In 1954 I was a college sophomore, the only one in my part of the dorm who never had dates. A girl, I’ll call her Sally, offered to fix me up—in all senses of the word--lend me clothes, make up my face, and provide me with a blind date. My initial reaction was no, but she, for reasons I’ll never know, was too excited about the “project” to take no for an answer. I told her I had a boyfriend back home but she dismissed him as irrelevant since he’d never visited. She insisted it was more than time for me to start going out. I don’t know why I agreed, but it probably had something to do with how long it took my boyfriend to respond to my letters.
I was at a family Seder in 1963, talking to an aunt about the women’s exercise classes I was teaching at a local Jewish Community Center. When I mentioned that I’d started with one class of four and was now teaching three full classes with a waiting list, a cousin’s husband who’d overheard asked if he could talk with me.
He invited me to go outside and sit on porch chairs where we could talk privately. He told me he worked in publishing and asked a lot of questions about what I was teaching the women, how the increase in numbers of classes happened, and why I thought the women were so responsive. I told him the women generally had bad feelings about their bodies, were not in good shape, and thought the classes were helping them feel better in a lot of ways. “I think we have a lot to talk about,” he said, giving me his card. “Call me next week so we can arrange a time to meet.”
In January 1985 I was hospitalized for 19 days in London with an unknown illness and an unexplainable low white cell count. In April 1985 doctors at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) finally diagnosed my condition—hairy cell leukemia (HCL), a rare disease made even more rare because I had an anomalous form and only 25 % of the 400 people currently diagnosed were women. When I saw my hematologist, he told me there was an HCL protocol—a trial program of experimental medicine—but I wasn’t sick enough to participate and wouldn’t recommend me.
Stories inspired by world tales to challenge and comfort.