It started about six weeks ago—with an illness I had never even heard of before. My doctor prescribed a lot of really strong antibiotics and I figured I’d be well in a jiffy. Except not so fast. The antibiotics were worse than the illness and made me feel weak and plain old awful. And then, despite all the probiotics I took and yogurt I ate, I got tongue thrush (yeah, gross I know). And the medicine I took to clear that up didn’t work, so I needed different medicine, which also made me sick.
I had spent the last six months planning a family trip to Israel for my nephew’s wedding but I could barely leave my house—never mind get to a destination a 12-hour plane ride away. And I was on a special diet, the doctor didn’t think foreign water and foods were a good idea, etc.
So they went without me and I watched the wedding on Facebook Live. I cried through all of it. Since my brother is gone, I had felt it was extra important for me to be there to represent him. But sometimes life gets in the way of our plans.
As the days passed, I started to feel better and I was grateful. Disclosure—I’m not the world’s greatest patient.
Then, out of nowhere, I got nauseous. Like really nauseous. Like more nauseous than I had ever felt in my life even with the worst stomach bug. And I got scared. In the evening, a kind neighbor came over and stayed with me for a little bit. By the next morning I couldn’t take it anymore and my brother-in-law drove me to the local hospital emergency room. They hydrated me and gave me some anti-nausea meds and sent me home and my mom stayed with me.
My family came home. And I was still nauseous. I ended up in the emergency room two more times. My internist sent me to my gastroenterologist, who was dismissive, condescending, uncaring (even outright cruel, if you ask my husband) and seemed beyond annoyed by my presence in his office.
The nausea continued and made me anxious, which most likely made me more nauseous. This went on for ten days. I barely ate anything, lost eight pounds and felt extremely weak.
At a low point one night, I actually got down on my knees. Now generally I’m not really big on praying. I mean I pray when I’m in temple and I do say a few ritual prayers daily, but I don’t really talk to G-d. I figure He’s got bigger fish to fry than me, so I try not to bug him. When I got down on my knees it was to ask my grandmothers for guidance. My husband watched me do this and, to his credit, he kept his thoughts to himself.
Let me tell you about my grandmothers. In different ways they were two incredibly strong women. My dad’s mother, Olga, survived Auschwitz by escaping into the woods during a march of prisoners. She lived to be 100. My mom’s mother, Gertie, who I called Nanny, survived pogroms in Poland and immigrated to this country so that she could work to help bring the rest of her family to safety. She lived until 97 and no matter what life threw at her (and no matter how anxious she was), she always kept going.
I asked these two women for some help. Because I was feeling desperate.
The next day I called a new gastro group. I had gotten the recommendation from a friend and I asked for an appointment ASAP. The receptionist said only one of their five doctors had an opening that day. I was just grateful someone could fit me in.
My mom asked me who I was seeing and when I told her the doctor’s name, she remarked, “Oh, that’s an unusual name. I think she’s our cousin.” I was a little skeptical but too nauseated to think much about it so I just said “Okay.”
A dear friend took me to my appointment and when I mentioned to the doctor what my mom had said about the cousin thing, she asked what my mother’s name is. I told her and she checked with her father who confirmed that we were indeed related. The doctor’s parents and grandparents had been at my parents’ wedding and my grandparents and mom had been at her parents’ wedding. We were related through Nanny.
The doctor told people in the office we were cousins. And she hugged me. Best of all she was kind, knowledgeable and thorough and knew what to do to help me get better. She surmised all the different meds had wreaked havoc on my system.
I sent my newfound cousin a video clip of her parents kissing at my parents’ wedding; they looked so happy. Her mom had recently passed away and I imagined her dad would want to see that.
I’m slowly starting to feel better and am hoping my summer ends better than it began.
Perhaps it was all a coincidence. Or perhaps Nanny had a hand in things. I don’t really know. I can say that am glad I had such strong role models who continue to inspire me.