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Leaping Into Love and a Life of Spontaneity

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When Jordan Culbreath, an accomplished running back for the Princeton Tigers, entered his senior year at Princeton University in 2009, he began to realize that something was wrong in his body. He had headaches. He felt numbness in his limbs. He “couldn’t even walk up a set of stairs without getting tired,” he said. He got knocked down on the field and couldn’t get up.

Mr. Culbreath was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare condition where the body stops producing enough blood cells. He had to leave school. Doctors tried to find him a bone marrow donor, but to no avail. It began to look likely that Mr. Culbreath wouldn’t be able to get lifesaving treatment. Running out of options, Mr. Culbreath enrolled in a clinical trial for an immunosuppressive therapy. It was a long shot. But after about six months, Mr. Culbreath’s body began producing blood cells again. The following academic year, he returned to Princeton to finish his studies.

Salone Loney, who was also a student at Princeton, knew Mr. Culbreath. They had met as freshman, and their social circles overlapped. They considered each other friends. But they weren’t so close that Ms. Culbreath was aware of the scope of Mr. Culbreath’s illness — even after Mr. Culbreath disappeared from campus.

Ms. Loney said she “had heard through the grapevine that Jordan got sick.” But she didn’t know just how sick, she said, or “how debilitating and scary his situation actually was.”

Almost a decade later, she found out.

In 2017, a friend of Ms. Loney mentioned that she had just run into Mr. Culbreath. Both Ms. Loney and Mr. Culbreath were living in New York. They hadn’t seen each other in a while, so Ms. Loney sent Mr. Culbreath a text message. They set up a date.

“That first dinner we had, we didn’t eat anything,” Ms. Loney said. “We were just engaged, talking and catching up.”

“It was like talking to your best friend,” she added.

Ms. Loney noticed more than just the ease of their conversation: She noticed that Mr. Culbreath had matured.

“I saw him as a partner for the first time,” Ms. Loney said. “He seemed like more of an adult, instead of the sweatpants-wearing jock that played video games downstairs in college.”

Mr. Culbreath was similarly taken with Ms. Loney. After that first date, he asked Ms. Loney whether she wanted to go on a short-notice vacation with him to Cancun. She accepted.

As the two spent time together, Ms. Loney learned more about Mr. Culbreath’s illness. And she learned that some part of his spontaneity — the same spontaneity that might drive a person to invite someone they just reconnected with to travel to Cancun — is a product of his period of illness.

“He’s always living life to the fullest, like there’s no tomorrow,” Ms. Loney said. “Because he’s experienced situations in his life where he really didn’t think there was a tomorrow.”

Ms. Loney’s openness to spur-of-the-moment experiences also made an impression on Mr. Culbreath.

“I liked her spontaneity,” he said. “Just leaping and hoping the net will appear.”

Ms. Loney, 33, a vice president of business development at Leucadia Asset Management in New York, and Mr. Culbreath, also 33, a director and senior trader at Bank of America Securities, were married July 24 at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, a resort in Whitefish, Mont. Megan Sinclair, a friend of the couple who is a Universal Life Minister, officiated.

Before she reconnected with Mr. Culbreath, Ms. Loney wasn’t aiming to get married in the first half of her 30s. “My parents dated for seven years before they got married,” she explained. But Mr. Culbreath fit into Ms. Loney’s life so seamlessly that by the time he proposed, in June 2019, her attitude had changed.

“I think I said ‘yes’ before he even finished the question,” Ms. Loney said.

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