by Lizz Schumer
the 20th anniversary of my grandfather’s death from brain cancer, I lay
in my room at George Washington University Teaching Hospital, waiting
for the results of the MRI that would tell me whether my fall two days
before had been caused by the same disease. And as I stared at the
ceiling, one refrain repeated itself beneath the numbing fantanyl
Did I do this?
day had started out normally enough. I had woken up early to allow for
the metro ride from my aunt’s house in Vienna, Va. into Washington
D.C., where the peace protest I was to cover was taking place, and
eaten the breakfast that had become my usual prescription: oatmeal with
cinnamon, craisins and soy milk with a little granola sprinkled on top,
a big glass of water and a cup of coffee with a packet of
splenda. I had packed my satchel bag with my wallet, camera,
laptop, ipod, cell phone, one notebook and a handful of pens and set
off for the National Mall.
The event was set to begin at 10 a.m.
and my story was due by 4 p.m. That gave me just enough time to get to
the scene, take a few interviews, snap some photos and hightail it to
the nearest Starbucks with a good enough wireless connection to file
remotely. As usually happened when I set myself a tight timeline, I got
I knew the stop at which I had to get off, the street it
would deliver me onto and roughly where the Mall was from there. What I
did not know was which direction to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue once
Subways always made me nervous. The crush of people
moving like an amoebic tide toward an escalator that never seemed large
enough to hold us all made my heart race, and I always found myself
gulping like a fish whenever I surfaced. On this particular day, I let
myself pause on the sidewalk just long enough to dial my friend Olivia,
who was covering the same event, before I kept walking toward the
nearest cross street.
“Olivia, hi. I’m on Pennsylvania, just got off at Foggy Bottom. Do you know which way I should walk to get to the mall?”
succession of events that followed have been told to me over and over,
at least once a year since. We sit in my parents’ suburban backyard and
swirl the wine in our glasses, smiling at each other like survivors of
a tragedy that became a funny cocktail party story. My aunt tells her
side, because my side begins later, no one acknowledging that none of
our accounts are completely accurate, because the only person who was
there was bleeding on the sidewalk, her mind wherever ourselves go when
consciousness is lost, or forfeited, depending on your perspective.
was a dream. The sort we don’t remember when we are yanked back to
reality, and harshly. There may have been god, and music, and
salvation. But I don’t remember.
have wondered ever since what I missed while I was lying corpselike on
the sidewalk. What that means. If that means anything. Because
everything, ever since, has been a desperate search for meaning
don’t remember passing out. I don’t remember the man named Mike who
pulled over on a busy street to call 911 when he saw me fall backwards.
I don’t remember the ambulance arriving, or Olivia running down
Pennsylvania to find the bus screaming away while emergency responders
hosed my blood off the sidewalk. I do remember opening my eyes to
a man in a blue jacket strapping me onto a backboard, my eyes tearing
in the sudden brightness. I felt more than saw him fastening a rubber
brace around my neck as my nose filled with the smell of latex from his
gloved hands. I remember being lifted into an ambulance and thinking
foggily, as I grasped at the straws of a reality that had hiccuped me
out into a scene I didn’t recognize.
“Do you know where you are?”
EMT’s features blurred as I tried to focus on his face. He crouched
near my head while three others fiddled with a blood pressure finger
clamp, IV tubing and medical paraphernalia that creaked and squawked as
we bumped down the street.
“Can you tell me your name?”
I have called you each by name.
I told him who the president was. The date escaped me. The year. The
time. Where I had been going. The details that make up personhood.
The questions kept coming and he pinched my arm
every few minutes. I didn’t know at the time that he had to make sure I
didn’t lose consciousness until they determined how much damage I had
done by splitting my head open on the pavement. I didn’t know anything,
except that I wasn’t scared and I didn’t even realize that I should
have been, because I was watching the entire thing like a television
drama: Like it was all happening to someone else.
ambulance first arrived at the emergency room, it was like every
medical TV show I had ever seen. The EMTs maneuvered the gurney out of
the bus and through the sliding glass doors like an industrial ballet.
Someone steered from the head of the stretcher; another guided the
front as people in scrubs scurried out of the way. Two others flanked
each side, their faces focused as they checked monitors and peppered me
Something had entered my bloodstream and wrapped
my head in fog, so I answered them in slow motion as the world sped and
jangled around me.
