Chronically Me: Flushing Out My Life and Times With IBS

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Author: Joy Spencer

Format: paperback

Pages: 82

Publish date: October, 2014

Publisher: self published

Catalog ID: ISBN 9781500965457

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guest review and response illustration by Northwestern medical student Erika Cornell

I began this comic memoir with the bias that it would be primarily to provide entertainment. I blame partially the combination of the quirky simple line drawings and topic ripe with potential immature excrement-related humor for giving me this false initial impression, but I think it’s also one that many of us have about the comic medium in general. Although it does have touches of humor, particularly in the annotations of the more detailed drawings, that is not principally what this book is all about. This memoir focuses on the emotional and medical journey of having a badly understood, painful, and embarrassing disease. My overall impression is that while the author appreciates the healthy role that humor can play in coping, she is more concerned with portraying the actual experience of IBS, which is primarily terrible and devastating and not very funny at all. This is a stance that people with any chronic illness, or those close to someone who has, may likely appreciate.

Readers whose live have been affected by IBS could find this book helpful and medically informative. From a practical standpoint, pages such as “My IBS journey so far: a roadmap” help break down the treatments that she has tried either via highly researched medical opinion or just pure desperation, which anyone with IBS might find useful in sparing them the more unpleasant aspects of her journey. For the friends and family, she also gives a description of “The Perfect Friend/Spouse”, although also noting “Does this person exist? Of course not!” While slightly humorous, the description of this perfect friend also gives legitimately helpful suggestions for being supportive to a loved one with IBS. Some of the most helpful things to say are listed, in addition to the possibly non-intuitive tip that spontaneous plans, rather than advanced plans that might need to be canceled, are significantly preferable.

Perhaps what this comic memoir most excels at, however, is in bringing the reader along the emotional journey of IBS. As a future doctor in particular, it was valuable to be shown exactly how humiliating, painful or discouraging some of the IBS specific treatments and tests can be, and how badly they can be handled. I also was frequently struck by how universal some of her experience could be to anyone who has had a chronic illness, particularly one that currently has no good treatments or is still not completely understood. The second half of her list of “Random stuff I learned from these experiences” includes:

  1. I’m more comfortable talking to practitioners – still embarrassed talking to friends/relatives.
  2. The deflated feeling after each new trial fails is lousy.
  3. A lot of people would like to help, but cannot.
  4. Trying new stuff can become exhausting.

Passages like these stuck with me after closing the cover, and will hopefully also stick with anyone who has IBS or a similar disease. As the author puts on the back cover, she draws her comics “in the hope that other sufferers will know they are not alone.”


Coming in my Graphic Memoir: A Diagnosis of Exclusion

IBS is a catchword and is swept along with other words ( umbrella terms) under a large, unhelpful cover filled with FGIDs - functional gastrointestinal disorders...   My FGIDs/IBS Umbrella   Sounds like no help to me...just words. There must be someone out there who can help me!   I still have hope...early in the game.

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Part II: Fantasy Cruising / A Ship For Us – I Propose: An IBS-themed Cruise

Part II: Fantasy Cruising   A Ship For Us - I Propose: An IBS-themed Cruise   Special Features: 1. Latest speakers on what's available on the IBS research forefront 2. Lots to eat or nothing at all-your choice! 3. Meals on Demand- Whenever you want to eat! 4. A whole deck devoted to the most advanced toilets: different toilets and flushes from around the world! 5. Complaint Hour- Everyone has a chance to complain away and the audience is sympathetic and fascinated-sign up now, spaces are limited 6. A special room for non-IBS spouses, friends and family members for a much-needed break and much, much more!   Also featuring: friendly, non-judgemental, licensed trained psychologists on board to treat phobias, coping mechanisms, family relationships-no extra charge!   1. Dr. Smith - phobia specialist Afraid of going on that excursion? Come on in! 2. Dr. Jones - cognitive behavior therapy and BS specialist Hours: Any time! 3. Dr. Cohen - Family Dynamics and IBS Hours: At Your Convenience   Evening Entertainment Will Include:   (comedian talking) "How embarrassing was it?" IBS comedians - Come on, there's a wealth of material here!   All tour buses for excursions equipped with large, clean bathrooms (tour bus) Go-Go Tours "You can go with us"   The poetically-named "Passing Wind Room" (sound-proofed, of course!) Welcome! IBSeas Passing Wind Room   Electric Fans Speakers to muffle sound

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My IBS Journey – So Far: A Roadmap (with Road Signs Along the Way)

My IBS Journey - So Far: A Roadmap (with Road Signs Along the Way)   1987 It begins suddenly  AKA: Post-infectious IBS Sick in Hawaii   1. Visits to local Doctors Lots of tests 1988-89. 2. Diagnosis of IBS and Peptic Ulcer 1988 3. 1 year spent visiting a chiropractor 4. 1st Elimination Diet given by a holistic Doctor 5. (lots more icky tests) Visits to far-flung Dr's. doing IBS research 1990-1992 road trips (& flying) to: a) Dr. Marvin Schuster, Johns Hopkins, MD b) Dr. Arnold Wald, Pittsburgh, PA c) Dr. Miner, Kansas City, MO 6. 1 year of neuromuscular massage therapy 7. Many visits to an "alternative" chiropractor who used magnets and "applied kineseology" 8. 1st of many visits to a nutritionist 9. Many visits to Dr. Norman Sohn, NYC colorectal surgeon had a "Galvanic Stimulation" machine. Supposed to help a spastic puborectalis muscle. That plus other "cures" too awful to go into here. 10. Fiber supplements. First they worked, then not. 11. Trial of Rifaximin (2002) Antibiotic as per book by Dr. Pimentel 12. Bentyl, Levsin don't help (antispasmodics) 13. Eating less and less variety, anxieties grow. 14. Life is ruled by IBS 15. Visit to UNC to se Dr. Drossman *Blog coming devoted to this visit 16. 3 months Michael Mahoney IBS Hypnosis Tapes 17.  8 sessions Cognitive Behavior Therapy 18. And yet another nutritionist- this time to try gluten-free 19. Physical therapy for 1 year - Pelvic Floor Dysfunction 20. 5 days on Amitiza (infinity sign) Still searching now doing this blog very therapeutic   Road Signs: IBS/D changes to IBS/C   OMG! This is all guesswork They know nothing!   I don't eat before I go anywhere   I start skipping lunch   FODMAP Diet does not work for me   Tempted to do crazy expensive blood test   Everything I try makes me worse   Cipro seems to help but too risky to take long-term   Solitary life has arrived   Danger! Social anxieties mounting     My IBS Roadmap Key:   Desperate Crazy Detour   Well-thought-out plan (researched)   Recommended (advice)

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