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POLITICS

In intimate talk, Ann Romney describes hardships

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

ROBINS, Iowa -- Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, offered a glimpse of "the side of Mitt people don't see or don't hear about" at a small fundraiser in a private home near Cedar Rapids Tuesday night.

Standing beside a brightly lit Christmas tree, Mrs. Romney described how she met her future husband when she was just 15 years old.  "Our first date was to 'The Sound of Music,'" she said.  She described her loneliness when Romney went away to college, at Stanford, and then traveled to France on Mormon missionary work.  "My heart truly did break when he left to go on his mission for two and a half years," she said.  "I really did think my life was over…I fell on the floor in hysterical sobs."

Mrs. Romney told the group about her marriage and the growth of her family -- the Romneys have five sons and 16 grandchildren -- as her husband made his business, and later political, career in Massachusetts.  It was a happy, if challenging, time.  But she also described a dark moment in her life when she found herself not only facing a serious illness, multiple sclerosis, but living in a new and unfamiliar place when Mitt Romney took the job of organizing the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"People think, well, you've had this perfect life," Mrs. Romney said.  "It's like, no, it was hard.  It was really hard."

"The hardest time in my life was when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," Mrs. Romney continued.  "That was really a hard place for me to be.  It was at the same time that Mitt got called to do the Olympic job.  That was not a tough decision for me.  I knew we were supposed to do it, and I was fine with leaving.  And yet, when we got to Salt Lake, I knew no one.  People assumed we had friends and family there.  No, I knew no one."

"I grew up in Michigan," she continued.  "Mitt was the first Mormon I ever saw in my life.  I didn't have -- I was not part of this club.  I just didn't know anybody.  It was hard because I'd left my family, I'd left my friends, I knew no one. I got literally dropped in Salt Lake once, I didn't even know how to get back to my house.  That was before GPS.  It was a hard, hard thing for us when we first went and did this."

Mrs. Romney described the debilitating fatigue she suffered with multiple sclerosis and the fear that she might be confined to a wheelchair.  Her husband was infinitely understanding, she said, telling her she would be alright and that he wouldn't mind even if she were disabled.  "He said, 'Look, I'll be fine if you're in a wheelchair,'" she said.  "And he said, 'And I really don't care that you can't  cook dinner anymore -- I really could eat toast and cereal for the rest of my life.'"  With her husband's encouragement, she said, she turned to riding horses as therapy and eventually returned to an active life.

Throughout her talk, Mrs. Romney stressed her husband's virtues.  "He's steadfast, he's honest, he's good," she said.  "He sticks with you in the hard times…I know that he's good to the core, and I trust him so completely…I know without any doubt that he'll be a great president."

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