O positive. Blue Cross Blue Shield was my
insurance. Yes, I had eaten breakfast. Yes, I drank water. No, there
wasn’t anyone they should call.
My brain took snapshots as we
moved into the bowels of the hospital. A nurse in turquoise scrubs
glanced up from the center of a round nurse’s station. A dark-skinned
man in handcuffs struggled against a police officer in a bulletproof
vest with white block letters on the back. Glaring fluorescent lights
shot my eyes with stars. The wheels on the gurney squealed, or maybe I
thought they did because I expected them to, because they always did on
TV. My brain filled in the blanks of what I saw with what I thought I
knew, and I don’t know how seamlessly they fit together.
wheeled me into a small, white room where a nurse prepared to draw
blood from my arm while I tried to explain why she wouldn’t have any
luck. Since I had been born three months prematurely with a host of
medical uncertainties, one of my earliest memories was of skipping
school to eat pancakes in the middle of the afternoon. I remember the
syrup bottle was actually an old ketchup squirt bottle. It’s funny what
we remember. I had spent the morning lying “like a statue” in buzzing
machines, being poked with syringes and having a catheter inserted into
a place that made me uncomfortable in a way I didn’t yet understand. I
remembered pain in the way that children do, like it takes over the
entire body until something else takes its place, like pancakes and a
free afternoon. I had blood drawn more times than I could count, and no
one could ever find a vein in my left arm. In what the still-coherent
part of my mind realized was an increasingly slurred explanation, I
tried to tell the nurse that, since the right arm was already occupied,
she might want to try my hand instead.
“I know what I’m doing,” she said.
the tube wouldn’t fill, and her fingers poked and prodded flesh that
gave under the pads, but didn’t give any blood. She sighed, narrowed
her eyes at me, like I was doing it on purpose, to spite her.
“What the fuck, Lizz?”
Olivia rounded the doorframe. She was laughing, although she didn’t look directly at my face.
“It sounded like you dropped the phone then some guy called back and
said you passed out and by the time I get there, you’re in an ambulance
and these firemen are hosing your blood off the sidewalk!”
“Were they hot?”
We both laughed and Olivia shook her head.
“If that’ll make you feel better, sure.”
didn’t ask if I was ok. We were journalists, and knew not to waste time
with obvious questions. Olivia explained that she had called our
editor, who had taken us both off the story. She also told me that I
had chosen to clutch my bag to my chest as I fell. That Mike told her I
had clasped it to me with one arm, the other groping skyward as if
hoping for a hand to grab onto. I had never even attempted to break my
“So your laptop, camera and stuff are all ok,” she assured me, raising the patchwork bag she had retrieved for me.
Among the cheery blue, magenta and sunflower-yellow patches, a few speckles of blood were barely evident.
“But they had to use your scarf to try and stop the blood,” she added.
“Hope you weren’t too attached to it.”
I’m more attached to my blood,” I joked, frowning at the phlebotomist
who had finally grabbed my hand, threaded a butterfly needle and
extracted the vials she needed in frustrated silence.
emergency room was a busy place that day, although I do not have
anything but television to compare it to. The peace protest had broken
out into riots and people kept parading through, flanked by police,
their bodies in various stages of disarray, their faces mottled with
anger and fear. I remember the whites of eyes, hands in zip ties
and shouting. So much shouting it disoriented me, and I felt apart from
it all, more than I was already. The protesters were ushered through,
while anyone else whose injuries were deemed non-life threatening had
to wait. Since I was no longer in immediate danger of bleeding
out, my stretcher got relegated to a waiting area.
or sped up as Olivia and I sat on a stretcher and tried to pretend
nothing was wrong. It never occurred to me to be worried. I keep coming
back to that, because every time I tell the story, everyone expects
fear. They expect panic. They expect pain, but nothing happened the way
I would have expected, including my reaction. Tempered by medication
and the uncertainty that comes with entering a circumstance unscripted,
I remember talking with Olivia and watching the world go by with a
medically detached interest because I still didn’t fully believe it was
happening to me.
After two hours that seemed like years, a
medical assistant wheeled me into a large room made into smaller ones
with curtained partitions. There, a woman in pink stitched up my head
while she talked to me about body art. I told her I liked the
silver coils she had snaking through both ears. They sparkled, little
live springs, and I thought I saw them slither under the fluorescent
lights. She explained that I would have to take all of the metal out of
my body for the MRI I would be having once the gash was sewn closed.
