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Aug 26 2013

My Summer Brain Tumor

By at 5:02 pm

brain tumorApril 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

My Baby Idan’s Fight to Live

By at 9:55 am

baby idanI 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

Why I Chose a Jewish Gestational Surrogate

By at 10:00 am

gestational-surrogacyI’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

My Ectopic Pregnancy & Why I’m Determined to Talk About It

By at 1:48 pm

emergency room signWhen 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

How I Missed My Own Son’s Birth

By at 5:04 pm

c-section operating tableWhen 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 →

Jul 19 2013

The Best Rap About Cancer You’ll Read All Day

By at 12:01 pm

aly viny cancer rapAly Viny is an actress and writer in New York City.  She has appeared on stages throughout New York City and across the country. She maintains a site of Jew girl raps at www.jap-rap.com where she raps poetic about everything from her frustrations with her husband leaving empty Splenda packets around the house, to Costco trips, to Passover. She loves the crap out of her husband and in this particular rap, she gets more personal as she shares a bit of his incredible journey from being healed to becoming a healer. She sure is lucky she could be along for the ride.

It’s summer and you think I’m gonna rap ’bout somethin’ lotional

Today’s a little different, y’all, forgive me if I’m ‘motional

Let’s take a little breather, slow it down and maybe park it

Put away your kale from your co-op hipster market

Let’s gather like it’s Pesach, all my sisters and my brothers

While I tell you why this night is so much DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS

So let’s all listen up, just relax or take a pill

And I’ll tell y’all the story cuz this shit ’bout to get RIL Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2013

I’m Totally Guilty of New Mom TMI

By at 2:15 pm

placenta, fetus, tmiPrior to becoming pregnant, life was certainly different: I got more sleep. I ate whatever I wanted. I had some wine with dinner… and if “some” wine turned into a bottle of wine, it was just a sillier night. I got more sleep. I went on a vacation on a whim. I wasn’t legally responsible for the life of another human being (yes, I am legally bound to my husband… but I don’t think I could be put in jail for not feeding him. I cook for him of my own free will… and he’d better like it!) And yes, I got more sleep.

But in addition to the expected changes, there was another big transformation. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, it was as if a button were pressed in my brain where not only was it accepted, but it was expected that I discuss all of my personal business.

I have become no holds barred in divulging TMI to any and everyone. When I was just about four months pregnant, I was put on bed rest for six weeks due to a low-lying placenta. PBJ (no, not peanut butter and jelly, PreBaby-Jessica) would have been perfectly content to just tell everyone that I was put on bed rest for medical reasons. And yet, there I was, telling everyone from my parents to my middle-aged, childless male coworkers that I had a low-lying placenta. It’s like I would look for reasons to get the word placenta into conversation.  “What a nice summer breeze. It reminds me of my low-lying placenta.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2013

I Became a Kosher Vegan

By at 12:04 pm

fruits and vegetables on wood tableI’ve written here before about the carefree approach I had to food in my 20s: I ate and drank with abandon, just shy of gluttony, with a penchant for trying new cuisine in new places (thus, I went on a month-long, semi-solo sojourn to India to try the food). I come from expert meat-grillers, and the art of the old-school, dairy brunch that could render a person immobile for two days was not lost on me. Didn’t everyone’s grandparents put sour cream in cottage cheese with dill and radishes?

And then, in my 30s, I married an awesome guy who happens to have always kept kosher. That we would keep kosher wasn’t necessarily written into the ketubah (marriage contract), but an agreement we made that I was, and am, just fine with honoring. I missed cheeseburgers, and now don’t really even give them a thought, like an old boyfriend I know in hindsight was a lot of fun, but bad for me. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 5 2013

Doing a Mitzvah Can Be Quite Painful

By at 9:49 am

give blood blood drive signThis past Memorial Day weekend I was inspired to do a mitzvah after seeing a friend on Facebook placing American flags on soldiers’ graves to commemorate the day.

On my drive to Starbucks for a rare treat, I contemplated how I could make the world a better place when I literally saw the sign. It was for a blood drive and it was posted in front of the Shriner’s temple. Perfect! I will donate a pint of blood to an anonymous person facing an immediate crisis as a symbol of my gratitude for the men and women in our armed forces who have shed their blood for my freedom.

As it turns out, however, the anonymous person was not so anonymous. His name is Owen and he is 2 and suffering from a rare disease that requires continuous blood transfusions as part of his immediate treatment. In exchange for my donor paperwork, the blood bank worker handed me a picture of this beautiful child in the form of a thank you card from his folks. My pride in my mitzvah and the resulting joy was extinguished instantly with the realization that a family was in pain. Lying on the portable table with a needle in my arm, I stared at the various light fixtures overhead trying to make sense of the thoughts and events that had led me to my current state.  Read the rest of this entry →

May 30 2013

How Worried Should We Be About Flame Retardants in Our Furniture?

By at 11:50 am

couch with flame retardantsI am a champion worrier, and I do not limit my worrying to the logical or the likely. I worry about there not being enough food at Shabbat dinner, and about stranger danger. I worry about my step-daughter refusing to eat vegetables and becoming anemic, and about animals escaping the zoo. But these days, I spend most of my time worrying about two big, terrifying environmental dangers: flame retardants in furniture, and fracking. Read the rest of this entry →

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