Anali and Eloy Sanchez have never had an easy relationship.
The two met as sophomores at Hart High School after Anali emigrated from Mexico her freshman year. They first became friends and later started dating at the end of their senior year. Just a month after they made their relationship official and a week after they graduated, Eloy left for boot camp for the Marine Corps.
Eloy wrote to Anali while he was away for three months, but came back home to the Santa Clarita Valley for a week before leaving for training in North Carolina.
On a short vacation home from North Carolina months after that, Eloy proposed to Anali after a dinner and movie date.
“I was shaking the box and trying to figure out what it was and he popped the question,” Anali said. “I was really surprised.”
The proposal took place in October, but the 19-year-olds did not tell their parents about their engagement until the end of December because they knew they would disapprove considering Eloy would be gone so often. After getting approval from Anali’s parents, the two married that January.
Newlyweds, the couple later moved to San Diego County because Eloy was stationed at Camp Pendleton. But, Anali was homesick being away from her parents for the first time. When she came out of the shower one day and her new husband noticed she had a missing patch of hair, she figured it was the stress of the move that caused her hair to fall out.
When her hair did not begin to grow back, however, Anali agreed to go to the nearby naval hospital.
Doctors initially misdiagnosed her condition as anemia, but called her back to the hospital soon after she had gone home to run more tests.
The couple waited for hours for results to come back and when they did, they learned the doctors were dumbfounded by their finding, thinking there must have been a mistake.
“They wanted to make sure first before breaking the news to us,” she said. “They didn’t know how to tell me. I was getting more scared at that point.”
The doctor told Anali she had stage five kidney disease and that she would need to see a specialist to begin dialysis and arrange to for a kidney transplant.
“We were both shocked,” Anali said. “We were not expecting something like that. To think we were just starting our marriage life. That’s the last thing you expect, to have a disease.”
This was in 2011. Eloy went back to serve a second term in the military and Anali moved back to Newhall to try to live life as normally as she could.
“I was really good at taking care of myself,” she said. “For the first few years, I just took it as it was. I did not let it affect me.”
Anali decided to put herself on a list to get a transplant, but the process was stalled because she was not a U.S. citizen at the time.
That was the scariest part, she said. She is now a citizen and is on a five to 15 year waitlist to get a kidney.
Today, the now 27-year-olds live in an apartment together, Anali works in retail and cleaning maintenance while getting dialysis twice a week. Eloy is going to College of the Canyons to become an auto body technician.
“Honestly, I think I’m here because of him,” Anali said of Eloy. “He’s my support for everything. Since day one, he’s never left my side.”
She said there are days where she feels fine and forgets about her disease, but she often feels drowsy and weak on days she has dialysis. For years, the only people who knew about the disease were the couple’s families. She said she does not want people to treat her differently because of it.
“The last thing I wanted was for people to feel sorry for me,” she said. “I was really scared of what people would think or what people would say.”
Anali is still looking for an O-positive donor as a match. One of Anali’s cousins was a match for a transplant and volunteered to be a donor, but he backed out at the last minute.
She said slowly, but surely, she’s learning to open up about her condition.
Eloy and Anali are actively involved in Habitat for Humanity where they connect with other couples, go to events and do charity work. The organization is also helping the couple get their first house, which they hope to move into by the end of the year.
Despite her trials, Anali said she is thankful for the community she has to support her.
“I’m so glad we got to be part of that group,” Anali said. “Bad things happen, but good things happen, too.”
On Twitter as @ginaender