Jennifer Cramer-Miller

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JENNIFER CRAMER-MILLER is a writer, speaker, and happiness seeker. Her work is featured in the Brevity Blog, The Sunlight Press, Grown & Flown, Mamalode, Medium, the Erma Bombeck Blog, the Kindness Blog, the Star Tribune, and the Minnesota Physician. She is the 2023-2026 Board Chair and a contributing writer for the Minnesota National Kidney Foundation. She also works as a patient advocate (named Joy Scouter) to help others manage uncertainty to boost hope and joy. You’ll find her essays on her website at

Jennifer finds a whole lotta joy living with her funny, lover-of-golf husband and fluffy, lover-of-treats pup in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.



BY Jennifer Cramer-Miller • POSTED ON Aug. 15, 2023

Cramer-Miller offers a memoir about living with kidney failure.

In her nonfiction debut, the author tells a story straight out of every healthy young person's worst nightmares: When she was in her early 20s, Cramer-Miller noticed a strange puffiness around her eyes, and in short order she learned her kidneys were damaged and leaking protein. Suddenly, her personal concerns and budding career were put on hold as she found herself facing a fight for her very life. At first, she had a typical disbelieving reaction to it all: “It doesn’t make sense,” she thought at the time. “I eat healthy, I’m not into drugs—I even floss. Sometimes.” Before her confusion abated, she was subjected to a barrage of medical tests involving needles, gels, scans, and condescending doctors (“The surgeon strutted in with great bravado”). It was the start of an essentially new life. “Every story begins with a domino moment that starts a chain of events,” Cramer-Miller writes. “My first domino had fallen.” She had some advantages, including good medical care and the unflagging support of her parents (“I knew if their big dose of love could have eradicated my ailment,” she writes, “it would have”). The author encountered all of the customary trials of long-term medical care, from endless paperwork to the irritations of having no privacy in a shared hospital room (“She shouted on the phone about her family issues,” Cramer-Miller writes about one roommate, “involving meth addiction, extramarital affairs, drunken brawls, and prison”).

This is very conventional narrative territory, and the material will be familiar to readers of illness memoirs of any kind. There are the expected emotional ups and downs, heartfelt moments, and wince-inducing gruesome medical details: “When Dr. Brown explained a surgeon would connect an artery in my left forearm to a vein, it made me cringe,” the author writes. “Eventually, this connection would enlarge the vein so it could accommodate obnoxious-sized needles.” But Cramer-Miller’s chronicle generally transcends these predictable aspects of the genre by virtue of her energetic, well-observed prose (“Then I waited alone in an uncomfortable wooden chair propped against the wall and focused on the vinyl wallpaper and tiles—a study in beige on beige”) and the doggedly upbeat tone indicated by her book’s title. Her account of her journey through illness and healing is unfailingly entertaining despite the grim subject matter. The author’s path will be familiar to her fellow kidney patients, including the rigors of dialysis, the lead-up to receiving a transplant, and the aftermath of the surgery (“The first thing I said through the fog of my medication stupor was, ‘Nobody told me it would hurt!’ ”). These elements are freshened by the theme of personal development Cramer-Miller weaves throughout the narrative, vividly portraying how processing dire illness led to genuinely positive new insights about her life. This unforced sincerity is the keynote of the book.

A touchingly personal memoir of a young woman facing a grave illness.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781647425272

Page count: 360pp

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2023

Awards, Press & Interests

Day job

Writer. Marketing Consultant. Patient Advocate.

Favorite author

Kelly Corrigan

Favorite book

A Separate Peace

Favorite line from a book

"You're sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere. ... If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience." Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

Favorite word




Publishers Weekly Starred Review, 2023

Interview: The Morning Glory Project, 2023

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