Nellie Bly + PaperGirl #09726

Les Halles, Uptown.
Les Halles, Uptown.

(Nellie Bly and Mary are seated at Les Halles on Park Ave., New York City. Nellie wears a two-piece dress and scotch Ulster coat; Mary is in a fashiony black jumpsuit and McQueen lobster booties. Both women carry large handbags.)

NB: You look good.

PG: Please, Nellie! I look drawn and pale.

NB: (Considers this.) Drawn and pale is good in New York City. People spend a lot of money to look like you. (Pause.) But you’re right. You look a little rough. I’m sorry — I lied.

PG: I don’t feel well. I’ve felt pretty terrible since Thursday.

NB: Gut problems.

PG: Yeah.

NB: Okay, well, let’s… Let’s just briefly go over (Nellie takes out a pen and flips through her notebook) the history of your illness. I think there are new readers who will need context.

PG: God, Nellie, please don’t make me go through all that. They can read the archives.

NB: No, they can’t. The archives are all on the old server. A person might be able to dig and find them, but you’d have to have actual blog post titles to search and that’s impossible.

PG: Unless I have a stalker.

NB: (Nellie looks up from her notes.) Huh?

PG: I might have a stalker out there. He’d have all the old blog posts and titles and stuff.

NB: How is that helping new readers?

PG: (Chews on a fancy carrot stick.) I don’t know.

NB: Wait, wait. I’ve got the run-down. (She pulls an iPad out of her bag, opens document.) Here we are. Okay, “Level 3 ulcerative colitis diagnosis in 2008, Mayo clinic. Total colectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. Major surgical complications, including multiple internal anastomatic leaks, pelvic sepsis, multiple abcesses; stoma separation. Blood transfusions. Malnutrition. Hair loss. Extreme nausea, depression. PICC line. (Nellie pauses, flips papers.) Actually, two different PICC lines. Month-long initial hospitalization and several after that for various walls hit. Then in 2009, takedown of stoma.”

PG: That’s when the real fun started.

NB: “After takedown, loss of appetite, severe abdominal pain. Diagnosis: leaks still present in ileal pouch, abscesses. New PICC line. TPN for 10 weeks to try and ‘starve out’ the leak; you only made it six. Fistulae. Hospitalization. ‘Bio-glue’ inserted into leak. Bio-glue fix unsuccessful. Re-diversion surgery.”

PG: Yeah, my second stoma. Back to the bag. I had a stoma two different times.

NB: Which is not supposed to happen.

PG: Nellie, none of this is supposed to happen.

NB: (Continues reading.) Okay, we’re almost there. So. You had the stoma again for a couple of years. Then the second takedown in 2011. Things looked okay for awhile, but then you developed a fissure. And that had you in and out of the ER six or seven times over the course of 2012-2013. The good news is that you haven’t been in the hospital since… August. Is that right?

(PG, nervous, nods and sips tea.) 

NB: What?

PG: I don’t feel good.

NB: Okay, well now we’ve caught everyone up so we can talk about that. What’s wrong?

PG: I can’t seem to get on top of feeling terrible. I’m going to the bathroom a lot — more than usual, which is saying something. I’ve been trying to ignore all week that I feel extremely poor. Weak and tired. Dehydrated. Achy. And it hurts to use the bathroom. It’s… It’s so unpleasant to talk about.

NB: You don’t have to go into all the details. It’s bathroom stuff, intestinal stuff. Everyone poops. We get it.

PG: Well, no, most people don’t. And that’s good. I would not want many people to understand my life vis a vis the bathroom. We’d have a very depressed population.

NB: Are you feeling depressed?

PG: A little, yes. And that’s a bad sign. My surgeon in Chicago, Dr. Boller, she would get frustrated with me because I rarely run a fever when I’m getting sick. She’d be like, “Dammit, Fons! Could you run a fever once in awhile so we can catch this stuff before you need major surgery?” I don’t get fevers but I do get depressed before I get really sick. I’ll be sitting on the couch feeling crappy and then just burst into tears. That’s when I know I need a doctor, not when I run a fever. Crying is my fever.

NB: You should go to a doctor.

PG: I don’t have a GI doctor in NYC, yet.

NB: You should figure something out, Mary. Otherwise you’ll end up in the ER.

PG: (Looks at menu.) What are you having?

NB: Cassoulet.

