Batya Ruddell shares her diary of tension and triumph written during her battle with Hepatitis C that required her to undergo a form of chemotherapy. This is an excerpt from her book The View from Ninveh
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Well, this is it. We’re on our way. Baruch Hashem, I got my brachah last night from Harav Scheinberg shlit”a, so I’m a drop more relaxed. But I’m so tired. Even after taking a full sleeping tablet, I only slept for four hours. (Maybe I should have downed a few more so I could sleep through the entire year!) All I wanted to do was run, to get as far away as possible. Goodness, what’s with me and all this running? Anyone would think I was an Olympic athlete in training. When I left the house, I inadvertently walked right past Yisrael, who was sitting in the car and waiting for me. That says it all, I guess.
Traffic is bad. Cars are crawling like caterpillars up the highway. We need to stop in town at Kupat Cholim to pick up a blood sample and take it to the lab in Hadassah. Ooph! Now that I’m on my way, I just want to get there and get everything over with.
I’m here, sitting in the liver unit on the fourth floor, waiting for hubby to park the car and join me. First he has to drop off the sample at the lab, and I asked him to buy me one of those delicious, velvety hot chocolates on his way up. Do I really think I’ll drink it? Who am I kidding? I want to throw up! Mali, the nurse, the one who has to give me the Fix-It, has gone downstairs, so I have time to write until she returns.
I’ve just met Yaakov Kleinman, one of the patients at the clinic where I worked. He had a liver transplant, but now his body is rejecting the liver and he needs another transplant. His upbeat, jovial attitude makes me ashamed to be so frightened. In his short lifetime, he’s been through a battlefield and back, yet he never surrenders. Talking to him puts things into perspective … kind of.
It’s funny, but I’m not half as nauseous as I was last night. I think Hashem has calmed me down, or maybe I’m too tired to feel anything. I just want it over with. Where on earth is Yisrael?
That’s it; I’ve had my first dose of the pesticide. No big deal; it didn’t even hurt, but I need to stay around for observation. Professor Yair wants me to come here every week for the Fix-It, and Mali will keep it in the fridge with my name on it. I have to wait to see if I get any side effects.
After getting the pesticide shot, I also took my first dose of Rebetol. I’m going to need to take this Rebetol twice a day, and I know that it comes along with side effects of its own — like causing red blood cells to be destroyed, which can bring on anemia. No matter how you cut it, it seems, this chemical cocktail is nasty stuff.
It’s weird, waiting to be sick. Now that I’ve had my first injection, though, I’m relaxed and happy. Hubby is making jokes, as usual. About ten minutes after Mr. Fix-It dropped by, My husband Yisrael turned to me and said, “Are you feeling suicidal yet, or can I go to the bathroom first?” I was on the floor laughing. Laughter is so good for me; may it just continue!
As we leave the unit, I start laughing again, because Yisrael hurt his foot when he kicked the door by mistake, and he’s limping like a wounded puppy down the corridors. It looks like he is the patient. I feel really mean that I’m laughing at him, but right now I think I’d roar over anything. I suggest stopping off in the emergency room, but he just throws me one of his looks. I can’t stop laughing. All of a sudden, everything seems absolutely hysterical.
Still feeling fine, but it’s soo strange waiting to not feel fine. So far, so good!
I think it’s hitting now. My joints and muscles ache, and I feel as if I have fever. It’s been strange, expecting this. That’s not the way things usually happen. Normally, sickness creeps up unannounced like a thief in the night and is not invited in. But then, this whole situation is kind of unusual, isn’t it?
Debbie called from California at 8:30 a.m., her time. She said that she couldn’t sleep properly last night and was tossing and turning restlessly from worry about me. Shame; I could have given her some of my sleeping pills, but then again, they were pretty useless.
What a special lady! What a loving, caring, genuinely good human being! I find her solid, dependable, honest, and emotionally stable. I wonder if we’ll ever meet each other. What an interesting pair we are. I’m so lucky to have her. Thank You, Hashem, for bringing us together.
Monday, October 26
Well, I got through the night. It was bearable. I took two ibuprofen pills to help me with the chills and fever. This morning I got up as usual to get the kids out, make hubby’s breakfast, fold laundry, and daven. How grateful I am that I could do that! While I’m still functioning, I am happy, and if things don’t get any worse than this, I can get through it. It’s too early to know yet. After about three or four rounds, I’ll probably have an idea of how it’s going to be.
One thing that has disappeared, though, is the fear! All of that terror that consumed me has completely evaporated. The heavy, black cloud, that had been hanging over me since the summer, has lifted. It’s such a relief!
