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Tiny Love Stories: ‘Our Most Mundane Conversations Became Contentious’

Long before her diagnosis, my reliably cheerful friend turned sour. Even our most mundane conversations became contentious. Pessimism and frustration darkened her world. Eventually, as words eluded her and her thinking grew disorganized, the diagnosis came: early dementia. Terrifying, yes, but naming her condition set her free. Her joy returned in force. Now, when I visit her in her assisted-living apartment, a smile lights her face. Complex sentences are out of her reach. Instead, she pours out pure love — telling me I’m wonderful, beautiful and smart. Her son says her happiness lasts for hours after our visits. — Elise Gibson

Studies have found that exercise may help cancer patients live longer, but during chemotherapy, the mechanics of running escaped me. So, I gave myself a pep talk. “Are you hunched over? Straighten your torso. Hold your head up. Harness energy from the thoughts that terrorize you. Raise those knees, take it out on the ground. Don’t keep your arms useless by your sides, work them. Relax your shoulders. Lead with your chest to improve lung capacity. Breathe. Do not forget to breathe.” Now cancer-free and mother to an exuberant boy, I gain strength from the pep talk even when I’m not running. — Onege Mbogandem Maroadi

My new husband, ex-husband and I flew to Grenada for my son’s medical school ceremony. While my spouse stayed at the hotel to work, my ex and I explored the island. Although my ex lived nearby me, we rarely saw one another. Throughout the tour, we discussed our grown children and asked about each other’s families. We declined our guide’s offer to snap our picture at every stop. I took dozens of photos, but one of my favorites is my husband and my ex in deep conversation at the airport. Out of one broken relationship, a new one had formed. — Lisa Kanarek

1976, North Plains, Ore.: First time we met. Our mothers were best friends. We shared family dinners, movies, roller skating outings. Then we went to separate colleges, had our own marriages, children and divorces. 2017, Portland, Ore.: We meet again at the Women’s March in a crowd of thousands. “Hey, I know you!” I said to Susan; between our meetings, she had come out as a beautiful transgender woman. Six months later, we share our first date. We move in together, get married, blend our family of four children and pets. Turns out, the right person was in our lives all along. — Kelley Pearce

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