By Katya Schwab
Pittsburgh-based author, blogger, health coach, public speaker and advocate Ashley Boynes-Shuck has not let much get in the way of her life, not even the list of nearly 40 chronic ailments of her medical history.
Her latest book, “Sick Idiot” (a term Boynes-Shuck uses to describe her particularly difficult days), is an easy read with a motivating message. With frequent metaphors and a smattering of cliche, Boynes-Shuck exposes the world of chronic illness with plenty of wit to go around.
Her blogging background is evident in the casual language and approachable style (see abshuck.com). Poignant and honest, she invites readers to share her experiences. Thanks to humorous anecdotes and heavy doses of sarcasm, Boynes-Shuck balances out the heavy weight of her medical nightmares. She recounts the lowest-lows of living with a lifelong disease. She also celebrates the highest-highs of living.
The memoir begins traipsing through the author’s unremarkably normal childhood. She spent her early years musing about life with typical childhood innocence and naivete. She worried about wearing a “weirdo cast” after hurting her ankle in second grade. She was excited to take her first communion.
And then the growing pains set in.
Except, they were not growing pains. At age 10, Boynes-Shuck was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. That only marked the beginning of her medical rap sheet. With conditions including celiac disease, Bell’s Palsy and permanent blind spots in her vision from medication, day-to-day tasks presented a challenge.
Along the roller-coaster ride of her health, Boynes-Shuck recounts her adolescent angst, dealings with boorish bosses and other engaging side stories. These common life encounters give her an approachable identity, a typical individual faced with atypical challenges. Add on her bouts of bad luck (including being on a hit list in high school) and her story moves well beyond average.