Lea Lane

Lea Lane
Florida, USA
August 26
author, Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks, available at Amazon.com and on Kindle
“I’ve discovered the secret of life,” Kay Thompson, the eccentric entertainer and “Eloise” author, once said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of sense of humor, a lot of joy and a lot of tra-la-la!” And that's been my life: As a travel writer for over 30 years, I've been around the block (more like around the world), and I write true stories about interesting people and places. (Check out my travel site, Travels With Lea.) I've lived an unconventional life in conventional trappings. Been a corporate VP, worked with foster kids, acted in an Indie ("Nurse 1"), was on Jeopardy!. I've been managing editor of a travel publication, written for the Times, and authored books. OS is my home, but I also blog on The Huffington Post, and I've contributed (mostly anonymously) to everything from encyclopedias to guidebooks. Married young, divorced late; married late, widowed early, I dated lots in-between -- and survived a scary illness. After being happily, peacefully solo for many years, I'm now happily married again. I founded and still edit www.sololady.com, a lifestyle Website for single women. I'm truly grateful for each precious day, each well-earned wrinkle, my family, my cat. Truth, laughter, friendship, late love. And this blog -- on this wonderful site!

Lea Lane's Links

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 11, 2012 11:01AM


Rate: 75 Flag

Hunger is in the air: At the movies, with The Hunger Games. On TV with ads about a War on Hunger, as corporations such as Walmart are recognizing that one in six children in the US goes to bed hungry. And around the world, the percentage is much higher.

Like so many of us I’ve served the homeless in kitchens, contributed to food pantries and donated when there’s been a famine or drought somewhere in the world. I’m still not truly able to really understand the listlessness of malnutrition, the sharp agony of thirst, and the fear of dying from these conditions. But this past November I better understood the physical feelings of real hunger. And here's why:

Following surgery for a non-cancerous blockage last October, I recuperated with what I, the English major, dubbed my semicolon (a foot of my sigmoid colon, gone).

I went home from the hospital a week after surgery, slowly started eating, but became tired and feverish. I took some prescribed antibiotics, but when my temp remained over 101.5, Bill rushed me back in the hospital emergency room and I was readmitted for five days on stronger antibiotics.

Turns out I had complications from the operation: a pinpoint leak in my colon. I was pretty out of it, and was fed through an IV. Even after I was home from the hospital the second time, I remained for two months nourished through a tube in my left arm so that my gut could clean and heal.

The white bag of liquid nutrients (TPN) that flowed through the night looked like a white fish, offering no pleasure whatsoever, but it kept me alive. 

My stomach/brain connection did not seem to realize I had an IV line feeding me. Hunger pangs ebbed and flowed, but never ceased. Sometimes the hunger was all I could think of, all I could feel. It gnawed and shouted endlessly.

I was not starving. It’s just that my totally empty digestive system felt like I was.

Ironically, one way I ameliorated the feelings of hunger was to watch food shows. Week by week, month by month I watched episodes of "Chopped," "Iron Chef," "Restaurant Impossible," and "No Reservations." Somehow seeing food without smelling or tasting gave me vicarious pleasure.

I had to be flushed with solution several times a day to keep me from clotting, and to keep the lines clear. Bill was a devoted attendant, and professional nurses came twice a week to test and clean the IV area. (One was sweet and gentle, the other was brusque, with bad breath, but both did their jobs well.)

Despite good care, the tubes caused swelling in my arm, and an eventual allergic rash like one from poison ivy, creeping up my arm from the crook of my elbow up to my shoulder.

But the worst part was that the hunger never ceased. A day before I was to start eating --after months of emptiness -- the pangs were still so intense that I emailed the doctor:

“Could I please start a day earlier? Just some broth? Please. Please!” He wrote back  “yes” -- one of the happiest days of my life. I cheered and ran to the pantry. And I knew to sip the broth slowly so as not to get sick. 

I started eating for real. And as my stomach slowly filled, my brain relaxed its gnawing signals. 

The tubes stayed in my arm for while, two lifelines dangling like marionette strings, remaining just in case I had to go back on the IV. And I took my temperature several times both day and night, anxious that my healing continued. 

When the doctor was satisfied, the tubes came out. And aside from a temporarily atrophied arm and a small clot near my elbow that traveled nowhere, I was considered healed.

But as I began to normalize I couldn't forget the intense discomfort of those couple of months, despite being nourished the entire way. 

So when I see the ads for the movies and watch the TV spots about helping the hungry, I think about those throughout the country and throughout the world, enduring without much nourishment or hope. And I do understand better one thing.

