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August 30, 2002 - Image 87

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-08-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

REST AUR AN T

WISE

Eyes from page 81

and this happens frequently — just
being there is very powerful.
"If you can make a patient feel less
alone as they leave this world and also
make them feel as though their family
will be comforted and cared for, really
that's something huge."
Weisman also knows an illness does-
n't affect just the patient.
For example, when she diagnosed a
man with lung cancer at the VA
Hospital in Atlanta, Weisman told him
"if he was confused about it or if his
family had any questions, they could
come at the next visit. Well, the next
time he came, he brought — I counted
— 27 people into my little office. It
was standing room only," she laughed
as she recalled the incident. "They had
come from a small town, and they all
wanted to know about Papa."
Weisman's own family bears testa-
ment to the agony that is felt when a
loved one is sick. Weisman says her
mother prays for her and that she has
seen her father cry at her bedside. "My
wife and I just dodge bullets," said
Evan Weisman. "[Sometimes] it seems
like the end is near, and then we sur-
vive to live another day."
Weisman's husband, Victor Balaban,
a photographer and psychologist with
the Centers for Disease Control, says
when Weisman first told him about her
illness, he didn't think too much of it.
"She was healthy, and the only effect
I really noticed was that she gave her-
self injections every other night. It
didn't strike me as being very different
from someone who was diabetic."
Although Balaban's parents, Holocaust
survivors who live in New Jersey, were
concerned, he says Weisman's medical
situation was not a major issue when
they decided to marry.
Still, the reality of living with
Weisman's condition became apparent
to Balaban after they were married and
she became seriously ill with an infec-
tion in her other parotid gland.
"The night the infection was at its
worst, I was at the hospital with her,"
Balaban recalled. "Jamie was in so
much pain and on such high doses of
painkillers that she has absolutely no
memory of that night, when she kept
gripping my hand and telling me she
wanted to die. I think I'd been a bit
naïve until then about just how serious
her condition was."

How Judaism Helps

Judaism, says Weisman, has allowed
her to struggle with her anger and the
inevitable "why me?" question.
"Judaism allows you to accept that

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you are not always going to under-
stand God's way," said Weisman. "In
Judaism there is room for grappling
with questions like: Who is the God
that built my body this way? Who is
the God who allowed the Holocaust?
Why do children suffer?"
"What I love about Judaism,"
Weisman said, "is that it doesn't turn
you away even when you are angry."
Family is also a primary source of
strength for Weisman.
During her illnesses, she says, it is
the connection with her family that
constantly pulls her though. So it's not
surprising Weisman and her husband
just bought a house in the Atlanta
suburb of Sandy Springs three doors
down from her parents.
And after a year-and-a-half of trying to
get pregnant, the couple had a healthy
daughter, Isabelle — now 20 months old
— and they are jubilantly expecting their
second daughter in October.

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"Judaism allows you
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not always going to
understand God's way,"

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— Dr. Jamie Weisman

Now that they have a family, the
uncertainty of Weisman's future weighs
a little more heavily on the couple.
"Yes, we think about and talk about
those 'what ifs' all the time," Balaban
said. "Whenever Jamie is out of town
or working late and I am alone in the
house_ giving my daughter her bath, I
can't help but think this is how my life
will be if Jamie dies.
"I know that other families don't
have to think this way, but we do. We
just keep going on and hoping for the
best. If that's the trade-off for having a
life with Jamie, it's worth it to me."
When and if things settle down —
right now she is studying for her derma-
tology boards while preparing to have
her second child — Weisman says she
plans to write some articles about gene
therapy and also wants to write fiction.
She admits she sometimes worries
about the future and perhaps the ulti-
mate parental fear — not being there
for your children as they grow up.
"But I try to do the usual," she said,
"living each day and enjoying every
moment. Every day is a gift."
Her family thinks that a line from
Weisman's book shows the spirit of her
determination best: "The cure for
dying is living." ❑

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8/30

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87

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