“It’s like a giant magnet,” she told me, her voice floating from behind as she deftly sewed up my skull.
imagined I could hear the needle clinking against bone and it made me
think of silver snaking through my veins, pinning me to the roof of a
giant, white coffin.
And so, as Olivia and I waited, I collected
jewelry. Four earrings, one septum ring, a necklace, five bracelets,
and a handful of silver that writhed and shimmered against my fingers.
I watched it sparkle under fluorescent lights and thought this is what
a soul must look like.
“Aren’t you scared? Shouldn’t you call
your family,?” Olivia asked as we watched doctors hurrying back and
forth, their white coats swishing as they squinted at charts in their
hands that did not tell them to collect me.
Their shoes squeaked white and they always avoided my eyes.
“I don’t want to bother them,” I said.
My aunt was at a conference in Baltimore and my uncle was working, too.
“It’s no big deal. Just a few stitches and it’ll be fine.”
“Don’t you think they’ll want to know?”
“I’m sure they do. And they will, when I tell them later.”
fentanyl kept my body feeling two sizes too big, my mind comfortably
removed from the bewildering world around me. I thought vaguely of my
nurse practitioner mother and of how she would have asked too many
questions. I thought of my banker father and of how he would have
demanded answers. I thought of my aunt and uncle and the way they
fussed over everything from how I loaded the dishwasher to my chosen
career, surrogate parents as I lived with them for the semester. I
thought of my aunt’s worry, growing like a black cloud and consuming
everything. They would all ask questions. They would make it dire and
real. I didn’t want it to be real.
“We can wait,” I said, over and over, as the hours ticked past and we sat as though forgotten.
“It’s not going to make things go any faster if I make them wait, too.”
could have called it the pluck that had been instilled in me by having
a mother in the medical profession. She had always shrugged at scrapes
and scratches. I had once plucked gravel from a skinned knee with a
pair of tweezers as blood ran down my leg, nonchalant at everything but
the damage it might do to the bathroom rug. Blood had never bothered
me, and my mother had always treated injury with an academic eye.
“Suck it up,” she had said, more than once when I worried about an ache here, a popping sound there.
My parents had taught me how to take care of myself. A couple of
stitches, a few hours on a bed, I could handle. I didn’t think I had a
The technician allowed me to keep my navel ring in the MRI machine, although he looked skeptical.
guess since we’re focusing on your head, it should be ok,” he said.
“But put your hand over it and if it starts to feel at all hot, let us
He didn’t take into account that I was
numb enough that my bellybutton would have to be literally on fire for
me to notice, but the screeching, buzzing, vibrating procedure passed
After it was over, rather than
transferring me back to the now-familiar gurney, an aide came with a
wheelchair instead, Olivia trailing behind with my bag in her hand.
“We’re going to admit you for the night,” the aide told me, as I was lifted into it.
“While we wait for the results of the MRI.”
“But I feel fine,” I argued.
been waiting for you people to get to me all day. Why can’t I go wait
for those results and go home once they say I don’t have one?”
faint buzzing filled my ears that I could have attributed to either the
MRI machine or my gathering dismay at the idea of spending the night in
that place. Admission brought the gravity of the situation into sharp
relief. For the first time, I felt the grumblings of emotion begin to
tickle the back of my throat, and I swallowed hard against the loss of
control I was sure feeling would bring with it.
“Because,” she said with finality, wheeling us both around. “That’s policy.”
things confronted me as I was transferred into the hospital bed that
awaited me: it was a private room, which was a relief, and my aunt was
sitting in a chair by the door, which was not.
She jumped to her feet as soon as we came in.
“What the fuck, Lizz?”
It struck me how that reaction was becoming increasingly common, lately.
“How was your conference?”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
The women in our family screech like banshees when upset and Aunt Tammy was no exception.
“You didn’t think I might want to know you’re in the hospital?”
“I didn’t want to interrupt your conference. And it wasn’t like you could do anything about it.”
“I could have been here!”
“Olivia was here,” I reasoned, glaring at my friend, who was now trying to creep out the door.
“Thank you Olivia,” Aunt Tammy said, whirling around as if noticing her for the first time. Olivia shrugged noncommittally.
“I’m glad someone was, even if she didn’t feel the need to tell her own family what was going on.”
“I didn’t want anyone to be worried.”
“Little late for that.”