Hunger hurts.











Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
When we have touched suffering ourselves we can better understand true suffering. But not really.
Thank you for this moving piece about a form of suffering many more than we want to realize experience every day. Your willingness to be open about your own situation is touching and commendable.
Lea, I saw a program on 60 Minutes several months ago that featured a group of homeless children --some lived in cars with their families, others stayed with relatives--and all were hungry. They spoke about the pain of going to bed and being unable to sleep because of the hunger pangs. Some teared up. What kind of a country allows its children to go to bed hungry?
Thank you for writing this and calling attention to a silent crisis.
Remember that in November. Remember who said "I'm not worried about the very poor." Remember those who want to cut funds for food stamps.
A profound and enlightening essay for sure. I hope that more people will be able to identify with what you have so eloquently informed on; hunger hurts. My hope is that this will inspire people to try and help the hungry in their community. People in need are everywhere, even in one's hometown.
The only way to understand real hunger is to experience it... I lived on the streets for a few months in my youth and dropped from 165 to 135lbs... I know hunger first hand and no one especially no child should have to deal with that experience.
Hunger is so often thought of as how you feel if you fast for a day, or eat too little on a diet. But true hunger is a different, painful condition which thankfully most of us do not ever feel. But I do hope this essay helps you remember this.
Brilliantly brings together the personal, science, and politics.
Thank you.
Lea, this is such a touching piece. ~r

Hunger does hurt in a way that no other hurt does.

Thank you for posting this.
I am so sorry you had to go thru all that but inspired by what you learned. I remember seeing hungry people in India in the remote villages just sitting and staring out into the desert. It is terrible that anyone has to go hungry. I heard some senior citizens who didn't have enough to eat say they just drank water alot to keep the hunger pains away. I have a fear of hunger. Have been trying to figure out how that might lead to my overeating. Thank you so much for this post.
I think that after awhile the listlessness may lessen the discomfort. That is when you see the empty stares and the total lack of energy.
Problem is I've never met anyone who didn't sign off on using hunger or fear of hunger as a weapon of control. No system - including capitalism - can survive with that as a component.
We waste so much and yet there is virtually no effective formula to create a balance here between waste and want. Thank you for sharing this. Our Salvation Army in Bradenton serves hundreds of meals a day. There are never too many donations.
This was one of the most moving pieces I've read. Thank you./r
This is a touching reminder, Lea.
Thank you for posting this. A fine reminder that real hunger isn't that little empty feeling when you miss an afternoon snack.
Excellent piece! Your medical issues enabled you a level of empathy most people can't understand. I'm glad you're well now, and thanks for sharing this.
Now I catch myself in the afternoon when I say, "I'm hungry." I really mean "I'm not full."
Quite an experience, and as you well know, you once again cheated death. I find Walmart's sudden "interest" in hunger as despicable as Exxon/Mobil's sudden "interest" in education. These are no more than the basest sort of public relations -- well, there's no better word for it -- puke.

If Walmart really cared about social ills, they'd pay decent wages and provide health benefits. If E/M really cared about social ills, they'd stop ravaging third-world countries and start paying taxes here.
Wow, I am glad you are well now too.
This was a very powerful piece.
Thank you for writing it.
Continue to be well Lea.
I have often wondered silently what those emaciated people on the ads felt like. I was under the impression the hunger pangs would diminish over time because you were being "fed." How awful for you.

What a difficult experience. So glad you came out of it OK. And you wrote about something most of us have never endured. My heart breaks every time I see photos of children dying of hunger. It just seems inconceivable we could live in such a cruel world.
You bring up an excellent question, which applies to lots of issues--hunger, homelessness, addiction, unemployment. Lots of people can't imagine what they have never experienced. "Why don't they just..(fill in simple solution." But the problem is not some individual's failure to be practical. While there might still be resources in this country, there is far less safety net than when I was young. Being poor is not just one thing, it's a complex of issues. Why don't they get a job? Well, they don't have an address, or the clean clothes, or the nutrition to do it, and, most importantly, there are no jobs. The fear of poverty is what keeps us in line, and for that to work, there must be people who we don't want to be.

You've really been through it, Lea. I hope the semicolon is healthy and doing its job now.
Excellent piece Lea. And scary and sad for so many of the world's population. The body's need for food is intense and relentless, as it should be. Your message is important, especially for a culture that is addicted to food in ways that most in the world cannot begin to understand.
The thing is, the 1 in 6 hungry kids is right around us... not far away, somewhere else. Thank you for this
Yo, Lea…I cannot tell you how much I identify with you on this subject.

