Book Review: To Take Into The Air My Quiet Breath by Stephanie Gunn / Defying Doomsday Anthology

Favourite Line “Georgie,” she said, “why would God put flowers in our lungs, if it makes it so hard for us to breathe?”

Post-apocalyptic fiction depicts survival in a changed world full of challenges – where survival often depends on being the strongest. Defying Doomsday is a snapshot of what may happen if you were disabled or had chronic health problems before disaster struck and is a reminder that there are different types of strength.

My son has a detailed zombie survival plan. Not only has he scouted a location, he’s also figured out the security measures that need to be put in place – in fact his plan even goes as far as to include a backup location just in case the first fails. His biggest challenge is the need to survive alone without family backup.

As a chronically ill person I have a basic generalised apocalypse plan. It’s not as detailed as my son’s and since my transplant it’s changed. My health needs are more pressing as a transplant patient than they were when I was only dealing with my medical needs for Cystic Fibrosis. Although I had serious complications with my pancreas when I was a child, I have become more pancreatic sufficient as I age – I could make do without Creon if I had to. I’m not allergic to any antibiotics, so I believe a raid on any chemist should see me through the immediate future.

Post-transplant I have more pressing issues. Access to immunosuppressants is both lifesaving and time critical. I know which hospital pharmacy I believe to be the easiest for me to access under a variety of circumstances along with a brutal entry method if required.

Given the thought I’ve put into my survival in a doomsday scenario, Stephanie Gunn’s contribution, “To Take Into The Air My Quiet Breath”  which features twins with Cystic Fibrosis, Eliza who is on the transplant list and Annalee who is post-transplant, was for me the most interesting story in the anthology.

Gunn’s casual mention of raiding neighbouring houses and pharmacies for medicines including immunosuppressants gave me a bit of a chuckle – I know the reality won’t be that easy. At best my local pharmacy carries a single box of Tacro for me to use in an emergency and orders my scripts in as they are needed.

Flus can be deadly to people with Cystic Fibrosis, even more so to people who are post lung transplant, so I thought Gunn’s mention of a flu pandemic having caused the apocalyptic event interesting. Not everyone with Cystic Fibrosis caught the bird or swine flu, or were affected by SARS – but we are included in the most vulnerable group, so this scenario is feasible, but would have been discarded by most other writers who would have dismissed us with a wave of their pen. However, the close contact with the stranger did bother me, as the subsequent lack of infection afterward didn’t sit quite right.

Those two points are my only niggles in Gunn’s short story, which is high praise from me on fictional characters with Cystic Fibrosis.

Other people may wonder if someone with Cystic Fibrosis can survive an apocalyptic event? The answer is simple.

Absolutely.

We are tough, stubborn and used to fighting to stay alive. Generally, as a group, we’re tenacious and don’t tend to give up easily. Our lives are challenging to begin with, our survival even in this world of medical marvels not guaranteed – at times we survive due to sheer doggedness alone.

For me, an apocalyptic event would be challenging, but not impossible. I’ve faced worse foes and lived to tell the tales.

And just in case you’re wondering, the other stories in this anthology also get my tick of approval.

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You’ll find more of my recommendations for reading about Cystic Fibrosis on my Pintrest Board : Cystic Fibrosis in Print – Books and More

Book Review: Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

Favourite Line “A mixture of horror and sympathy flickered across his face as the information sank in.”

I’ve always been rather snooty when it comes to book characters with Cystic Fibrosis. Characters who were like me were the only thing lacking from the stories I grew up on. On the odd occasion when I have stumbled across them, the medical details were never quite right, and the characters themselves seemed shallow.

I saw a recommendation from another person with Cystic Fibrosis for Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell and thought I’d give it a go. I felt an initial connection to the character of Hallie, but the discrepancy with medical details jarred a little. Some medical details were simply not feasible, some treated insignificantly, and another major plot point used an outdated transplant technique as an emotional grab.

As a writer I see why she chose these elements for her story. A domino transplant (*my explanation of a Domino Transplant does reveal a potential spoiler) tugs the heartstrings a little more and a non-chatty protagonist doesn’t read well on paper. I assured myself the inaccuracies in the outdated medical details were because Mansell had to research this novel, she is not an #ourvoices writer.

Despite this, I had a huge emotional connection to Hallie – in particular her desire for Ross to see her as a person first, and a person who happens to have a chronic illness second. I know her frustration and the emotional impact all too well.

I dated other people with Cystic Fibrosis to avoid this issue. I settled for a toxic relationship because that seemed easier than living alone. The worst heartache I experienced was the devastation when, in the midst of a mad affair, my health plummeted and I watched a man I so desperately wanted to love me, look at me with pity because of the PICC line in my arm.

In the blink of an eye, as Mansell brought back those emotions I know so well, the inaccuracies no longer mattered. In that moment, with those emotions, she nailed it.

 

You’ll find more of my recommendations for reading about Cystic Fibrosis on my Pintrest Board : Cystic Fibrosis in Print – Books and More