In this debut memoir, a tenacious young woman battles a rare, life-threatening disease that leaves her unable to eat.
Aboulafia, now a law student, had only one semester of her undergraduate studies left in December 2015. She awoke one morning with a strong sense that the carefree joy of her life was about to abruptly end. Diagnosed with an immune deficiency at birth, the author was all too familiar with illnesses from whooping cough to scarlet fever. But the symptoms that she now began to experience were new and unnerving. Specifically, she began to develop trouble eating. At first, this manifested itself as feeling full for many hours after meals, but then she started to become nauseated when faced with certain foods. As the symptoms intensified, her weight dropped worryingly, so she visited her gastroenterologist, who dismissed her symptoms as psychosomatic and suggested that she was anorexic. It was only when her condition became life-threatening, with her weight dropping to around 70 pounds, that doctors recognized her as having an extremely rare disorder called superior mesenteric artery syndrome. Two days before her 22nd birthday, she was even told by a doctor that she could possibly die in six weeks. What follows is an alarmingly honest story of the author’s battle against chronic illness. It’s unsurprising that Aboulafia has a background in law, as she’s unafraid to present cold, clear facts: “I was so thin because I had been starving, because I was literally dying, and I didn’t know how long I had left if the surgery didn’t work.” This matter-of-fact approach makes for an emotional narrative, as the author also relates the pivotal roles that her girlfriend, family, and religion played in her recovery: “I talked to God until the sun came up, filling up my hospital room and showing me again, firsthand, that I was alive.” From an author who deems herself to be a “lover, not a fighter,” this is a courageous and emotionally sensitive recollection of a terrifying battle.
Emotionally taxing yet powerfully uplifting.