Pro-anorexia websites are waiting to share ever-more effective techniques of starvation with teenage girls, who love to hang out in digital space. (A recent posting: "I am aiming for 500 cals a day, and I am not exceeding 800. Under any circumstances. FRESH START!")
When Lisa was trawling for "thinspiration," as the pro-anorexia websites call it, I was out reviewing restaurants. People often ask, "How did you keep working?" The real question is, "How could you keep working? Your child might be dying!" I asked myself that question many times a day. But being by Lisa's side didn't seem to help, either. She just kept getting worse. Lisa often called my cell phone when I was driving to a restaurant, and sometimes she would say, "I can't do this anymore." By "this" she meant life.
Meanwhile I had the job of my dreams. Besides reviewing restaurants and answering readers' questions, I wrote news and feature stories. It made national news when I found that a prominent local Italian restaurant was substituting pork for veal, a fraud that caused Muslims and Jews to eat forbidden foods. The more I focused on the details of food safety and marketing, the more passionately readers responded. Everybody eats. My predecessor had to quit this job for his health, but lucky me, I have the metabolism for it. I tacked this quote from the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher to my cubicle wall: "First, let's eat," and I followed that commandment.
Also, I had to keep working because we needed my salary. Health insurance covered little of Lisa's care. We finally found a psychologist Lisa connected with, and she's made tremendous progress. Again we have hope, but her treatment has cost $30,000 a year. It comes out of money we had saved for Lisa's education and future.
Faced with a disease of uncertain origin and wildly conflicting experts, I flew into information-gathering like a frantic bird, collecting sticks and leaves to patch the nest. Quick, let's try this treatment or that doctor. When your child is sick, that's all that matters. You feel paralyzed at times, you can't face another day, but you keep going. My job just made the going a little trickier.