Thursday, May 12, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 51

Hey, on the downhill side of the work week. Yahoo! I want y’all to know I’ve written 25 pages these last three work days, and will reach 40 by end of Friday. Not a bad work week. Now I’d better hear from y’all how proud you are of me.

I have discovered something about my character, Paige. I met her years ago. I just didn’t know it was her. Probably had something to do with the fact that she came in the package of a young boy. For those of you who’ve read Getting Into Character, this is the character I talk about “seeing” in the Personalizing chapter. The character whose “inner value” is the need to belong. Finally I get to use this dear soul in a story. Sort of. I mean, so she’s in her twenties and female instead of ten and male. Hey, I was close.

So, returning to our NES . . . I’d had my last run for a good long while. It was early January 2003.

The symptoms returned with a vengeance—and brought many new buddies. From the waist down I was attacked, plus in my elbow joints. My feet burned, and I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes. I lost my balance. My knees wouldn’t straighten. My feet would have bouts of cold for hours, as if they were stuck in snow, and nothing but sticking them in the hot tub would warm them up. I’d be struck with dizzy spells, like somebody hit me over the head with a brick. I lost all energy. My eyes got very sensitive to light, and I needed to pull the shades in the daytime.

What was wrong with me?

Mark and I had close friends, a couple, both of whom had Lyme Disease. They looked at me and said, “You have Lyme.” Huh-uh. No way. I saw what the disease had done to them. I didn’t want any part of it. Still, I went to the Lyme-testing lab, Igenex, right here in the Bay Area. Six vials of blood and $1800 later, plus the passage of a few weeks—and we had our answer. Positive for Lyme. In some of the blood bands—off the charts positive for Lyme. Plus two coinfections. Three diseases at once. Sheesh. That musta been some loaded tick.

Meanwhile, oh, yeah, I had this writing career that I’d been working on for a long time. And I had a new huge contract to start work on. The first book in my new “Hidden Faces” series about a forensic artist was due in May. I tried to write every day. Man, that was hard when my body didn’t want to cooperate, much less my mind.

I started treatment. Huge, mixed doses of antibiotics (like about 6x the norm)—hard enough on the body just by themselves. Plus all sorts of vitamins and this and that. I would eventually end up taking about 45 pills a day. They all had to be carefully spaced out, as A couldn’t be taken with B, and C had to be on a full stomach, but D was on an empty stomach, etc.

More symptoms came. The problem is, as you treat Lyme, you get worse. There are these not fun revolving times of feeling really bad, called Herxes. My brain started to go. I couldn’t think, had a hard time reasoning through things. I began to stutter because words would stick in my brain somewhere. Plus I hurt everywhere—muscles aching, joints paining. Going up and down stairs became really difficult—one slow stair at a time. But no one could help me up them, or out of a chair, because I couldn’t stand for the physical contact of something pulling me. My body hurt too much.

I tried to write. Every day I tried. I would end up writing ¾ of Brink of Death during this illness. How, I don’t know. God did it, that’s all.

My contract with Zondervan was almost ready to sign. Jane had really come through for me. Look where she had brought my career since our first meeting in her cluttered Chicago office. Then I got a call from her #2 person, Danielle. Jane had suffered from back pain for a number of months. It had finally been diagnosed. She had pancreatic cancer and was in the hospital.

She had two weeks to live.

I reeled from that news. Jane? In a hospital? Nobody could keep Jane down! Just days before she’d been working her typical 15-hours days. I called her in the hospital. Wanted to see how she was doing. I couldn’t really believe she would die. Not Jane. She didn’t want to talk about how she was feeling. She wanted to talk about my contracts. How they were all set. What I could expect.

Quintessential Jane.

She died within 10 days.

Many would gather for a memorial service a few months later in Chicago. Jane had had a long career in the literary world, and her family knew all sorts of people. As a young woman she’d hung around with the Hemingways and other well known literary folk. I wished I could go to that her memorial party. But I could hardly take a shower and don my robe for the day. I was so very sad to lose her.

The days dragged by. I got worse. Once the pharmacy (or doctor’s nurse) mixed up a prescription for me. Because I couldn’t reason well, it took me two days to realize the pills I was supposed to be taking of one color were a different color. I’d been taking a very harsh medication I wasn’t supposed to have until a few months later—at one and a half times the already huge dose I should have been given. It was Sunday, and I couldn’t reach the doctor, and Mark had left for a business trip he couldn’t cancel, and the pharmacy didn't want to admit the mistake. I broke down that day. I was terrified, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t think, and certainly couldn’t write my book.

I turned to God more than ever before. Started praying the Psalms aloud, willing myself to praise Him. He would help me get through this. I’d often pray them with tears streaming down my face because I was so tired and in so much pain. But doggone it all, I prayed ’em. Aloud. Even if it was a whisper.

Then even that solace was taken from me. I lost the ability to read.

Read Part 52


Val said...

What a difficult thing to go through. I've read your healing story, but I never understood what Lyme Disease really did to your body. Wow...

And I am proud of your writing progress this week. :-)

Anonymous said...


You have given us a great demonstration of perseverence... a little rejection letter is nothing compared to this. And Jane - how sad, right in the middle of your health crisis. Your Job period.
Thanks again for sharing. And whoo!who! on the Paige pages!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

The first time I heard your name, Brandilyn, was when you posted to another list (CWG) your story of healing. Like Valmarie I never realized what kind of pain and loss of normal, taken-for-granted abilities you went through. When you were introduced at Mt. Hermon, 2004, as the person who had been in a wheelchair the previous year, I had an "Oooohhh, this is the woman who was healed" moment. But reading your account here--WOW. I love your determination to praise God in the midst of it all. Very Job-ly. Jane's death had to be a huge blow on top of it all. I feel sad for you even now.

And yes, accomplishing your 6-a-day pages so far this week--definitely requires a mini celebrathion. Whoo-hoo!

Tina Helmuth said...

Such a terrible disease. I had no idea what it could do. I'm so sorry for your loss of Jane on top of it all. You've given us a glimpse of who she was...enough that I'm saddened to hear of her death.

Unknown said...

You've certainly turned into an inspiration in more ways than one. I can't wait to meet you at the conference. And I'm very, very proud of you for your writing this week! You can have a bowl of Ben & Jerry's chocolite chip cookie dough ice cream. Okay, then, have the whole pint.

Lynette Sowell said...

Wow, I feel like I'm hearing "the rest of the story." Thank you for sharing this with us, Brandilyn. It's good to be back in BG-Land after three days of jury duty--criminal case, anyone jealous? :)

Dineen A. Miller said...

Wow, Brandilyn! I read about your healing on your website a while back, but it's another thing to hear the details. Thank you for sharing this part. So much at once— losing Jane, your health, the pressure of writing. I can't imagine what you felt emotionally as well. I can imagine it has made you a stonger person by strengthening your faith though. Glad to hear the pages are flowing. Happy writing and blessings to you.

C.J. Darlington said...

Wow. That last line: "I lost the ability to read." Probably one of the worst things a lover of books could ever have happen to them. I'm so glad I know this story has a happy end ...