work I’d put into him. Tony was a good guy when I met him, but I made him great. So I’m not giving him up to just any old tramp.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Tony said.
“That’s what you say.”
“That’s what I have to say,” Tony said.
And I guess he does. What good is it going to do him to worry that this illness I have may kill me sooner rather than later. I like to think the same way he does, but sometimes I worry. Even with some major rough spots, I have managed to stay alive with this serious blood disease for six years now. Still, a rare and serious disorder like mine is not exactly a ringing endorsement for longevity. Tony has to say nothing’s going to happen to me, and I have to be prepared for the possibility. I guess that’s what they call balance.
Essentially this illness affects my red blood cells. Doctors speculate that perhaps I caught a virus or had a toxic reaction and that my body created an antibody to fight the invader. Doctors believe the antibody successfully fought the virus or toxic reaction, but did not stop there. It apparently can’t differentiate between the now defeated invader and my healthy red blood cells. The antibody attacks the cells just before they are released from the bone marrow. As a result, my body is unable to produce mature red blood cells. Doctors have made up a lot of fancy names for this illness, but when you get right down to it it’s anemia. Just not the kind you take iron pills for. It is truly because of the miracles of modern science that I am alive.
Almost all the doctors familiar with my case have speculated that this illness may disappear as mysteriously as it first appeared, though as the years pass I believe this less and less. Especially since it’s now going stronger than ever. No one knows the cause of this disorder or how to cure it, and to figure out a way to treat it has been “a crapshoot,” to quote one of the country’s foremost hematologists. In case my illness doesn’t seem special enough, no one has seen it before. At least none of the many doctors I have seen or contacted around the world.
So my story isn’t a simple one. Not quite Ali MacGraw in Love Story. Well, maybe the Tony part of my story. I’d already been sick for two years when I met Tony. We’ve been together for four years, married for three. I hope it’ll be thirty-three someday, but that seems unlikely. If I boast a little about what I’ve done for Tony, it doesn’t compare with what he’s done for me. He’s my whole life.
I may hate being sick, I do want it to go away desperately, but I can no longer wish it never happened, because all the horrors I’ve endured for these past six years are a great part of the woman I’ve become. I don’t know who I would be if this hadn’t happened to me. And the woman I’ve become is the woman who fell in love with Tony Dunne, and I couldn’t give that up for anything in the entire world. Not even in exchange for my life. So yes, imagining Tony marrying Ann is a little bit of a joke. But just a little.

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