Doctors, an ambulance, & a big confession

Sooo…. yeah, you haven’t seen much of me lately. This post will explain why. I feel that so many of you are my friends, and you share the good and the not-so-good with friends, right?

Some of you know that the last 18 months have been a struggle for me. The doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I was able to exercise*, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Even reading was a challenge. I tried and tried to write, but the pages I composed weren’t even worthy of the compost bin. There were other weird symptoms that I won’t bore you with. Bottom line? I was confused and tired and scared and sad. And sick.

Everything came to a head at the ALAN conference in Chicago last November. I hadn’t been feeling great that afternoon, but assumed I was picking up one of those conference viruses. All I had to do was to give the Monday keynote speech and then I could crawl off to my hotel room.

Two seconds into the speech I knew I was in trouble. The room started to close in on me and everything turned gray. I sat down, sipped water, and tried to keep going. Not. Possible. Gary Salver (who is a super-nice guy to have around when you are passing out in front of hundreds of teachers) helped me lie down. Other friendly people raised my legs, put a cloth on my head, and made those soft, worried noises you usually hear coming from the mouths of frowning grandmothers.

Laying down with my feet up made me feel better. Not good enough to dance, mind you, but good enough to try and finish my speech**. So I asked for the microphone and I gave the rest of my presentation on the floor. Because I am from the North Country and unless you are spurting blood from an artery up here, you get the job done before you pass out.

This is what it looked like. (If you watch the entire video you won’t see me (thank heavens!), but you will get to hear a small portion of my speech.)

I finished the speech. The very patient and generous audience clapped. I crawled to a sitting position and asked the audience not to tell my husband what had just transpired.

And then I crashed. Big Time.

I don’t remember much of the next few hours. They took me by ambulance to the ER at Mercy Hospital. The hospital report says I didn’t really have a blood pressure reading, but whatever the docs did fixed that. After a couple of hours of treatment, I was good enough to be released. (This meant that instead of feeling like I was dead, I was simply wishing that I would die.) Thanks to Scottie Bowditch, of Penguin, and lots of behind-the-scenes work by the good people at Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, I had a place to stay that night and was very well taken care of.

I didn’t make it home for another 48 hours. Even then, I wasn’t what you call “healthy.” Our Thanksgiving plans were cancelled and the day after Thanksgiving, I dragged myself to the doctor’s. There have been several consults and tests since then. Clearly I had a bout of food poisoning in Chicago. But there was something other than food poisoning at work.

The votes have now been tallied….and… ::pauses for drum roll…

The docs say I have Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, likely caused by an autoimmune attack.

Doesn’t that sound Victorian? I was hoping that it meant I had permission to wear hats like this

and gloves like this

But alas, this does not appear to be the case.

There is more good news than bad in this diagnosis.
1. This condition is slightly life-altering, but not life threatening, if I take my medicine and follow doctor’s orders.
2. That medicine TOTALLY makes me feel better. It replaces the chemicals that my body doesn’t make anymore, so there are few side effects.
3. The medicine is helping my brain work again.
4. There are very few things about my life that have to change as a result of this diagnosis.

It seems like I will still be able to travel and give speeches (standing up!), though my book tours will probably not be as intense as they’ve been in the past, and I’m not allowed to travel abroad without a companion. I can still run and swim and chop wood. In fact, the healthier and stronger I am, the better I’ll be able to cope with crisis situations, like the one that occurred in Chicago.

I’m going to be around for a long time, writing books, pestering my family, tweeting and blogging, racking up overdue library book fines, and eating superhuman amounts of popcorn for a very long time. But – BIG CONFESSION HERE – I am woefully behind on my next two books, ASHES and The YA That Shall Be Named Later. In fact, I can’t say for certain when they will be finished. (Soon, I hope!)

Can you forgive me?

I am back scribbling and having fun doing it. I won’t be blogging and tweeting quite as much as I was pre-Addison’s because I need that focus, energy, and time to go into the stories I’m working on. (Plus, two of our four kids are getting married in the next four months.) But don’t worry. I’m here. My characters are here. We’ve got enough wood to see us through this winter and spring will be here before you know it.

