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(from left to right): Michael, Brenda, Bernd
(from left to right): Michael, Brenda, Bernd

Along with renewed health came new love for Brenda Reiner. The following July after the bone marrow transplant, she met Michael Formberg, a fellow divorcee searching for true love after a painful marriage. Following three years of dating, they got engaged while vacationing in Kauai, under a rainbow of promise.

“Meanwhile, in July of 2013, my donor and I were given each other’s information, and we’ve been communicating through Facebook every day ever since (his name is Bernd Wittkemper),” Brenda shares. “Once I told Bernd of my engagement, he quickly asked when we were getting married. I said September 10, 2016. After a few days, Bernd said, ‘I’m coming to your wedding to help you celebrate.’ And even though he said, ‘I don’t dance,’ I talked him into dancing with me on our wedding day, as without him, I wouldn’t be here.”

As promised, both Bernd and his father, Albert, traveled to the USA from September 7-21. Not only did Bernd dance with the bride during the wedding, but the entire gathering of guests joined them on the dance floor to celebrate this new happy, healthy life for Brenda and Michael.

It just so happens that Bernd is getting married in May 2017. Brenda and Michael plan to attend Bernd and Ann-Catrin’s wedding in Germany, where they will take a delayed honeymoon, as well.

For Brenda, Michael and Bernd, this has been more than an amazing journey. It has become a reason to offer hope, faith and love to other people facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.

“In my opinion, when the news comes on, it’s filled with so much negativity, we lose sight of the good in people,” Brenda says. “But there’s so much good in my family and friends — even complete strangers — who supported and saved me during the worst time of my life.”

For Bernd, this experience has shown him that he could make a difference in someone’s life. He could actually save someone’s life and become an enduring part of their new life, just by offering to become a bone marrow donor. To be considered a match on the Be The Match registry, a participant just has to have a simple cheek swab done to collect DNA samples. Then they can decide whether or not to follow through with a transplant process once a match to a waiting patient is found. To participate, potential donors can join online or find a donor registry drive nearby.

For Michael, his new life with Brenda has proven that you really can get another shot at true love and true happiness. “I’m so happy with Brenda, I wonder, can it possibly get any better than this?” he asks with tears in his eyes.

The new husband-and-wife duo agree, “You’re put in situations like this for a reason. At the time, you’re just full of questions. But you need faith and hope to get through the test. God knows you will learn from this if you don’t get bitter and give up. We’ve learned to prioritize: Do good. Play hard. Work hard. Dream big. Now, looking back, we just look at each other and shake our heads, like ‘What just happened?’”

Brenda has a message for those in the midst of suffering: “I thought I was being pushed over the edge, but Mom was right. I hit my all-time low, but it wasn’t more than I could handle. Remember, this too shall pass. If you don’t like how things are going, choose to take a new path, accepting the opportunities that present themselves. Once you lose everything, you’re in a position to re-make your life as it ought to be… for me, it was new health, a new job, a new mate, a new me! Life is good!”

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Estelle R. Brown is a freelance writer who lives in Garrettsville with her family. She has written and taken photos for newspapers, magazines and e-zines for the past 25 years. She also enjoys working on public relations projects, including web content, newsletters, posters, brochures, press releases, and other creative endeavors. She enjoys writing compelling stories about her community as a contributing reporter for the Villager.