For Jasminne Méndez, pericardial effusion and pericarditis are not just an abnormal accumulation of fluid and increased inflammation around the heart. It’s what happens “when you stifle the tears and pain of a miscarriage, infertility and chronic illness for so long that your heart does the crying for you until it begins to drown because its tears have nowhere to go.”
Diagnosed with scleroderma at 22 and lupus just six years later, her life becomes a roller coaster of doctor visits, medical tests and procedures. Staring at EKG results that look like hieroglyphics, she realizes that she doesn’t want to understand them: “The language of a life lived with chronic illness is not something I want to adapt to. I cannot let this hostile vocabulary hijack my story.”
The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Méndez fought for independence against her overly-protective parents, obtaining a full scholarship to college, a dream job after school and a master’s degree shortly thereafter. But the full-time job with medical insurance doesn’t satisfy her urge to write and perform, so she leaves it in search of creative fulfillment. In this stirring collection of personal essays and poetry, Méndez shares her story, writing about encounters with the medical establishment, experiences as an Afro Latina and longing for the life she expected but that eludes her.