*Doctor’s explanation: all the running I’ve been doing helped me to survive both the Chicago collapse in 2011 and another collapse in 2010 that I won’t bore you with.

**Doctor’s explanation: my blood pressure was plummeting, but my adrenaline was cranked. As long as my feet were higher than my head, I was OK. When I tried to sit up, things got icky.

80 Replies to “Doctors, an ambulance, & a big confession”

  1. So glad the news is pretty good. Been missing your tweets and posts. Sending you excellent thoughts!

  2. I’m sure I’m just one of many many many who are sincerely glad that you’re back and feeling better. Needless to say that we will forgive you most things (except perhaps eating all the popcorn without sharing).

    Have fun with your writing and living and enjoying every moment of frivolity the New Year brings you.

  3. Laurie, I am glad to hear that you are going to be just fine! I am a runner, too! There are so many benefits of pounding the pavement… this is good to hear. I had a stroke (pre-running life); eight years ago. So, running is good for what is happening inside us! I would hope that your fans would be thankful for your health and patient with your output of words! Take care of yourself and enjoy the weddings!!

  4. I’m so glad to hear that it’s something treatable and your treatment is painless (more or less)! I think Addison’s was one of the possible diseases Jane Austen MIGHT have had…so you’re in good company, just a better century for medical treatment!

  5. Sending prayers and healing thoughts to you. Be good to yourself and take care. I’m wringing my hands waiting for Ashes……but I know it will be worth it and expect more wonderful gifts from you. Be well and blessed 🙂

  6. You do realize that you have entered the ALAN ranks of the “never to be forgotten” for soldiering on with that speech when you were ill, don’t you!? I’m sorry for the news and how you’ve been affected, but I imagine you’re rather relieved to have a diagnosis and a path forward. Godspeed with it all! We love you and we’ll be there to cheer you on with every step!

    Your friend, Kim. (Adam says, Should he send you some oranges to carry around? Always good.)

  7. How scary to be so ill without family with you. Applause and hugs to all those who saw to your needs and made you comfortable. I concur with Jessica in the post above. And if you find yourself writing in fancy hats and long gloves, post a picture.

    I am so glad to hear 1) you have a diagnosis, 2) it is not life threatening, 3) you have maintained your sense of humor, and 4) that you are back on track. Your family, friends and fans would much rather have your books be delayed than never written at all.

    In 2010 I had an illness that I was self diagnosing when I attended PLA in Portland, OR where it reached it’s peak resulting in surgery nine months later, which left me with a paralyzed vocal cord. I vowed to never self diagnose myself again and I threatened to sue myself for medical malpractice if I did 🙂

  8. Wow, Laurie! Please take care of yourself! We miss you on Twitter, but obviously your health, family and writing process take precedence! I like the previous poster’s comment, too–wear all the gloves and hats you’d like. 🙂

  9. Good grief, Laurie – what a dramatic ordeal! So glad you had people around you to get you help and that your doctors have figured out what it is and how to treat it. I know from personal experience that have a chronic illness can be very challenging, but it is manageable…and (again in my experience) you end up getting unexpected benefits as well (n that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stringer” vein). Please, please, please – take the best care of yourself that you can. We readers will be patient!

  10. I am so thankful that you have found the cause and treatment of your symptoms/illness. I was at the Chicago conference, and I have to tell you that you were a trooper. Your speech was entertaining, but we were very worried about you. I kept thinking…..”Yep! I would do that exact same thing if I were in that spot!” Keep feeling better!

  11. Oh my goodness! All this must have happened after I directed you to the Scholastic booth. I was so sorry to hear about the episode, but I’m glad it’s relatively good news.

    Stay strong, Laurie!

  12. I am so relieved to hear that you are doing okay, that your illness is treatable, and that the treatment is working so well. I am also glad to hear that you are back to writing. As a fellow writer, and a reader of several of your books, seeing you say that your pages “weren’t even worthy of the compost bin” took my breath away — what a devastating sentiment, and I’m sure it was a frustrating and frightening experience. Thank you for the update.

    I think you would look stunning in those hats and gloves, and you absolutely should go for it.

