Lea Wait, here, blogging for the first time in a couple of weeks. Where I have I been in the meantime? In bed. Not a romantic bed. Not a room-serviced bed (although my husband certainly gets multi-points for trying.) Not even my own cozy bed. I’ve been in exile in the guest room of our house, with germs, kleenex, unending glasses of juice, and stacks of books and magazines I was too weak, for the most part, even to hold.
And, I’ll have you know, this does not happen to me. I am tough. I almost never get a cold. I always have flu shots. I eat lots of vegetables. I’ve been taking assorted vitamins since I was 25, varying them as studies indicated. I eat yogurt. I don’t smoke. All right, I do drink. But I do not get sick — do you hear me??? Pain and illness are not things that stop me.
I was brought up that way. When I was growing up, fevers were tolerated for a day or maybe two, placated with bed rest, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, tall glass of iced ginger ale, and then — back to school with you! No germs dared linger long in our house.
When I was 13 I first started getting serious monthly pains my mother called “that time.” She considered any discussion of such indicated wimpishness – cramps were a fact of life to be coped with. When mine led to such embarrassments as fainting in school and being sent home, she was not pleased, and silently handed me a heating pad and an aspirin. (My grandmother, who lived with us, sometimes made me hot tea with a surreptitious bit of her private cognac added in silent sympathy.) I was humiliated. No one else I knew seemed to have the problems I had — or certainly never shared that they did. Basically, I felt like a failure as a female. After a couple of years I learned to steal aspirin from the cabinet before the pains started, and hide the pain in public. The fainting stopped. I came close to passing out during the hours of SAT testing. But I didn’t. I toughed it out.
When I was 21 I was diagnosed with endometriosis, and learned that my pains were not the same as those most women felt. That year I had the first of a series of 8 surgeries to help control my condition. In those days the only hormonal treatment available was birth control pills, which helped a little, and my doctor trusted me with my first bottles of serious pain pills and tranquilizers. I saw him every 4-6 months until he died, 8 years ago. For most of those years I was in pain, depending on the bottles to get me through between surgeries. I was stubborn, and my doctor and I worked carefully together. I did not become addicted.
During those years I was also a manager at AT&T, I traveled on company business, I was a supervisor, sometimes of large organizations, and I adopted and brought up four children on my own. Although because of the surgeries I had to take time from the office for six weeks about every 5 years, the only time I took sick days was when one of children was sick, and luckily, my crew was also healthy. Most of my supervisors never knew of my medical condition. In a time when in most of my jobs I was the only management woman in my department, a “female illness” would have ended my career. One vice president, signing off on a medical procedure my doctor and I had intentionally written up to be as unclear as possible, told me I’d be a lot more promotable if I’d just have a hysterectomy while I was out. I was 27. It was a joke.
So — colds? Flu? Not me. I was tough. I was the one who took care of people. My children. The people who depended on me at work. My mother. Even my husband, who’s had the misfortune to manage to have bad cases of the flu in several of the past years.
As he had this year over the Christmas holidays. And then managed to get again in late January.
And I’ll admit, I gloated a bit. He didn’t take vitamins. He didn’t eat as many vegetables or fruits as I did. He didn’t sleep as many hours a day. He needed to take better care of himself.
And this time, the gods reached down and pointed at me.
Yes, I did all those things right. No, I almost never get colds. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten the flu. And this was my very first time for … pneumonia. Yup. I got it good.
And I apologize to all the people (especially my husband) who knows I actually thought I was in control of my own body.
You all win. But I’m on antibiotics. There is hope I won’t have to cancel any more talks and I’ll actually get through the 976 emails in my in-box.
And I’ll go back to eating my vegetables in their non-juiced form, and maybe even to sleeping in my own bed, and maybe, maybe, even to doing some of the writing I was supposed to do in February.
But I’m newly chastened. I toughed it out for years. But — guess what? (Husband laughing in the corner.) Yes, I am human. I am not in control of everything. As my grandmother (who, years later, I realized had probably had endometriosis herself, before it had been recognized as a disease) would have said – I got my comeuppance.