Aunt Tammy sighed and collapsed into the chair, as if the weight of the situation was too much for her to bear.
noticed she was still wearing the suit she had left in that morning
with a maroon shell and beaded necklace I had always considered
borrowing without permission.
“Um, if you guys are ok here, I think I’m gonna go,” Olivia said, her eyes shifting nervously from my face to my aunt’s.
“It’s been kind of a long day.”
For the first time, I noticed the lengthening shadows the slat blinds were throwing across the floor.
Olivia left, Aunt Tammy ran her hands through her hair and stared at
me, a smile tickling the sides of her mouth, cracking her exasperated
expression. She could never maintain one emotion for long.
“You look like something out of a horror movie. I’m going to call someone to get you in a shower.”
a nurse arrived and wheeled me into the bathroom, I almost didn’t
recognize the person I saw in the mirror. Her skin was rust-colored
with streaks of dried blood, her hair matted, crusted and sticking out
in places. She looked like Medusa, her face smeared with gore and
surrounded by a halo of snaking coils. When I touched it, flakes of red
fell onto my lap and I shuddered, then winced. Tiny darts of pain
slithered through the skin surrounding the wound, suggestions of pain,
really. Olivia had been staring at this apparition all day and hadn’t
said a word. I think I was grateful for that.
A gaggle of men
and women in white coats with clipboards trouped into the room
immediately after I let the nurse help me change into the pajamas Aunt
Tammy had brought. I remember the delicate treatment of IV tubes
and fabric was too much for me, that my own limbs felt heavy and
unfamiliar, that I was surprised at how thankful I was for another’s
hands on the body I suddenly distrusted. The doctors stood in a half
circle around the end of the bed and peered at me like my malady was
written across my face in hieroglyphics.
female, unexplained loss of consciousness, no syncope. Blood pressure
normal, glucose levels normal, hydrated,” one read as the rest
One of them told the paper in his hand that
he was going to order a CT scan, an EEG, an EKG, a stress test and some
more blood work. The MRI had been clean, with the exception of a
“Any pain?” he asked, looking up for the first time.
His eyes were a striking, startling blue and as blank as a pair of marbles.
shook my head and the room spun. The floor was a checkerboard pattern,
and I stared as the tiles shifted and bobbed in place. He raised his
eyebrows and pushed a button near my hand. Warmth spread from my IV arm
through my body as the floor tiles shifted back into place.
“I’ll check back with you tomorrow. Get some rest.”
ushered his team out the door and their footsteps echoed down the
ceaselessly noisy hallway. Aunt Tammy left shortly thereafter,
promising to return the next morning. For the first time since I left
her house that morning, I was alone with my body, alone with my mind.
in bed, trying to think through the gathering fog of medication and
exhaustion, I thought about why the doctors had asked me so many times
what I’d had for breakfast, if I drank water, if I’d felt dizzy.
Hunger, dehydration, wooziness would have explained my sudden collapse.
I remembered my grandmother’s stories about her husband’s illness. How
it started with him passing out at the mechanic garage he owned. How
loud his wrench clattering to the concrete must have been. How it
escalated into seizures that persisted even after the doctors operated
on the brain tumor that caused it all. I remembered pictures of him in
an orange plaid recliner, the gray at his temples the same as my own
father’s, my tiny, newborn body on his chest, his eyes sunken with
illness. How he succumbed not long afterward, right before Easter.
Exactly twenty years ago. My mom’s dad had died of a brain tumor as
well, although she hardly ever talked about him. He had been an
engineer, until his brain betrayed him and he was wracked with strokes
that left him unable to talk, to walk, to eat, until they finally
killed him. I envisioned myself, falling out of the air, my hands
groping for something above me, something I hadn’t found.
thought of the last time I passed out, when I attributed my loss of
consciousness to a bulimia-induced electrolyte imbalance. I had thrown
away the order for blood work and pledged to stop purging before I did
any more damage. It had seemed that simple: to let myself gain mass,
gain gravity, gain substance that would keep me grounded. I had eaten
breakfast. I had drunk water. I had forfeited the space between my
thighs that I thought gave me meaning and I had begun looking through
my own eyes in the mirror and I thought that had helped. The IV snaking
from my arm, the little yellow water pitcher on the table next to me,
the unfamiliar sheets that scratched against my legs, the heaviness in
my limbs from medication or exhaustion or realization of where I was,
the faint idea of pain behind it all, told me I had only delayed
something that had finally caught up with me. And I didn’t know which
was worse: that my brain had betrayed me or that I had.