  13. I’m so happy to hear you finally got a diagnosis and that it’s so treatable. And don’t worry about us waiting for your books! We’ll still be here. We are more concerned with you! Take care of yourself and know we love you no matter how many books you write. 🙂

  14. Laurie!! I am so glad you are feeling better!! I love your optimism! I can not wait to read your new books! 🙂

  15. Laurie! Oh wow. I am so glad you’re better, that they were able to find a diagnosis, and that you’re going to be around for a long time.

    Take all the time you need for your books. One of the reasons I love your work is that you don’t just spew out crap to make a deadline or something. You really work hard at your writing and it shows. So, no forgiveness necessary if your books come out later than expected. I’d rather have a healthy Laurie and late books than a sick Laurie and on time books.

    Also, you should wear the hats and gloves!


  16. I was there for that speech. The whole time I was thinking, my God, Laurie is made of STEEL! I am so glad the problem is explicable and treatable and not the next tragic episode of House. Stay strong, Laurie!

  17. Even your blogs are amazing to read 🙂 So glad to hear u r ok & it’s something treatable! The body is amazing, life is amazing & we just never know what’s around the corner. But I know as long as u keep writing (along with others), I’ll keep reading, so take good care, write when u can, stay healthy & have 2 glorious weddings :))))

  18. Nobody walks the walk better than you do! Thanks for being such a great creative role model! I was inspired when I heard you speak at SCBWI this summer, and I continue to marvel at your strength. Take care of yourself!

  19. So glad to hear you’re okay, but so, so sorry you went through that experience. ((Big hug!)) Get lots of rest so you can be strong for your next big events – the weddings.

  20. Laurie, we love your writing, but we love you more. Take your time and listen to your body. It will all be there and like wine, it will be better with time. You have done so much for all of us. Please take some time for YOU. We will wait. You are already amazing. I glad it wasn’t anything worse and that someone was there to help you.

    Many hugs and lots of blessings! Kathy

  21. So so glad you are okay! I would wait forever for one of your books as long as you are still writing them! I hope 2012 is a great year for you!

  22. I am so glad that your issue is managed with medication! I was not at NCTE, but of course, I saw your comments, and was concerned. Please take care. The books will come in perfect time. The universe has a way of arranging that. Enjoy your daughters’ weddings 🙂

  23. I heard about what happened in Chicago and I’ve been so worried! Glad to know you are taking care of yourself. That is ALL that matters. The books will come when you (and they) are ready. Meanwhile your loyal fans will always be patiently waiting. Next time we are at ALAN together I am keeping a close eye on you!

  24. Wow, Laurie ~ you are one strong and amazing woman. Stay strong, take care of yourself, and know that your readers will stick by you!

  25. I am sorry to hear about your medical issues. I have insulin resistance and that has changed my life too, some in expected ways and others not so much. You have been an inspiration for my writing for years and I just wanted to say hi and send some positive energy your way.

    Many blessings,


  26. Thank you so much for sharing your news, your life, and your writing with us! You and your writing are both an inspiration. I’m so glad to hear there is a diagnosis, that there is a treatment, and that you’re doing so much better.

  27. Sorry you had to go through all that but I’m glad you are feeling better and found out what was wrong. Phew.

  28. Wow! Poor you! I know how frustrating it can be to feel so awful and not know what’s wrong. What a relief to you and your family that a treatable diagnosis was found and found in time. As for your stories, well…it would be hard to wait for one even if it was only a week away! However, good things come to those who wait, and what you write is SO good! Your books are always worth the wait. Feel better and know that we’re all in your corner!

  29. Thank goodness you got your diagnosis! I’ve been through extreme fainting spells myself, and although the tests show I don’t have Addison’s, I know how scary all that can be. Congrats on finding such an excellent treatment.

    Worry not about the books, we’ll wait. Enjoy feeling better and get through these weddings!

    – Liz

  30. Glad you’re feeling better, Laurie! The Chicago speech was impressive, even if you were lying flat on your back. We couldn’t believe how strong your voice was when you clearly felt awful. And I’m glad you got a diagnosis with meds that are helping.

