Reading List: Barefoot in November

Being on spring break this week, I decided to read a couple of books. First, I read Pride and Prejudice. For the next couple of days, I had a tendency to ramble in an older English type of speaking. I ended up skimming that book just to get through it. It was wordy, stalled at a few points, and put me to sleep no less than three times. The next book I read was Benjamin J. Carey’s Barefoot in November. Thankfully, it was much more interesting.

In his book Barefoot in November, Benjamin J. Carey writes of being “faced with his own mortality” when he finds out that he has an aortic aneurysm. Through his touching memoir, we get a glimpse into the struggles he endured beginning with the decision to have open heart surgery. With his wife by his side, he has the operation only to hear that he would have survived perhaps one more month had he not gone through with the surgery. After dealing with some complications, Benjamin and his wife decide to run the New York City Marathon on the one year anniversary of his open heart surgery.

I’m not a heart patient. I’ve never met someone who has had any sort of heart condition. What drew me to purchasing this book after hearing about it on Twitter was the author’s biography. I, too, grew up poor in a house with no heat. We had a small propane heater that only worked some of the time. When it did, my three siblings and I would fight for the chair closest to the heater. Better yet, we’d sit on top of the damn thing, burning our asses just to try to ward off the cold that we knew we’d feel during sleep later on. As I’ve grown over the years, surviving experiences that no child should go through, I’ve learned that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who use their experiences as an excuse to justify their poor existence and those who use it as ammunition in this battle we call life. Because Mr. Carey seems to be a fighter like myself, I was intrigued to hear his story.

While sharing his personal struggle, Mr. Carey does so in a way that anyone with a chronic illness can appreciate. Six months ago, I had my own “life changer” when I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy. It wasn’t as dramatically life changing as a heart condition, but I was faced with some of the same questions. How bad would it get? Would I be able to continue to do the things I love? Like most with narcolepsy and cataplexy, I wondered how long I would be able to work at my current capacity and if I would eventually have to stop driving. I wondered if it would get worse and if I would pass it on to my children. These are the same things most people with any chronic illness wonder. As Mr. Carey wondered if he would drop dead while running, I sometimes wonder if I’ll drop to the ground from a cataplexy attack.

Without giving up too much about the book and spoiling it, I also wanted to point out some of the lessons in the book that apply to everyone, regardless of what your metaphorical marathon you’re facing in your own life.

• Do not accept the status quo without doing your own research. Learn about your condition. Learn all you can. Exhaust any available resource.

• Find a good doctor you can trust. Do not hesitate to get a second or even third opinion if something doesn’t feel right.

• Nourish meaningful relationships and prune the dead or dying ones. While fighting a chronic illness or being faced with your mortality, you need support. Seek support from those who will give it willingly. Too often, people with narcolepsy mourn the fact that someone in their life won’t try to understand their disorder instead of moving on from the relationship and focusing on the people who offer support.

• Fight. Do not give up. Do not succumb to an existence of sadness and depression over what you cannot do or think you cannot do. Set goals for yourself and work your ass off to achieve them.

Perhaps the best compliment I can give this book is that I read it in just a few hours….without falling asleep. :) (As an aside, I feel so much less ballsy than him for only choosing a half marathon instead of a full. Perhaps I’ll rethink my goal once my injury is healed.)

To purchase this book, click here.

Next up on my reading list, Narcoleptic Sunday.


  1. shekinah419 says:

    I like the “take-away” lessons you highlighted. You are absolutely right about their application for the person seeking answers on their condition. The process of getting diagnosed was as traumatic for me, as the losses that came from the illnesses themselves. But you have to be your own advocate and keep trusting your gut. If someone dismisses your concerns, do yourself a favor and don’t waste precious energy being angry or trying to enlighten them. Just cut your losses and move on.. Keep up the great writing, Heather! It’s a well-rounded blog!

  2. David Crenshaw says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to pick up the book for some inspiration. I’ve been feeling down in the dumps with my own condition.

    • Redaktirovat says:

      I was 7 when I first noticed smthoeing was differest about me. I was 38 when I got my diagnosis in the end. I know what you have been through with a life like this and if I were there now I’d hug it out with you. There is only one thing I can think of that isharder to live with in this world, being rapped and nobody believing you, cos that’s what it felt like most of my life, that nobody would ever believe the things going on inside my head. At times the SP and HH have made me want to die. Other times it been the dreams that have kept me going because I can’t do much in real life. People have no idea what we have to go through and isn’t it weird that most of us don’t talk about those really dark feelings we can have with this condition Narcolepsy’. Mybe it’s because people are looking for support, not to relive those moment another time. That’s my excuse for not talking about having the life scared out of me two or three times a week. I hope you do really well with this sight, and thanks for making the effort to put it all together for us PWN God Bless you all.

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