Wednesday, December 19, 2007


The latest guess is that I have been having pyelonephritis, aka, a kidney infection. However, most people would be healed up by now with the amount of antibiotics I've been on...I haven't yet.

When I was born, I had birth defects related to kidney and bladder function. I was lucky to be born in a time when these could be fixed and I went through three surgeries by the time I was five. As an adult, I realize how scary this experience must have been for my parents...they were wonderful, creating sticker books and writing stories with me about my experiences to help me cope with it. I took stuffed animals with me into the operating room and my Playskool stethoscope sometimes got mixed up with the real doctors' stethoscopes. The remarkable thing was that the surgeries worked, and I have been a healthy person with a pretty substantial notion of my own good fortune ever since.

Except, every so often, I get really sick. The last time I was this sick, nine years ago, it was right after a lot of stress and travel, it took me a month and a lot of antibiotics to get better. This time, I suspect I've been sick for at least that long, and well, it was probably stress and travel again...although the worst book stress, in June and July this past summer, had long passed by the time this started to be a problem.

Since I'm not really better yet, I'm scheduled for another test next week to see whether something more than an infection is wrong with my insides. Still and all, nine years is a good long run between these sorts of significant illnesses. So long, in fact, that it didn't occur to anyone straight away that this was what might be wrong...and that's probably why it took me so long to figure it out, too.

When I was a senior in college, I had my first significant committee interview, in January 1995. It was ill-fated, from the psychological exam down to the ice storm that kept me from getting home afterwards. However, the illegal question that was asked first at that interview is one I never forgot. I'd written an essay as part of the application process, and I'd explained how grateful I was for life and what joie de vivre I offered to others as a result. I wrote about luck and skill; of being born at the right time to have these surgeries and to have this skilled surgeon operate with a magnifying glass on my two year old insides. That illegal question?

"So, do you think you and your kidneys will make it through rabbinical school?"

The answer, then and now, thirteen years later, is of course, Yes. More importantly, no one can predict these things, when we might become ill, or just get run over by a bus while crossing the street. Despite meeting all the right qualifications on paper, I didn't get into rabbinical school, and I'll probably never know why. (believe me, I've asked) Instead, I taught public school in far more dangerous inner-city neighborhoods, earned a couple of graduate degrees, became a writer and designer---and once or twice, yes, I've had some infections. I'm going to hope that's all this is, that it's nothing more serious this time. In the meanwhile, I am still working every day on submitting parts of my book to my editors. And, if this is something more serious, well, I've done some things I'm really proud of...and I'm generally excited to wake up every morning, to spend time with the professor and Harry and Sally. Writing, teaching, designing, being alive--all pretty great.

The strings that hold us to this rich life can be fragile ones. I'm going to tie a knot, and hold on.


Anonymous AlisonH at said...

Amen and amen. Cheri Register wrote "Living With Chronic Illness," having been born with Caroli's disease, a liver defect, and I recommend it. That and Rachel Remen's books, Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings.

Meantime, didn't that person see you standing right there in front of him? Didn't that clue him in right there? I mean, c'mon. Some people!...

...Are so afraid of any mention of illness that they run as fast as they can lest they be contaminated with the evidence that it exists. Totally missing the experience that it adds a depth and richness of rejoicing to life. But you know.

December 19, 2007 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Perspective is everything, you know. I tell my girls - you can decide every morning what kind of day you want to have. It's up to you. Stuff happens to you but it's how you choose to respond that is really important.

I had a friend who watched my girls when they were little - I dropped them off one day and complained about having my period. She said - Consider the alternative!

That is a question that can be applied to many things in life.

December 19, 2007 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

Oh gosh Joanne this infection really likes you. It's time for it to go somewhere else. I'm going to pour on the white light extra heavy now. You need a break!

December 20, 2007 at 4:51 AM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Thinking good thoughts and sending up some prayers and will tie a few knots for you too!

December 20, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger weebug said...

here is to hoping that you are feeling better soon. you have a great perspective on life, so grab that rope and hang on tight! i am sending love and prayers your direction.

December 20, 2007 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Glad you found the problem - now to get the solution pronto. Good luck with more tests.

I'm holding you in my thoughts, as always.

December 21, 2007 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Gammy aka Peggy said...

Sometimes the best we can do is "tie a knot in out faith rope and hold on." Prayers for your illness.

December 23, 2007 at 4:18 PM  

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