  31. Stay healthy and on those meds, Laurie! Sending you good vibes for a strong 2012.

  32. That sounds really scary, Laurie. I’m so glad to hear you have some answers and that things are getting under control. Feel free to wear whatever hat and gloves, or any accessories for that matter, that you want. Anything that will get Ashes done sooner I am willing to support; my students have just finished Chains and Forge and are salivating for more!

  33. That is terrifying. Such good news that docs were able to pinpoint the issue and that it is treatable. We can wait for new books. Health and a modicum of sanity come first… 🙂

  34. I’m so happy to hear that you are well enough to write. Don’t worry about your fans we will wait for you next books! Take care of yourself and best wishes for the wonderful weddings that are coming your way! Please take care.

  35. Oh Laurie! I’m so relieved. I’d noticed you’d been off the grid, but assumed you were writing intensely or touring. Really glad you’re okay. THAT is far more important than meeting deadlines. Congratulations on feeling better! –Liz

  36. Eeep. So sorry to hear that you’ve been so ill, but very very glad that there’s a diagnosis now, and effective treatment. And really glad you’re back writing, too, and that you can still exercise and do the other things you love. 🙂

  37. Holy Moses, Laurie! Glad to know they’ve got this figured out now. Love your north country stubbornness, and belief that you finish the job before you pass out. Well done! (A little crazy, maybe, but well done!)

  38. Only you can give a speech lying down and present a scary experience with such humor.take care of yourself…we can wait for the book!

  39. I’m so sorry to hear about this, but glad the doctor figured it out and got you on medication. Take your time on the books. We’ll be waiting for them when you feel up to finishing them. Take care and follow your doctor’s orders!

  40. Laurie, you are incredible!! I sure can picture you giving that speech lying down. Amazing.
    So relieved you now have the diagnosis and a treatment plan. ANd I look forward to seeing you do some of that running and exercising at our gym. Sending you a hug and thanking you for the information. and the timing of your next book(s) is SO minor compared to getting you on track with this diagnosis/treatment/ and adjustment.
    See you soon at the gym.

  41. I’m glad your crisis is over and you have come through it, as only you could do. You are the only person I have ever heard of that gave a speech laying on the floor. Now I’m curious…are there any others out there?

  42. We can wait for the books!!!! Take care of yourself…we will be here waiting for your next stroke of genius…

  43. Any disease that impacts hour autoimmune system can be life changing. Just take your meds and get well and back to normal soon.

  44. So glad you are OK, and you join famous company. I believe JFK had Addison’s disease, for most of his life, until they finally figured it out in his 30’s. The vigorous and atheletic Kennedys thought he was just their “thin, sickly child” before a correct diagnosis. Just look what he went on to accomplish! Looking forward to your next books, you are the picture of health – be well!

  45. You’re in good company. JohnF Kennedy had Addison’s disease. I hope you get back to your old energy level soon, and maybe someday you can work this experience into a story.

  46. Laurie…Oh my. But good deal that you have a diagnosis and know what you can do to take care of you. And start listening to your body even more…it has a voice that should be heard too. Love you. KimFisher

  47. Glad to hear that the doctors figured out what it was and that you’re on meds to help you feel better. Thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way!

  48. You are awesome. I think you SHOULD wear the Victorian hat and gloves. But not while chopping wood!

  49. I was thrilled to hear you speak at the SCBWI California conference, and I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Since you are required to have a companion when traveling abroad, I hearby volunteer!

  50. Laurie,

    You know that all of us that LOVE your books would wait and wait and wait for the those books, just as long as you take care of yourself ! Glad you can still run and have a somewhat normal life (but really what is normal!- especially with 2 weddings in 1 year). Take care!

  51. Ay ay ay. I’m beyond amazed that you continued with your presentation.

    I’m very sorry you were struggling for all this time without knowing what was wrong, but thank goodness you now have a diagnosis and something that is treatable. Please take good care of yourself.