Tuesday, October 27
What a horrible night! My big mistake was going to bed at 2 a.m. after working on my computer. I’m paying for that now. Because I felt relatively fine, I pushed myself. I don’t think I can do that anymore. I spent the night so freezing cold that I didn’t want to poke so much as a little finger out from under the bed covers. Muscle and joint pains and pounding headaches. I’m going back to sleep now … ugh, what a waste of a day. Still, I’m so grateful if this will be ALL it is. Despite the discomfort, I CAN cope. G-d willing, it should stay this way.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m counting the Omer, only it’s 49 weeks instead of 49 days. The count has begun. Will there be the gift of “matan bri’ut,” the gift of good health, at the end of it?
Looks like Yisrael and I are going to have a few tiffs here and there, because he insists that I stay in bed and rest — and I don’t want to! And he’s not gonna win, because most of the day he’s not home, and when the cat’s away, this mouse will play … ha, ha. Seriously, he’s very sweet and caring and I’m lucky to have such a husband, but it’s going to be hard to keep me down. My friend Cookie says that this treatment will probably make me into a more normal person than my usual, hyperactive self. That’s funny!
From: Deborah Schechter
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
To: Batya Ruddell
Of course you overdid it. I am not at all surprised or even upset, so don’t worry; I won’t give you a spanking! Just hold on to that sense of determination to do whatever you can, and then pace yourself as your body allows you to function/not function, according to the whim of the moment.
Even when you’re feeling ill and weak, never discount your greatest asset — your mind. If your mind is healthy (and yours is), then the current, passing disabilities are physical, but the mind is still operating at top speed. Let it rove wherever it wants, and use this time to allow it to soar.
I will say, “I told you so,” about the fact that once you are in the situation you dreaded, the fear dissipates. I done tol’you dat, you silly girl, and you still didn’t believe me. When I read your lines about the fear lifting from your shoulders, I had an “aha” moment and said to myself, “Okay, Deb, you’re right again. Great!” So I can claim the credit for that one.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Stay strong!
Wednesday, October 28
I guess I’m going to have to adjust to a new reality. Every time I think, That’s it; I’m over the hump now, all the joint/muscle pains and chills come back again. They are very, very annoying and unwelcome. Mr. Fix-It will have to do better next time if he wants to remain employed.
Last night I went to Lisa. She did a most amazing treatment on me, and I left her room pain-free. I thought I would float out of there and hover above myself for a while. Well, not quite. It lasted until the morning, and now I’m tumbling down.
I’m not sure how to see myself in this situation, and in addition, I feel terribly guilty to take help from people when I am walking around, albeit painfully. This is such a private, personal experience, where nobody can feel what I feel, and I mustn’t expect them to. It’s time to tune out the world, not to live according to anyone’s expectations. I will be who I am at the moment … and things do change literally from moment to moment. My family will share this journey with me, although I often hide in a different train compartment for the sake of the children.
I’m really grappling with this … how to find myself, how to adjust to a different reality. Never in my life have I been so aware of my body as I am now.
I thank Hashem every day that I can get my family out in the mornings, hard as it is; that I can take Dani to his horse-riding therapy; that I can take care of Tamar’s school issues (she’s been very unhappy in school lately) and make hubby’s breakfast; that I can drive up the hill to shul, sit in the ezras nashim, and talk to Hashem. I absolutely don’t want to turn into a miserable kvetch who lives only for her aches and pains. But I’m going to have to catch myself, hold my thoughts before they run off to unhealthy places. This morning I could not imagine having to endure the poison for an entire year, but then, there are people who live this way all the time, aren’t there? It WILL end! I must remember that.
Thursday, October 29
For the first time last night, I ate something! Tali sent some delicious food over and I actually had a little. Yay!
Hashem, I’m drowning. Please pick me up and carry me safely to shore. I can’t do this alone; there’s so much pressure pushing me underwater and I find myself gasping for air, unable to breathe. I am tottering on shaky legs. Please hold my hand and don’t let go. How am I supposed to handle everything? You have to do it, Hashem, because I can’t.
I don’t know what to do with myself; how to see myself, with all the changes. Who am I? What am I? I’m still me … a struggling me, of course, but nevertheless, still me…. A me with yet another nisayon; a me who is not defined by what I do and accomplish, but by how I get through each day and hold it together. It’s not what I do, but who I am. Who I am is a deep, caring, thinking, and spiritual person. This is about You and me, Hashem, isn’t it?
Read more of The View from Ninveh: Surviving a Medical Tsunami with Courage, Faith…and Wit by Batya Ruddell
Read more stories from the MavenMall Literary Supplement