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.