Oct 31 2013
“I’m a word person, but for this I have no words.” That’s how I started an e-mail to a good friend the day I found out she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. It took me a full hour to process the news, and I spent the next several in tears. That was four weeks ago. Three weeks ago she told me what caused the cancer: her second pregnancy.
Today I’ve found my words again. Chalk it up to going through the steps of grieving–grieving over her diagnosis–but ever since she told me that because she created life, she’s now fighting for her own, I have been angry. Not angry at my friend, who wishes to remain nameless–“The message is the most important aspect,” she said–but angry that after having two kids myself and knowing a very fair share of other moms and having an OB/GYN in my family, I had never heard of pregnancy-induced breast cancer.
My friend never heard about it either, so when she noticed a lump in her left breast, she figured it was a clogged milk duct. She had no genetic history of breast cancer and felt fine. In September, when her second child was 10 months old, she sought treatment for a cough and pain in her chest, back, and shoulders. The doctor diagnosed pneumonia. At a recheck a week later, he found the antibiotics had done nothing. He sent her for further testing, and on September 27th, she was diagnosed with stage four (metastatic) breast cancer.
About 1 in 3,000 pregnant women will get it, according to the American Cancer Society, and it’s the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy or within the year after delivery. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 29 2013
Sometimes, your partner–being a human being (presumably; unless you’re like this guy which I sincerely hope you’re not)–will take some very trivial tiny hiccup that your baby does and freak out, worrying that he’s about to lose a leg. This risk is particularly high if it’s a newborn, or a first child–and if it’s both, watch out!
“Oh no, he sneezed… could he have a genetic lung disease?” Or maybe, just maybe, he just… sneezes sometimes?
Keeping with our sacred Jewish tradition ever since Exodus 20 of having lists of 10s broken into half positives and half negatives–here are five dos and five don’ts for this situation:
1.) Don’t try to reason logically with her/him. When she’s in freak-out mode, it’s her motherly instinct (or fatherly instinct, as the case may be) wanting to make sure the baby is perfect. You can’t process logical chains of reasoning when you’re in freak-out mode. Of course, logical analysis is essential, but that comes later, when you’re both calm. The militant say, “Shoot first, then ask questions”; I’d say, “Hug first, then ask questions.” Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 28 2013
On July 16th, we (OK…my wife) gave birth to our second daughter.
Six weeks early.
By emergency C-section.
The day after our 8-year-old returned from a month-long motor home road trip with Bubbe, Grandpa, and the cousins.
And that was the easy part.
Her name (the daughter, not the wife) is Eliana Tova. The common translation of Eliana is “God has answered,” and Tova translates as “good.”
We were attracted to the name in part because of the 8-year gap between our children. Suffice it to say that the gap in time wasn’t voluntary, so we were grateful that God had, it seemed, answered us with something good. Or had He? Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 22 2013
From left to right: Chris, her daughter Kara, and son Erik.
October is the official Gaucher’s disease Awareness Month. Gaucher’s disease is the most common genetic disease among Ashkenazi Jews.
Gaucher’s disease is a rare, inherited disorder caused by a deficiency in a particular enzyme. Gaucher’s (pronounced go-SHAYZ) disease occurs when certain harmful fatty substances accumulate to excessive levels in your liver, spleen, lungs, bone marrow, and brain. The accumulation of fatty material in tissues interferes with how your body works and may cause organ enlargement and bone pain.
Besides wearing green shoelaces to show your support, you could also learn much more about this disease by reading the following Q&A with Chris Lang, mother of two, who was diagnosed with Gaucher’s at 31 years old.
How/when did you first find out you had Gaucher’s? What type are you? Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 17 2013
I never saw my mother naked.
Not even when I was a little girl.
With her clothes on, she was slender and supple. Her legs were shapely beneath black Gap stretch pants, and her breasts rode high underneath her cotton turtlenecks. She’d change with the door closed, and I knew better than to open the opaque glass door when she was showering.
She never wore bathing suits. Even when we went down to the lip of the sea where the waves licked our feet, she’d stand there in her leggings and a baggy t-shirt while my father and I would charge into the billows, our firm bodies buoyant in the waves.
I never saw the softness of her belly, or spider veins etching a life story on her thighs. I don’t know if her nipples were brown or pink or red or peach.