Did I do this?
next two days passed in a blur of white coats, needles, electrodes and
machines. It felt like someone was always coming for me, to stick nodes
to my chest, to tell me to lie still, to carry me away. I underwent
each test like checking it off a list. My parents and teenage
brother were due to visit for Easter that weekend anyway, so they flew
in early and immediately took over. Mom brought me sushi to give me a
break from the hospital food, my brother took up residence texting in a
chair by the window, my dad made jokes about me ruining their vacation
and I hunched over my laptop, trying to poeticize my way through the
rising fear that threatened to overtake me during the lengthening lucid
periods in between tapering doses of fentanyl. Swallowing pills.
“I see you don’t wear our gowns,” one of the nurses remarked dryly as she wheeled me to another test the second day.
was still wearing the pajamas my aunt had brought me: a pair of flannel
pants and a shirt with “Free Will” written on the front, a souvenir
from a Shakespeare festival I had worked at the summer before. I just
smiled. As a journalist, I had no interest in obvious questions.
after test yielded no results and the supervising doctor ordered a
lumbar puncture on the evening before I was due to be discharged, the
night before Easter. It felt like a last resort.
He explained that I had to lie flat on my back afterward for half an hour or risk a headache, “Like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
spinal tap would also rule out a medullabastoma, a highly malignant
brain tumor that can spread through the cerebrospinal fluid, but I was
not told that at the time. I did not realize that until years later,
researching the procedure, researching its aftermath. I was not angry
that he didn’t tell me. I don’t think it would have helped.
a long needle inserted into one’s spine feels like being slowly
skewered, like most needle insertions, after the initial skin prick, it
does not hurt so much as it feels unnatural. The spine is usually
coddled, the central line of the body. Having it pierced through felt
like being violated. It felt wrong.
Days afterward, my mother
would say that I sat up too quickly. She would tell me that if I had
followed the doctor’s instructions explicitly, I would have been fine
after the procedure was over. Later, my research showed that a spinal
fluid leakage at the puncture site was more to blame. All I know
is that I felt fine until we were in the subway on our way back to my
aunt’s house for Easter dinner when suddenly, I couldn’t see.
does not always manifest itself in the ways we learn to recognize as
children, when we fall and scrape a knee and see blood welling onto the
skin. That pain appears on the surface as an indignant response to the
breach of a barrier. That pain, I knew like an old friend. This pain
was a systemic response to a more fundamental violation. I did not
recognize it as pain at first. Because this pain was blinding, blinding
my eyes and my thoughts and throwing me into a world in which I lost my
body, in which I lost myself because my brain threw all signals into
convincing the rest of my body to respond immediately, without getting
in my own way.
As I lowered my head to the seat and my ear found
the cold, sticky plastic, my vision speckled with brown spots and I
once again became aware of the thunderous clack of wheels against
tracks, of my mother’s voice asking if I felt alright. My stomach
roiled and my head throbbed, no, hammered no against the insides of my
skull. I think I whimpered, and I think her hand was on my back,
but mostly I think I descended into a world in which pain was the first
and last word, in which I barely existed. If I kept my ear parallel to
the floor, I was ok. If I raised it as much as a couple inches, the
world shut down in favor of returning me to a horizontal position.
parents half-carried me out of the subway, into the car and, after a
brief, failed attempt at dinner, deposited me into bed. I stayed there
for the next three weeks.
spent those weeks getting to know my body as an ally. For years, we had
been at war with one another, fighting an endless battle between intake
and output. I had bullied it into the shape I wanted, pushed it to
become what I thought it should be, and I realized I did not know it at
all. Like the Opus Dei monks flayed their flesh to atone for
their spiritual inadequacies, I had punished my body to make my mind
feel whole. It was hardly any wonder I had forgotten it, too, had a
But now, for the first time, my body and I were
imprisoned together. My painkiller prescription ran out quickly and the
pharmacist refused to give me any more. I begged him, pleaded
with him to let me escape from the warden that had a hold on me—the
warden that was forcing me down into the trenches where my physical
self lived, but he was relentless. They were relentless. Unable to hide
behind a gossamer veil of medication, I was forced to listen to my
body. I was forced to relearn that I was more than a mind, more than a
psyche, that my body and I had to work together toward a new concept of
Each day, I awoke and asked my body whether my eye
sockets throbbed, my ears buzzed and my stomach churned. If the answer
to any of those questions was no, I raised my head a few inches and
waited for a response. If my brain began to rattle against my skull, I
would lower myself back down and allow pain to take over for another
day. If not, I persisted, a few inches at a time, to see how much
elevation my body would endure. Unable to transcend my own physicality,
I had to learn to inhabit it, to read the signals it was sending me
again, like a baby realizes how to stand on two feet.
