“When the ambulance came for me, its interior was lined with paper skeletons. They dangled above me like a macabre army, keeping watch as I lay on the gurney. Thick black straps formed an X extending out from each corner of the stretcher, tethering it to the ambulance hull. Thinner straps pinned me to the mattress, one across my legs, the other across my chest. Matt sat next to one paramedic in the front seat. The other paramedic sat at my right shoulder, a full array of medical instruments and equipment within arm’s length. I was the centerpiece of our tableau, and in the center of me was the reason we were all here: a gaping hole in my abdomen where my surgical wound had opened.” — from GUTS, forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press in February 2018.
GUTS is a memoir that exposes the challenges of facing a mysterious illness as a young adult. At age 24 I moved to Seattle with a resume devoted to public service and fantasies of single-handedly ending poverty. But within a year I’d developed an intestinal illness so rare I wound up in a medical journal. I navigated misdiagnosis, multiple surgeries, and life with a permanent colostomy. Like many female patients my concerns were glossed over by doctors. I was young and insecure, major liabilities in my life as a patient. How would I advocate for low-income people when I couldn’t even advocate for myself?
My model for assertiveness was my friend Beth. She was the kind of friend who’d accompany you to the doctor when you got dysentery in Ecuador, nonchalantly translating the graphic details of your symptoms into Spanish. Throughout my illness she took care of me; then she developed brain cancer and our roles reversed. Eventually I recovered, but Beth’s condition worsened. At the age of 38, she died. To cope, I competed in endurance events, becoming a triathlete with a colostomy pouch.
With themes that echo Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire and Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home, GUTS is a story of resilience for the millions of Americans who manage to thrive while living with a chronic condition, as well as the many who’ve lost a loved one at a young age.
“Blunt, eloquent, piercing, honest, witty, heartaching, startlingly funny, and beautifully, refreshingly unique. Can you read a book about pain while grinning and trying not to cry and not being able to think of a single book that’s anything like it? Yup. This one. GUTS.”
—Brian Doyle, author of Mink River
GUTS was a finalist for the 2016 University of New Orleans Publishing Lab Prize. Excerpts from GUTS have won honorable mention in The Atlantic Student Contest, New Millennium Writings 2015 Contest, and the 2011 Artsmith Literary Award, and have been published in 9 journals, including The Rumpus, Bellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, Under the Sun, and elsewhere.