In September of 1994 I was ill. Not bad-tempered, as we say down south, but really sick. Looking back on it from today, I don’t know how I lived through all of it and I don’t know how I missed the symptoms. I was in my second year of graduate school in Anthropology, heading toward an eventual PhD. So, I think I am fairly bright. But, I was blinded to my own body screaming out that something was seriously wrong. Here is a list of the symptoms that were plaguing me:
1–I couldn’t see. Everything looked like I had a permanent piece of gauze over my eyes and there was no way to clear it. I tried eye-drops, migraine medicine [I’ve had migraines since 986], homeopathy, herbals, everything short of going to an ophthalmologist.
2–I had a terrible thirst. I had a penchant for the “Real Thing” and I drank a lot of it every day. Not diet either.
3–I was suffering from this all over weakness. I didn’t have any strength whatsoever. I could no longer lift groceries or my kid, and when I was young, I was very strong.
4–I was also so tired. I was tired in places that I didn’t know could be tired. I put that down to being a wife and mother and full-time graduate student.
5– I had also developed severe motion sickness and vertigo. I had always had trouble with heights, so that wasn’t new, but, it was becoming much worse than it had ever been before to the point of limiting activity.
The month before I went into the hospital, my little family went on a trip to see my parents where they were living in California. We took the Amtrak train west from Iowa, where both my then-husband and I were attending university, with our son. On the train, I first felt the motion sickness starting and I was miserable much of the time. When we took a driving tour of the Yosemite Valley, in the national park, I was nauseous nearly constantly. The motion sickness was something that I had never dealt with prior to this trip. I grew up in the East Tennessee mountains and learned to drive on switchback mountain two-lanes. Suddenly, those very kinds of roads that I loved so much were making me feel like I was on a small boat in high seas. Later, my mother would say that she thought I was going to die. Nearly did. I could not enjoy being in the beautiful mountains of the Yosemite because of the feeling that I was starting to fall into some dark pit, whether it was my stomach or a black hole that felt always by my side sucking me into its grip. Before this trip, I cannot say how long I had been feeling ill. It’s not something that I can put a finger on in any way. So, this may have been coming on for a very long time. The medical community has no way of gauging the length of disease prior to diagnosis, either, so precisely when my pancreas began to fail I’ll never know. I have my suspicions, though and I will meditate on that thinking later.

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