thankful for that month long convalescence, because it allowed me to
reacquaint myself without the barrage of distractions my life, my world
presented me. I forgot to think about what had caused my initial
collapse, consumed by the pain that was a constant companion. Forced to
contend with my momentary reality, I forgot to care what the world
thought of me, forgot to agonize over the self I presented to my peers
and focused on resetting the self I was in isolation, the self I had to
live with when everything else was stripped away.
One of my
doctors suggested a whirlpool bath, that the massaging water could
relax the muscles in my back and the associated tension on my spine
that might be exacerbating my condition. I lay in the bath and saw my
body through the water, watched its shimmering outline through the haze
of warmth and let it dull the pain that was now a familiar companion.
Gingerly, I traced the skin stretched over my muscles, grown soft and
pliant with disuse. I explored myself as a foreign country. My skin,
its texture like a desert combed into waves by relentless winds, the
hills and valleys of my hips and thighs, the dove-wing curvature of my
shoulders, the mysterious crevices of my fingers and toes, my stomach
rising and falling as my lungs filled with air. Feeling the water
swirling against my body, I felt more wholly myself than I had in
years. It felt real. It felt whole.
In early April, when I was
finally able to stand, I accompanied my aunt and uncle to the
Smithsonian Kite Festival. I sat on the National Mall with all my
senses electrified and focused on taking in the world I had missed for
what felt like a lifetime. The breeze lifted the stands of my hair, a
soft spring sun glimmered against my skin and the damp, still-new
blades of grass tickled my legs as I watched kites of all shapes and
sizes dancing in the breeze above me. I felt cradled in this world.
Like those nylon and fabric creatures, my soul soared and kissed the
After my headache, a term that feels inadequate, although
accurate, subsided, I was forced to confront the original cause of my
collapse. There should be a separate word for the desperate frustration
of medical mystery. There should be a more elegant way to describe how
it feels to spend days with neurology, cardiology and systemic
specialists who look in your eyes and tell you they have no answers. We
are taught to trust our doctors, that they have the solutions. Take a
pill, let them cut you open and remove something, insert something--
fix you like a broken car. But it doesn’t always work that way, and
there are no words for how that feels. I didn’t know then, and I don’t
know now, which was more disorienting: the syncope that left my head
whirling and unsteady or the shrugging dismissal of the people who were
supposed to fix me.
didn’t know anything. I still don’t. I am still learning to forgive
them, to forgive myself, for what faith, hope and science couldn’t do.
spent the rest of that spring and the following summer learning to
accommodate myself. When I climbed the stairs to street level after
taking the metro, I always paused at the top to let my heart rate
return to normal, filling my lungs with the exhaust-scented air,
willing myself back into the context I inhabited. On days when
the unpredictable subway got me to my destination earlier than
expected, I found a quiet place to sit and watch the world, rather than
power walking around the block to burn as many calories as
possible. Too much exertion and my head would buzz with static,
the ground tilting until I agreed to sit on the sidelines until my body
was once again calibrated for movement.
In this way, my ears
found the snapping of flags as they struggled against their poles like
caged birds, were assaulted by the many layers of traffic sounds in a
neighborhood infected with urban sprawl. My feet clung to the Braille
pattern of concrete beneath their soles; my skin prickled with sweat in
the heat and shrank tight from a cool breeze. When my brain forced me
to turn my sight inward, I recognized the signals it was sending to me,
which reset my relationship with my surroundings. By learning to be in
my body again, I learned how to be in that world, as well. I learned
not to look for the reason for what I felt, but to explore the feeling
itself. I learned to explore the world within as I had always explored
cities and countries: as a brave new territory, as something to be
discovered, not explained.
Schumer is a writer and reporter in Buffalo, N.Y. She is an MFA
candidate at Goddard College where she is editor in chief of the Pitkin Review
and raises awareness about neuropathy through her very presence and
answering impertinent questions. Her writing has appeared in various
journals and on lizzschumer.com.