I have received so many letters from readers of Beautiful Affliction, and I am just so very grateful for every reader who writes to me to share their story and experience of reading my book.
I have been deeply touched and shed many tears as I’ve been reading and I would love to share one story with you, telling of the miraculous journey my book made that I never could have imagined, it is just so incredible.
I found your book through an online subscription service that emails reading suggestions. I read the great reviews and downloaded the eBook on Nov 22 2015. The very next day, before I even had a chance to start reading your book, my mother, at 56 years old, was hospitalized in Illinois for a sudden heart problem. After learning that she had a bicuspid aortic valve that had calcified causing stenosis, my family prepared ourselves for the emotional journey ahead of us. She had open heart surgery to insert a new tissue valve on Dec 1 2015. As I sat in the waiting room with my weeping father and tried to hold myself together, I wondered if by chance the author of this new memoir I downloaded had had a similar heart problem. How strange would that be? Impatient, I searched Google for the answer to your riddle but the results came back empty. I would have to read to find out. Of course, I was going to read it anyway, but now I was even more curious. I started to read it as my mother returned from her very successful surgery and we waited until she had the tube removed from her throat and could respond better to us. She was so thirsty, just like you were, that she signed ICE with her finger on her bed though she couldn’t talk or barely open her eyes. It wasn’t until I was back at my home in Kentucky on Dec 9, Mom recovering quickly in her home, that I read about your diagnosis. Lene, I was so shocked and in disbelief at this crazy coincidence that I had to put the book down and walk away. I emailed everyone who knew about my mom before I even finished the chapter. As you described everything — the explanation of the diagnosis, the decision about the tissue vs. metal valve, the fear of such a big, serious surgery, and the worry over genetics — it all resonated so deeply with me that I laid in my bed and wept as I read. I am so grateful to my mother’s surgeon — that “sculptor working in flesh and bone, a poet who touches people’s hearts” — and to the EMTs who took her away from her home by ambulance the night she collapsed and gave her much needed oxygen and convinced her to go to a different hospital than she initially wanted, taking her instead to one of the best cardiac hospitals in the US. I am thankful to you for sharing your story, your bravery at facing this illness every day as you sunk into the darkness, and your tenacity when the doctors in Sweden dismissed your concerns. What a journey you had! Thank you for letting us share it with you. I highlighted many passages in your book, but my favorite one was this: “Sometimes you know that you are destined to die, but somehow you are given a parenthesis after the punctuation mark…” I will share this incredible coincidence with everyone I know, of finding your story the day before my mom’s story almost ended. I hope you read this message and know your story means a lot to many people, even people who don’t know you.
Thank you from all my heart to Katie for sharing her story, and to all readers who reach out to me, it really means a lot. All writers have moments when we wonder if it really was such a good idea to publish our book, but when that happens to me I just have to think about the letters I have received and I become all misty eyed again, thinking of the stories I’ve had the honor of taking part in, through my story. This has tremendous value to me, to share our stories and knowing we are not alone. For so many years, when I lived my story, I felt utterly alone. This is one of the reasons I wrote Beautiful Affliction, to hopefully help someone else struggling like I did.