Two new books by Utah writers explore words that healHobbled by doctors who seemed unable to diagnose the rare intestinal disorder that wracked her 14-year-old sons body with constant pain, Vicki Whiting never thought about documenting herexperience in a book.When her son Kevin finally recovered, Whiting knew she had to write it all down. She also knew sheshould include accounts from her son, who suffered years of pain so intense he ripped up phone booksfor distraction."When your family survives something like that, you just want to move past it as quickly as possible,"said Whiting, a Westminster College business professor. "It would have been a very different book hadwe waited."Published last month, the mother-son book, In Pain We Trust : A Conversation Between Mother andSon on the Journey from Sickness to Health, has since been adopted by Westminster Colleges nursingschool as part of its curriculum. Nursing programs at universities nationwide have also expressedinterest in using the book to underline the need for "patient-centered care" in the nations health-caresystem.Poet Susan Sample met the trials of sickness first-hand through family members, too — her father is inremission from his third type of cancer, her mother died in 2008 from lupus — but also through yearsof teaching verse.Doctors, medical students and people confronting transplants and terminal conditions have all learnedfrom her published poetry, as well as her position as an associate in the division of medical ethics andhumanities at the University of Utahs School of Medicine.Her poetic observations culminated this fall in the publication of Terrible Grace, collecting severalpoems recognized with a first-place award for original writing in 2009 by the Utah Arts Council.Sample dedicated the collection to the memory of her mother, Bette Jane Mooney Sample.Where the Whitings offer a narrative survival guide for navigating the maze of obtaining an accuratediagnosis and effective treatment, Samples book charts the ways disease and mortality call people toarticulate their way through fear and pain and, hopefully, into grace and wisdom.Fulton, Ben. "Two New Books by Utah Writers Explore Words That Heal." The Salt Lake CityTribune. The Salt Lake City Tribune, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
"Poetry is beneficial in that it doesnt require an end," Sample said. "With poetry, we dont quite knowwhat the conclusion is. Instead, it enables us to capture peak moments to make meaning of. I thinkthats why so many patients find it meaningful."The books are very different, ranging from the Whitings pragmatic, heres-what-must-be-donenarrative of a mother-son team, to the terse, eloquently jarring verse of Sample, yet both start from anidentical assumption. Illness demands a response — and when all else fails, writing can make up thedifference.Kevin, now 17, was cured by surgery that untangled an artery from his intestines that prevented himfrom absorbing nutrients. Writing the book with his mother, he said, was "the opposite of therapeutic."Instead, it was written to help other families struggling through ailments that often elude doctors,leading patients to take the wheel from medical professionals until effective treatment is found.Even so, the book reveals ways in which Kevin and his mother coped through years of misery anduncertainty, from the summer of 2007 when his symptoms surfaced, to fall 2009 when his agony beganto subside. He gave his pain a name, "Burnie," and even an identity as something more akin to a"horror show" as opposed to real life. "Imagining the pain as a person helped me bring myself awayfrom it," Kevin said.In contrast, Sample views illness more through the lens of a diagnostician prescribing words astreatment. Shes spent 10 summers teaching poetry to teenagers whove survived organ transplants, inaddition to teaching courses on the rhetoric of health and medicine at the University of Utah.People asking about her work often assume she counsels patients at their bedside in the hospital. Herpreferred environment by far is outside the hospital, where Sample said people undergoing treatmentfeel more like individuals than patients."The biggest value writing provides is the opportunity to figure out who you are in terms of illness,"Sample said. "When youre outside the hospital, you get to decide what those terms are."The need to "figure out who you are" holds true for family members as well. "Lullaby," a poemincluded in Terrible Grace, was written after Sample accompanied her father on a doctors visit.For Vicki Whiting, the ordeal of watching her child suffer taught her the importance of drawing thoseFulton, Ben. "Two New Books by Utah Writers Explore Words That Heal." The Salt Lake CityTribune. The Salt Lake City Tribune, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
terms. Also, the realization that, like the origin of illness, the forces that drive people are never fullyknown until investigated and described in words."Whatever we see in another person is just a small portion of whats revealed," Whiting said. "We allhave our stories."email@example.comTwitter:@Artsalt —In Pain We Trust: A Conversation Between Mother and Son on the Journey from Sickness to HealthBy • Vicki and Kevin WhitingPublisher • Blooming Twig BooksPages • 235Price • $18.95Excerpt (by Kevin Whiting)"A lot of the stuff that happened in the hospital that second visit kind of lives in my brain like a horrormovie. â¦ The climax of the horror movie would come when the hero is told maybe these tiny littlespecks of grain in his intestines might be causing the problem. The evil doctor hooks the heros feedingtube up to a special cleanser and pumps the tubes full of some special liquid to clean out the pipes.Too soon the heros body is so full of the liquid that the liquid is spurting out of his body everywhere,like some crazy cartoon."Terrible GraceBy • Susan SamplePublisher • Finishing Line PressPages •23Price • $14Excerpt from Lullaby I dream of a needle boring into my back, searching for furrows in discs of bone.Last week, my dads blood drenched piles of gauze. Look away, the oncologist said, drawing marrowFulton, Ben. "Two New Books by Utah Writers Explore Words That Heal." The Salt Lake CityTribune. The Salt Lake City Tribune, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.
from his pelvic wing. He feels only pressure, no pain. Hurtsounds different: a knock after midnightwhen winds moan round the door and joints unhinge. Now I bend into notes bruised as the winter sky.Fulton, Ben. "Two New Books by Utah Writers Explore Words That Heal." The Salt Lake CityTribune. The Salt Lake City Tribune, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Mar. 2013.