16 Responses

  1. Jenny
    | Reply

    Mary, I’m going to be selfish here. Get thee to a doctor, STAT! I can’t speak for all of your readers but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we all love you. And we don’t want you to feel sick and depressed. 🙁 I smile every time I see a post from you in my inbox. But today, I’m sad. I hope that you get the medical attention you need and feel better soon. I love your humor, even when faced with your illness. It truly brightens my day. Please take care of yourself! And enjoy your lunch with Nellie. 😉

  2. Bethany Wise
    | Reply

    Oh Mary don’t be sick! I’m just getting to know you.

  3. Ryan McGillen
    | Reply

    I definitely feel for you. Back in November, I had surgery to remove my eroded lap band. I developed a leak in my sutures that caused an abscess and sepsis. I have certainly not seen the things that you’ve seen, but I spent 9 days in the hospital around Christmas not being allowed to eat or drink. I was on the verge of a PICC line and TPN myself but luckily, my leak was tiny and healed. I can’t even imagine the horrors you’ve known. Writing about it with such grace and humor is why I love reading your blog.

    Chin up. I know it doesn’t mean much when you’re sick, but it helps. I’ll be thinking of you.


  4. Jody Edwards
    | Reply

    Mary, I don’t have words to express my thoughts right now, because I am not nearly as smart or eloquent as you are. But I am familiar with being sick, having had cancer twice now in the past 7 years, and all that cancer treatment entails (surgeries, hospitals, bathroom woes, and more), plus having a chronic autoimmune disease. My heart goes out to you, and my prayers (such as they are) are on your behalf.

  5. Melissa Cooper
    | Reply

    Mary, dear writer, please listen to those tears and get to the GI hospital. I too have a serious illness, never run fevers, but know when I’m truly ill because I cry. So does my daughter. Take care.

  6. Liz
    | Reply

    Oh dear, oh dear. If all of us out here cheering for you could just do more than sit in front of our computers and worry. Now that would be helpful, but woefully it seems that is not in the cards. Hoping that a wonderfully smart New York doc with a new and successful idea will enter your life and figure it all out. Come on New York! Fix our lovely Paper Girl!

  7. Mary Ann
    | Reply

    Well just damn….started to say crap but that sounds too flippant given the issue. Nellie take good care of PG, don’t let her put off getting it checked it.

  8. Andres
    | Reply

    when you get better I’ll be your stalker (I have very reasonable rates).

  9. Marie-Claude Lajoie
    | Reply

    Mary, do take care! Marie-Claude

  10. Yvonne
    | Reply

    Mary, you are a gift to us. I love your writing and I love your quilting. We all hate to see you suffer. Please find the specialist that you need. We need you back. You and Nellie hang tough, ya hear?

  11. Lisa
    | Reply

    I agree with the first commenter Jenny, we do, all love you, and you make us all smile and laugh to see your posts in our mail boxes… so we’re very concerned that you have the best. I kinda do understand some of your pain. My mother was in a town praying for my safety..didn’t even know.. and the people I was with, got me to the hospital in time for an appendectomy. Thirty mins to spare before I would have died. The after pain was the worst part, as it had leaked. I am here to tell you that being good to yourself includes not eating GMO’s . They blow up the guts of bugs in the field, and people too. That is how they are designed to work. Stop eating all GMO’s and you will be well! Pesticides that are engineered into food are doubling cancer rates. Go all organic. You will have to tell Pap.G. to tell this to Nellie. Love, and prayers from the Texas Dust Cloud.

  12. Lisa
    | Reply

    P.S. I forgot to tell you not all organics are GMO free, but most are. You must get a nutrabullet and eat tumeric and honey and yogurt in the recipes. An wise fellow
    who owned a health food store for years once told me that will make you stay well.

  13. Briana Sprecher-Kinneer
    | Reply

    Oh, Mare. I only just found you again. I’m so sorry to hear you have been sick. I love reading your work . You’re in my thoughts every day. Love, Briana

  14. Lisa
    | Reply

    Godspeed dear one, I am aghast at your treatment… Hope you have an advocate to protect you. You must have a bodyguard and a medical bracelet… you are precious. Come to Texas we won’t let you be treated so poorly. We have world class art museums and lots of fabric.. I promise.

  15. Amy
    | Reply

    Izzy Gutwein is a highly recommended GI in the NYC area.
    riverdalegastro dot com

  16. Becky m
    | Reply

    Thanks for such an honest open post. I have to say that on the surface so many of us would think you had the perfect life simply based on your job. I appreciate you sharing the ugly side. We all struggle. That said, this is serious! Get yourself a recommendation stat! Your doc in Chicago should be able to provide a name.

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