Hello and welcome back my dear readers.

Six weeks of my life are a blur, a challenging state for someone like me who finds detail essential and empowering. I’m always looking for deets.

The day I was admitted to the hospital my partner left for Israel to work in the emergency room for Rosh Hashanah. I had planned a quiet holiday with my two siblings. The brisket was in the freezer. I was transferred to the ICU the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the night I flirted with death. My blood pressure was 70 over zero. I have flashbacks of being tussled on the hospital bed, manhandled.

The next memory is weeks later, sitting with my sister begging for details. The revelation of the depth of my illness hit me hard, leaving me genuinely stunned.

While the etiology of my system breakdown remains unclear, most signs indicate a severe autoimmune toxicity secondary to immunotherapy. While immunotherapy is the latest and greatest for certain cancers, the list of possible side effects is daunting. I knew that. I knew one dose could kill me. I consulted with twelve oncologists and all but one recommended immunotherapy. There were no other options.

I love life so much. I was not ready to give up.

The plan was to get a dose or two under my belt, and then leave for Israel in a few weeks. We rented a new apartment in Tel Aviv.

Instead, I am still a patient. I am learning to stand and walk again. My family and friends have swooped in – taking turns adjusting their home and sleep schedule to be here, sending updates and surrounding me with love.

The body can exhibit deficits, the mind does not always. The mind’s struggles may not be as conspicuous, often lacking objective signs. While delirious, it is obvious – I was disoriented and spoke in Hebrew to the nurses.

We laugh now when I ask my sister what crazy things I said and she says “you claimed there was a brisket in the freezer.” Well, there was a brisket in the freezer. It is amusing how getting a brain MRI was prompted by my brisket purchase.

Once that acute episode passed, I still felt fuzzy. News did not register immediately; it is like the mind cannot absorb what is heard because it is not ready. I know now what it feels like to be confused, especially seeing the sympathetic reaction of others as they gently correct mistakes or mouth an answer so you don’t mess up.

Amid bouts of delirium, moments of lucidity surface. The challenge of being perceived as constantly delirious fosters a sense of isolation. Silence becomes the default, to save oneself from shame.

When I see signs of my old self peeking out, I get excited – reading an article on how to style cowboy boots, ordering miracle balm, participating in my football pool – shimmers of passions from before everything crashed. I’ll take whatever I can get.

Have a shimmery week,

Dr. Annie K.