Renata Pasqualini and Wadih Arap
Ages 46 and 52
Married 18 years
Wadih: Renata and I grew up in the same city in Brazil. We attended the same elementary and high schools and later shared an adviser at the University of São Paulo. But because of our six-year age difference, we never crossed paths.
Renata: We also shared a commitment to finding a cure for cancer. After graduation from medical school, Wadih studied cancer biology at Stanford University, and I did postdoctoral research at Harvard University.
Wadih: In June 1993, I needed a hard-to-find chemical for a particular experiment. My college adviser back in Brazil suggested I contact Renata in Boston, since she was using the same element in her work.
Renata: Wadih called me from his office in San Diego. Then we began corresponding by e-mail, which was brand-new back then.
Wadih: Forty-four people in my lab had to share the same e-mail address.
Renata: At first, our messages were purely professional. Then we began getting more philosophical and having deeper exchanges. But neither of us had romantic expectations.
Wadih: In August I invited Renata to speak about her research to my lab associates. When she stepped through the airport gate, I thought, Uh-oh, I’m in trouble.
Renata: I didn’t think that. But Wadih was exceedingly charming.
Wadih: She gave her lecture the next day, a Thursday. On Friday I took her to a classy restaurant. I couldn’t stop thinking this was it, that we would never see each other again. So I said, “I think we should get married.”
Renata: He put his hand in mine and something incredible happened. I knew I was in love. I said yes.
Wadih: We hadn’t even kissed yet.
Renata: Oh no! And there was no alcohol involved, either. My parents and friends were stunned when I told them I was engaged. I’m not known to be impulsive.
Wadih: We were both busy with work, but two months later we met up in Reno and married at an all-night chapel. We had a one-day honeymoon in Lake Tahoe.
Renata: I didn’t move in with Wadih for six months, because I had experiments to finish. We phoned, e-mailed, and saw each other when we could.
Wadih: Then, in 1999, we accepted an offer to head up our own research laboratory at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston.
Renata: Now we spend 98 percent of our time together. We work side by side.
Wadih: For some couples, our situation would be a deal breaker. They might think, If I worked by myself, I would get all the glory and awards.
Renata: Sometimes we fight like the gods. But minutes later it’s forgotten. Wadih and I are equals in every way. And we have a palpable connection. To this day, I wonder, What if I had been careful and turned down his proposal? It’s a dreadful thought.