  52. Good golly, Miss Molly. That was a too-close call. It’s hard to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you when you can’t think. I want you to stay around a long time. Pester away. Please. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

  53. So glad you’re OK! A speech on the floor before being taken away by ambulance. You have some interesting talents. 🙂

  54. One of my best friends also has Addisons (she got very ill when she was in college 24 years ago and almost died before a doctor figured it out). She has lived a very normal life since then and just sees an endocrinologist as needed. And she carries her syringe of adrenalin everywhere she goes. Good luck–glad they diagnosed it for you and that you are back on your feet.

  55. Laurie, you are amazing! Thank you for sharing your story with us. As your fans, we remain ever loyal. Take care of yourself, and we will read what you write, whenever it becomes available. I will now picture you working away wearing Victorian hats and gloves–which I definitely encourage. : ) You are MUCH in our thoughts. Hugs from Colorado!

  56. Oh, Laurie. I am sorry. That seems like such a horrible experience to go through and it sounds like it could have been life threatening at first. I’m glad it no longer is and that you will be around for a long time. Good luck with your slight lifestyle change!

  57. So glad that Addison’s is something you can live with without tons of life-alteration. (Wasn’t there speculation that Jane Austen had Addison’s? If so, you’re in fine company there.)

    I had to smile at what you said about being from the North Country, because that description also fits my parents like a well-worn work-glove and my dad was just taken to the hospital today (by my mom, not an ambulance), with an irregular heartbeat. He’ll be fine, too, I figure.

    Happy writing–may your words flow like a river.

  58. Laurie, you are a one-in-a-million woman. You give, give, give when you work with schools and when you write. While we don’t want you to stop giving, we do want you to give what you can as you can. You have so much to say, but we want you to take care of yourself first. All the best, and feel 110%!

  59. You are pure inspiration, Laurie! I’m so happy that you finally know what’s wrong, that you’re getting treatment, and that you’re starting to feel better. Trying to write (or even get out of bed) must have been nearly impossible. We all admire your strength and determination. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  60. Laurie,
    So sorry you had to go through feeling so bad for a long time. But thrilled that you have a diagnosis and know what to do. The books can wait. We will wait. Be well.
    Your fellow Hoya and AFSer from Georgia,

  61. So glad you got a helpful diagnosis! Just wanted to tell you I used your “Go forth laughing and disturb the universe” as a key to a family Christmas present. I put into an album that quote and all photos I could find of relatives laughing, having fun, enjoying life, playing. Everyone loved it. Thank you for the inspiration. I know that sentence was at the end of one of your presentations. Was it the one from the floor, I wonder? Bless you for your wisdom and fortitude.

  62. Laurie,

    I have been reading your blog and I must say that I really impressed! I am a full time worker going to grad school full time and I don’t think I could do half of the things you manage to do! Kudos to you! I was wondering if you think you will ever write a, fiction or nonfiction, book about Addison’s disease? Do you think you will use this experience in your life in order to writer a novel about the disease itself, a character that has just been diagnosed with it, or about several different characters that may not necessarily be diagnosed with it, but are affected by it through a family member or friend?

  63. It’s amazing how you can still keep your sense of humor in the face of adversity. I am a new reader of your books and you are really an inspiration to young girls. You really seem to have it all: a wonderful career, family, and the support of your fans. I hope you continue to feel better and wish you the best.

  64. I wish that there were something I could do for you! After having given us all that you have, it’s time for you to receive from your devotees. You must take care of yourself like a foundling on the doorstep. Have a real vacation, long and luxurious! Please wear a medical bracelet. Ask your friends to write to you, no begging allowed, as in; hurry-up-with-the-next-book-already!
    I will send you prayers and healing light. Please receive them.
    You are so beloved. Our national treasure. Take a lot of time for yourself.
    I wish you perfect health.

  65. If I do use it, Ashley, it will probably be a while. I find that I need about a decade’s distance from most of the experiences that have wound up in my books. Sometimes more. The passage of time gives me much-needed perspective so that I can write about the emotions and aspects with a bit more nuance, instead of being weighted down by my personal reactions.

  66. Hey Lady-you are one hell of a fighter! Yeah! You give that speech lying down-so proud of you.
    Glad to hear you are feeling better-that’s the Laurie Halse Anderson I know. Good luck my dear with the writing. Yeah!! She’s back!!!!;)
    Take care.

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