Tuesday, January 23, 2018

GUTS, by Janet Buttenwieser. Book review

A recent NPR program profiled the inherent and little-known dangers of medical devices. Medical devices? Those are inert, benign, surely knee implants and the like can't hurt us? And yet they do. The cobalt in implants destroys human tissue. Mesh implants shred tissue. On and on it goes. Who knew? Patient beware. It reminded me of what a precarious transaction it is when we go to a physician for a "diagnosis." If you have a great medical team behind you, you should be grateful every day, and tell them once in a while, too.

 Here, in GUTS, the author is diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, but later finds out that is inaccurate: she has a tumor. She chronicles her subsequent surgery, complications, and other loss along the way -- so much suffering down here on planet earth. A brave, yes, gutsy soul, the author fights back against the darkness in the universe by making a comeback through triathlon, of all things, and then goes on to adopt two children. Janet Buttenwieser is an adept at keeping the reader hooked, turning the page. The style is direct, conversational, clear-eyed, and unsentimental. The author wants you to know she is not religious, it is what it is, so to speak, and not otherwise.

 The message here is that we survive, we surmount difficulties, that's what humans do. And yes, it hurts. You will find this hard to put down. A compelling read.

 Excerpt: A year before, when she’d called after my triathlon to tell me the cancer had come back, she’d laughed on the phone as I told her about the teenage girl I’d met early on the run course, the one who’d lost thirty pounds over the summer. After a few minutes of running together, I told Beth, the girl slowed down, telling me to go ahead. When I saw her again at the final water stop, she was limping, barely running. She told me her ankle hurt. “Maybe you should walk,” I said. “No,” she said, picking up her pace. “I trained all summer. I am running this whole fucking race.” ...... 

 Beth’s death from cancer had been sudden, a fact that still shocked me months later. She’d gone from the Swiss Alps to hospice care in the space of a week. The end came too quickly for all of us. Except Beth, of course. Surely she wanted that last stretch to be as short as possible: the pain, the struggle to speak, to move her limbs, to breathe. Maybe she even brought on her own swift ending by force of will. I can imagine her internal conversation, punctuated with a final, triumphant line. I am running this whole fucking race.

At Amazon.

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