First of all, let me say that my heart is with you. I hope you are past all the truly bad parts of the experience…and that you do not have ever to re-live any part of it. Stay healthy…and be the interesting, world-traveling individual I’ve come to know, to love, and to appreciate.

Now, my story of identification:

When I was treated for my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1996, I had chemo and radiation. I tolerated the chemo rather well (hated to lose my full head of hair and all three hairs on my chest)…but it was, as I said, tolerable. The radiation, however, was a disaster.

The radiation (two months of it) was directed at the lymph nodes in my neck. There were lead blocks placed to protect parts of my head, lips, jaw, and such…but the radiation effectively destroyed my salivary glands and my taste buds. The taste buds finally came back (after nine grueling months)…the salivary glands have recovered a bit, but it was not completely.

During the nine months of no taste buds, I went from my usual 155 lbs. down to 114 lbs. There was no ability to taste at all…I could not distinguish between a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt. It was one of the most horrible periods of my life…an Italian boy with no taste ability whatsoever. The absence of taste may seem easily tolerable…but I cannot tell you how horrible it was to put food into my mouth and have nothing but a blank sensation. I despised it…and truly wanted to die. My doctor told me that there was a good chance the buds would regenerate, but there was at least the possibility that they were gone forever. I had decided that if there were no improvement in a year, I would end life. But I recovered.
So glad your suffering has a happy ending.
Hunger is in the air.

Biggest movie in years -- The Hunger Games.

People feel starved. Mostly for meaning, I think.

And 1/2 the public is theoretically dieting.

But the metaphor is becomes abstract in the absence of experience.
First off, glad you are on the mend. You touch on many things here. Many use the term "I'm starving" with the rumble of a tummy.
Thanks so much for the cogent comments, all.
Frank, I'm glad you're better. That's a take on hunger for taste.
And Tom and Nick, and the rest of you who are outraged at what's been going on lately re the poor, you're right on my wavelength. Remember in November!
I want to make you some soup in the worst way. I know what you mean about suffering (your comment) but your post reminds us that hunger is a physical ailment too -- a real ache and longing -- and not just a socioeconomic "problem." I hope you're getting better and that you never go hungry again.
You're right that most of us don't know what real hunger is like. Like the Joni Mitchell song, you don't know what you have till it's gone. Glad to hear you're making the recovery.
I'm glad I read this. It opened a new realization. I also appreciate The comment that adds a layer and reminds us that most are starving for meaning....in this rich, packed culture. Well done.
What an amazing post, lea. I had no idea you were ill, and I'm glad you are on the mend. On another note, my father volunteers once a week to fill backpacks with canned and boxed food for elementary school children where he lives. What is astonishing about this is that he lives in an upper middle class neighborhood (in theory) yet half the children in this elementary school take the backpacks home on Friday and return them empty on Monday. I think the problem is very underreported. Thank you for this. RRRR
It is disturbing to me to think of people, especially children, going hungry. It's a disgrace to our culture and government. Hope you are feeling much better and that you are able to eat all of your favorite foods.
So, so eloquently and beautifully described (the bag like a white fish). I'm first of all extremely glad you're all right and over this episode, and secondly, so moved by what you've shared here about the thought of hunger and what it truly means. Thank you for a beautiful piece of writing, in many senses of the word.
Oh, I'm sorry you had to go through this, Lea. Thank you for sharing how it felt, and what it did to you to feel hungry all the time...thank you for this reminder that hunger is painful, and has so many reprecussions.
So beautifully told, we experience it with you. And recognize its widespread effects on our population. At least you were getting nourishment.. think of all the damage done to the bodies and minds of those who don't.