I never heard her use the “F” word. No, not that one. This one: Fat. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 26 2013
April 2012: I am very, very dizzy. I close my eyes when we drive across bridges, because it looks like the right-hand side is slicing the car in half. I am dizzy at night when my head feels like it goes back several feet before reaching the pillows. I am sick when I drive, squinting my right eye roughly so I can focus on the road.
One night I am dizzy enough that my 10-year-old son calls his friend’s father to take me to the ER. Their daughter watches my kids, who must have been terrified. I can’t bear to think of it. I cover my eyes in the ER, drink a sip of water, and instantly vomit it up on my shirt. I finally get an IV because I am so dehydrated, as well as a mega-dose of Meclizine. I am dizzy for weeks, but I ignore it. I drink huge amounts of water and cut out caffeine in an attempt to feel steady. The Meclizine, the gold standard for vertigo I am prescribed, does not work at all. Eventually I feel normal again and chalk the incident up to a weird after-40 situation. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 15 2013
I had a dream the other night; it was vivid and frightened the hell out of me. My son was on a table, and his body looked like a roasted chicken. He was crying because there was a doctor behind him pulling his chicken limbs off, one by one. I screamed and cried with my son, but had no power to stop or reverse his pain.
This dream is crazy but perhaps painfully understandable when you consider my history. Four months ago, my son Idan, who was 8 months old at the time, was rushed to ER because his respiratory rate had increased to a speed of 80 times per minute and he was panting like a dog. Obviously, something was wrong, but we had no way of anticipating what would come next.
We spent three weeks in the pediatric ICU with Idan hooked up to a ventilator and half a dozen tubes and IVs. He had contracted PCP, a rare form of pneumonia and was being treated for it, yet on the day he showed signs of recovering, the doctors came to deliver worse news. “Your son has a severe immune deficiency disorder, but we don’t know what it is yet,” they told us. Weeks went by until we had a diagnosis: Hyper IgM, also known as a CD40 Ligand Deficiency. Okay, it was worse than that: it was X-Linked Hyper IgM, meaning it was passed down through the mother.
Take a moment to digest that one. It came from me. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 5 2013
I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since I was 3 years old. I’m now 31. I can’t pinpoint a time when anyone told me that having diabetes would affect my ability to carry a pregnancy, but I’ve always known that it would.
Even as a first-year college student, with boys on the brain and marriage barely on the periphery, I started researching other ways to have children. At 20, I wondered if I should freeze my eggs, but didn’t pursue it. I thought about adoption and struggled to confess to myself that I wasn’t sure I could truly bond to an adoptive child. Though it shamed me–and still shames me–that I don’t see myself as a candidate for adoptive motherhood, I was still looking for ways to be a parent. One day, several years ago, I encountered an article in the New York Times magazine about a woman and her husband who’d had a child via a gestational surrogate. Finding my life partner, my husband, was still far off, but I read the article several times. I suspected I’d found the right option. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 25 2013
When I was eagerly pregnant with my first, I devoured a library copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting with an open and trusting mind. Every twinge they described I felt keenly and every rare complication was one I considered. At some point, I found myself walking out into the living room and asking my husband, “Ari, could I have an ectopic pregnancy?”
I’m pretty sure his sigh and accompanying eye-roll were the most patronizing imaginable. He said I was too far along, and we’d “for sure” know if I had an ectopic pregnancy.
At the time, Ari was right, but this winter, his certainty was misplaced.
Three years later, as we found ourselves trying to conceive baby #2, my first cycle of trying came and went. I was not concerned–it had taken eight months to conceive our eldest–and I looked forward to going to the mikvah and my next chance. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 22 2013
When I was in my mid-20s, a friend of my parents commented that I was “the kind of person who life just works out for.” And he was right–I had a supportive family, many close friends, and a deeply fulfilling job. I had recently married the man whom I had loved since high school, and received a full scholarship for graduate school. I was a very blessed young woman.
And so, several years later, when my husband and I set out to start building our family, I–perhaps a bit brazenly–assumed that life would continue to work out. And in the beginning it seemed that it would. I immediately got pregnant, even as I watched others close to me struggle with infertility. I had easy first and second trimesters that included a month living in Israel as a last adventurous hurrah before we were to become a family of three.
It wasn’t until a month into my third trimester that I began to not feel well. I had no appetite but was constantly thirsty, my abdomen was tender, and I was “out of it.” I chalked it up to the fact that I was getting larger. I figured I’d had it so easy that I could tolerate a couple of months of being uncomfortable. Read the rest of this entry →