Good morning everyone. I hope your weekend is going well. I hope to spend a good chunk of mine relaxing, reading and just enjoying some downtime.
Today I am posting an excerpt from Pound For Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life by Shannon Kopp. Being an animal lover and having my own two fur babies at home, I happily accepted a review copy of Shannon’s memoir from FSB Associates. I know how therapeutic having four legged friends can be and how much joy that bond can bring. Shannon’s story intrigued me and I will be sharing my thoughts on her book sometime next week.
Read on for the excerpt….
At 7 a.m., my name was called for “Morning Vitals.” Light poured in through the windows and I begrudgingly changed out of my boyfriends T-shirt into a white paper gown. I wanted to sleep more. I wanted coffee. I wanted to kiss Danny. I wanted to kill the shepherd-eyes woman, who was now sleeping peacefully. Apparently, it wasn’t her turn yet for vitals.
I followed a nurse across the hall to a freezing cold, windowless room. The nurse wasn’t a pretty woman, but her teeth were straight and white enough to make me wonder if they were bleached. She had pale green eyes and bright purple scrubs on, looking far too colorful for this place.
After closing my eyes and stepping on the scale (we weren’t allowed to know our own weight), I sat down on a table padded with the butcher paper. An air conditioner hummed somewhere in the background. The nurse took my temperature and looked inside my eyes, ears, and mouth. I was self-conscious of my breath, as I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet.
She asked me questions about how I felt physically. I listened and responded politely, even though hate crawled in my blood. All I could think about was how I didn’t want to be weighed every day in this stupid paper gown, how I didn’t want to be around these women moving peas around their plate like children and tottering on bony legs and weeping in wheelchairs.
“I need to take your blood now,” the nurse said, asking for my arm.
My irritation melted into fear. I bit my lip and anxiously told the nurse how much I hated giving blood. “Is it really necessary?” I pressed.
“It will just take a minute. I promise I’m very good at this.”
I don’t care if you’re good at this. I don’t want to do it.
She tightened an elastic band around my arm and tried to distract me. “So, where are you from?” she asked.
“California,” I said. I stared at the white wall in the opposite direction.
“Oh, I’ve been there once. I love the ocean, so peaceful.”
I took a deep breath and braced myself for the prick of the needle, telling myself not to be a wuss, but still the knee-jerk reaction happened anyway. Just before she inserted the syringe, I pulled my arm away and hissed, “No!”
The nurse gave me a gentle smile, seeming a little entertained by my response. I held my arm near my chest, feeling stupid.
“You weren’t kidding, huh?” she said. “It’s okay, dear. Let’s just talk for a minute. Okay?”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she asked.
“Brother or sister?”
“Sister. Her name is Julie.”
I thought of Julie then as a child. At our doctor’s appointments, I always made her go first whenever we needed shots. She’d stick her skinny arm out and say, “See, Shan, it’s not scary.” Then when the needle was inserted, she’d smile in an effort to show me it wasn’t so bad, the right side of her lip curling up more than her left.
For the past twenty-four hours, I hadn’t talked much and kept to myself. I walked around quietly nodding my head and doing what I was told. But now I found myself telling the nurse how much I missed my sister. How in my eyes, she’d always been the stronger one of the two of us.
“Maybe, when your time gets hard here, you can think of Julie,” the nurse said. “Think of how it will be to spend time with her with this awful disease off your back. Think of how much more present you’ll be.”
Even though she was trying to help me, what I heard was that I had not been present for Julie, the little girl with watery blue eyes who was now battling her own demons as an adult. Her story is not mine to tell, but suffice it to say that she’d recently needed me in a big way, and I hadn’t been there. She needed someone now to make her less afraid, to hold out their arm and take a shot for her first. But I was busy in California puking my brains out.
To be there for Julie without the background noise of food obsession — I’d never let myself imagine it before. Perhaps because I couldn’t imagine it. And at that thought, a bomb of tears went off in the center of my chest. There was no way to redirect the emotion, nothing I could stuff into my mouth or force out of my body to make me forget how ashamed I was.
All I could do was sit in the arms of a nurse I never learned the name of, sobbing into her warm shoulders for five minutes, maybe ten. I cried so hard that tears fell down my face and made my paper gown translucent in some places, the material ripping.
She held me tight as the waves of grief passed through me. I felt like if I needed to sit there and cry for another hour in her arms, she would have let me.
But I didn’t cry for another hour. I finally lifted my head and wiped my eyes and extended my arm. For the first time in my life, I stared directly at the syringe.
I watched the dark blood seep out of me.
© 2016 Excerpt from Pound for Pound: A Story of One Woman’s Recovery and the Shelter Dogs Who Loved Her Back to Life by Shannon Kopp Courtesy of William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Shannon Kopp, author of Pound for Pound, is a writer, eating disorder survivor, and animal welfare advocate. She has worked and volunteered at various animal shelters throughout San Diego and Los Angeles, where shelter dogs helped her to discover a healthier, more joyful way of living. Her mission is to help every shelter dog find a loving home, and to raise awareness about eating disorders and animal welfare issues.
For more information visit her website www.shannonkopp.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Special thanks to FSB Associates.