Not surprisingly, I have a similar story. If I can manage to type an entire post, you've inspired me to tell it.
Obese people often suffer from the opposite problem, eating a lot and not really feeling physically hungry but not recognizing that feeling of fullness and satisfaction normal weight people usually feel. Instead, the brain doen't distinguish well between hunger, appetite and completion. It must be equally frustrating.
On the other hand, my 98 yr old mother in end stage dementia is literally starving to death with no appetite, very poor ability to swallow and inability to chew. Doctors don't recommend intravenous feeding at this stage. Her brain apparently doesn't recognize hanger from her stomach because she pushes her mildshake away or dribbles it out of her mouth. It's terrible to watch.
Because of people like you and them, I, and hopefully others, will appreciate more than ever the simple ability to enjoy eating the right amount and being satisfied and fit.
Your comments add so much to this post. Thanks again.
And Sally, will await your story and hope you are feeling less pain.
Such a timely, humane, though provoking piece. So many families are struggling right now just to put food on their tables; food banks everywhere, even in affluent towns, are feeling the strain. Yet no one--at least no one with the power to do anything--is talking about any of this. Thank you for bringing attention to such an important issue. Let's hope it is read far and wide.
An AMAZING story, Lea, start to finish! I had to laugh at the TV food shows, which I love (I am always dieting) and do not comfort, but rather torture me!! A DESERVED E.P.!!
Gaud. Lea Lane. Maybe in lieu of pork chops, Pizza Steak, Fish Sandwiches, Apple Pie, Ham Turkey and Cheese on Rye . . .
The Core Members can buy some 'Ben & Jerry's' Ice Cream Cones for the Homeless Humans . . . . Worldwide. Invite those who can't afford a Core Membership to Manhattan for a candle lit dinner with `
Green Pistachio
Fried Ice Cream
A Gal of fat free
Yogurt with a
piece of apple
DoJ Sue Apple?
Maybe Sue Pope?
Buy editor Taco?
Hawaiian Pizza.
Greek Pizza Pie.
Sicilian Pizza Pie.
I've not seen the show.
Maybe I'll go to a motel.
I view 'Hungry' on TV.
Maybe I am Grouchy.
I rummage in trash can.
I find editor Peace slice.
He needs jailhouse grub.
It's a "square" free meal.
He can get chubby, grins.
gaud have mercy on pies.
Thank you so much for this. I knew you'd been very sick but not the full details. It's such a hideous mess: the medical finicking, the body doing what it will, and the suffering. Still, somehow we heal, live to tell the story. And thank you for that, Lea.
Hunger is really a dilemma. Carl Sagan says that almost 98% of us are living because of the way we can grow food. if that bridge ever collapses then we are all in a very dangerous position. Great piece too!
We are so much more fortunate than we realize. This went a long way to help me realize that, Lea.
So glad you are better - what a harrowing experience. So "you" to connect it to a larger issue, and to do so with grace and compassion, and to inspire a boatload of excellent comments!
This is why I work so hard to offer food students will eat. I know some of them know this feeling and it kills me to not be able to do more about it. You have xplained it so well here I hope it reaches the right people.
LL, what you do is so important. Thank you.
Striking presentation of how you are when your best day feels far. You scared me a bit with the clot thing, ( I had a similar ordeal years ago and being immobile turned nearly deadly -- my clot moved to my lung). I nearly checked out. But your passion for conveying how it is in this situation is compelling. You articulate the state of hunger well.
How can we allow little kids to go hungry when we have more food that we could ever eat? I can only give a little but I'm glad to do something. Thank you for sharing something that most do not want to broach. Excellent post for taking us inside of this. You make me feel. Your vivid portrayal makes me care even more.
I very rarely bring up the German Holocaust against we Jews because politically it's over even though I grew up reading about it compusively. So, what your gorgeous and relevant piece brings up for me was how those who survived talked more about the hunger than any other dimension of that horrid experience. Not love nor sex; not loneliness but as Frank said many wanted and did die from hunger. So that is my reference point. And now we create or dismiss hunger in others?! What a world! R
Ya, I'm prepping for a colonoscopy. I get a little, bitty bit of it. And I'm so thankful that I don't have to 'get' more than this. I hate it when I'm ambushed on the TV by an ad for benefits for hunger and scrawny, hopeless looking children with sunken eyes appear like zombies before me on the screen. Sometimes I cry. Rated RRR
OH, by the way, great story telling, too. I was following the tale of your bowl all the way to the end.
I used to feel like I was starving to death at Girl Scout Camp where we got only three meals a day. When it gets bad enough, it's all one can think about. I'm glad you're well now.
I once had a friend who was in an accident, his entire body broken, he was in a hospital, his jaw wired shut because his jaw was broken, too. He spoke of that pervasive demanding hunger you speak of.

We grew up "hungry". We ate but there was never enough and it was like a small torment, always wanting a bit more to eat. And that was only being hungry. NOT starving.

I can imagine this torture: living in a world where there is food for everyone else. But not for you.
What a thoughtful post. There is no excuse for hunger when there is so much waste. Best wishes to you. r
Lea,your comment "When we have touched suffering ourselves we can better understand true suffering. But not really."says what I wanted to say..And you have suffered in your situation...Your writing in your own exρerience made me understand that are a lot to understand and a lot of maturity to work for..So thank you for sharing..Rated with best regards.
Thank you for sharing your difficult times so movingly. I wish you well, Lea. Hunger is a world-wide topic which, I think, could be prevented with better management. Best to you.