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By Michelle Fish

Last week, NPR reported that Huey Lewis is releasing his very last album and retiring from the road. This news hit me hard. Not because I’m a huge Huey Lewis fan, although I DID see him at Blossom in Ohio once, and you might find me singing along to “The Power of Love” in the car if I’m unsupervised.

It’s because of the reason he’s quitting. He has something called Meniere’s Disease. Four years ago I wouldn’t have known what that was, but I do now, because I have it.

It’s not cancer. It’s not life threatening in and of itself. But it can be a real bummer.

One of the things it causes is sporadic vertigo. When it hits, it’s sometimes without warning. I lose the horizon, the world flips ass over elbows, and so do I. It never lasts long… maybe 30 seconds, and then everything snaps back into focus, although in a woozy kind of way.

I suppose if it happened on a cliff edge somewhere, or at the top of a staircase, it wouldn’t be, shall we say, ideal. But to date, it’s just been embarrassing. Walking down the street in Saugatuck on date night with my baby one minute, then looking up at him from the pavement 30 seconds later.

It also causes significant hearing loss, usually in just one ear. And tinnitus.

Michelle Fish with the Blues Sisters
Me with my last band, The Blues Sisters, in Akron circa 2005.

My hearing has been going in my left ear for 20 years. I always assumed it was from all of those years on stage. I have blamed the guitar players in my various bands… they were almost always on my left. If one of you is reading this, I apologize. It wasn’t you.

Described as an imbalance in the fluid in the inner ear, the body is unable to do the right kind of fluid exchange to help you keep your balance. Inflammation is involved, somehow. There is some question about whether the disease causes the imbalance or is the result of it. Doesn’t really matter, either way.

It’s treatable, but not curable.

I avoid salt in my diet. And for the past year, I have been taking Flonase and a steroid every day. That combination works very well to manage the vertigo. In fact, I thought I had it beat altogether, until I got a “bout” in Seattle. I happened to be sitting up in bed when it hit, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled across it. Perfect timing, but it still bummed me out.

The thing that is weighing on me the most… all puns intended… is that the steroid is causing weight gain. I had lost about 30 pounds and was feeling super spry. And then, with the steroid, following the same plan that lost the weight is not-so-slowly putting it back on me again. I’m up about 15. I’m sure there is something I can do about it, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Sometimes, it can make me feel pretty sorry for myself, which helps no one, me least of all.

In the interview for the story, Huey said he was suicidal for months after the diagnoses. After all, it’s hard to sing if you can’t hear. And if you’re a professional, your life depends on it. As I retired singer myself, though in a much smaller way, I really understand that. I’m glad that he has found a way to make a kind of peace with it.

Bob & Michelle Fish
Photo by Kim Zahnow

I have, too. I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least is the love and support of my friends, my family and my handsome husband. I love the mission we’re on, and the opportunities it provides me for making change in the world and for travel… two things that inspire me and bring me joy.

So, I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep managing the symptoms as best I can, which is actually pretty darn well almost all of the time. I’m going to keep my head up and keep living my best life. Even if I’m doing it in pants that are two sizes larger than I’d like, and even if I have to ask my husband to speak a little louder if he’s sitting on my left.

I tell you all of this because I know sometimes, particularly in well curated photos on Facebook, it can look like everything comes easy and some people have all the luck. It’s true, I feel like the luckiest girl you’ll ever meet. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t “stuff.” We’re all dealing with something. I try to remember that every day.

Here’s to you, Huey, and “The Power of Love.”

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