It was the middle of the triathlon as race volunteers prepared to eject me from the course. 11 weeks, 3 days and 7 hours since the moment time divided into Before and After. As I pedaled uphill, I didn’t consider the way my lycra outfit accentuated my colostomy pouch rather than concealing it, the hems of my shirt and shorts meeting at the place where surgical scars formed a lopsided tic-tac-toe board near my navel. I didn’t think about my friend Beth. My mind wasn’t even on my husband and children back home in Seattle. My brain focused on the clock: the hours that had gone by since the starting gun went off, the minutes remaining before the course would close, the seconds that would pass between the belief that I could make it, and the moment that I knew it was too late.” — from GUTS, forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press in February 2018. 

For information about upcoming events in support of GUTS, click here.

At age 24, Janet Buttenwieser moved to Seattle with a resume devoted to public service and fantasies of single-handedly ending poverty. But within a year she’d developed an intestinal illness so rare she wound up in a medical journal. Janet navigated misdiagnosis, multiple surgeries, and life with a permanent colostomy. Like many female patients her concerns were glossed over by doctors. She was young and insecure, major liabilities in her life as a patient. How would she advocate for low-income people when she couldn’t even advocate for herself?

Janet’s model for assertiveness was her 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 Janet’s illness Beth took care of her; then she developed brain cancer and their roles reversed. Eventually Janet recovered, but Beth’s condition worsened. At the age of 38, Beth died. To cope, Janet 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 RumpusBellevue Literary Review, Los Angeles Review, Under the Sun, and elsewhere.