Not even KLS can come in between Andrea Clendenny and her boyfriend Chris. In fact, the 21-year-old from Bethalto, Illinois, says that seeing her guy through his episodes has made her cherish him and their relationship even more.

When Chris and I met, there was an instant chemistry, and on our first date, we both knew that what we felt for each other was real. What I love most about Chris is that he is kind, loving, generous and determined. He inspires me to look on the bright side and always sees the good in people. He also has the ability to make me laugh, when the last thing I want to do is put on a happy face. We’re similar in a lot of ways, and I think that’s what attracted us to each other.

I knew about Chris’ KLS within days of our first meeting. As time went on, I got to learn more about the disorder and how it has affected his life. In the two-and-a-half years we have been together, he’s endured several episodes, but the great thing is that he refuses to let the illness define him. He has a lot of inner strength, and I admire him for that.

Won’t ever let you down

I won’t lie – Chris’ episodes are pretty hard on me. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating not having my best friend around to talk to all the time, but overall, I’d say it’s been worth the struggle. Thanks to my family, Chris’ family and our close friends, I’ve managed to get through every episode intact. Staying busy and doing fun things help a lot too, because they put my mind in a more positive state.

Most times, during an episode, Chris wants to be left alone, but other times he wants me by his side. It’s hard seeing him suffer but I do what I can to comfort him and reassure him that everything’s going to be okay. At the start, it was scary seeing Chris in an episode because he becomes a totally different person, but now, I’m used to it. Still, I’d say it was pretty confronting.

Our special relationship

Chris and I live each day to the fullest and try not to let KLS take up too much of our thoughts. Making plans is always a challenge when you have KLS, but we try not to let that deter us from living our lives. When Chris is healthy, we love hanging out together – relaxing, watching movies, going on walks, eating out, and just having fun like other young couples. We really savor those moments because we never know when KLS might strike again. If you didn’t know Chris had KLS, you’d think he was just like any other guy his age – he loves working out, playing football, and hanging out with his family and friends.

Chris’ episodes began when he was 14. All the doctors he saw had no idea what was wrong with him, but then he went to the Mayo Clinic, and right away they knew he had KLS. His episodes caused him to miss a lot of school and his studies were disrupted – he finished high school but wasn’t able to complete college. Now, he works as a Union Laborer, and thankfully, his bosses are very understanding towards his situation.

Love will see us through

My family absolutely loves Chris and they support our relationship 100 per cent. Every now and then, people tell me, “I don’t know how you do it, Andrea,”, but I always tell them that if you love somebody enough, you can get through just about anything together. Yes, it’s a challenge at times, but Chris and I are strong people and we don’t let others’ negativity and judgments get us down.

But love isn’t all you need – you must also be kind, loyal and devoted. I try to put myself in Chris’ shoes, and that helps me understand his predicament better.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who has KLS, the best advice I can give you is to find the things you love to do, and when times are bad, busy yourself with those activities. Don’t let others tell you how to act – just be yourself. And always surround yourself with positive and supportive people.

Chris has been very strong for me too. Just because he has KLS, it doesn’t mean he isn’t qualified to give me advice about life. In fact, he’s been great with helping me figure out what I want to do and we absolutely love making plans together. But, as much as we enjoy discussing the future, we both know how important it is to live in the present, so that’s the main priority for us right now. We’re in this for the long haul and we’re taking it one step at a time.

Article by: Alanna Wong Life

KLS Foundation

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