Cherie Kephart talks about her battle with a mysterious illness.
1. Can you tell us more about your book, A Few Minor Adjustments?
It’s a story about my challenges with an undiagnosed illness. It’s about giving a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from an intense illness without having any answers. We slip through the cracks, feel like outcasts, even in the sick community. Without a clear diagnosis, it’s tough. Doctors don’t believe us, people call us crazy. We even start to doubt our own sanity. All we want is to heal. It’s also about never giving up. Even when death feels eminent, as it did for me on several occasions, as long as you believe, you have a chance to heal. It’s important message that people need to hear.
2. Why did you decide to write a memoir?
I feel that memoirs connect us, bridging the gaps between different aspects of our humanity. I wanted to be a part of that connection, helping those who need some inspiration, those who are suffering from illness and feel lost, alone, and afraid. I know how it feels. I used to be there. This is my way of reaching people and doing what I can to help.
3. How did the title come about?
When I was twenty-three, I served as a volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps in Zambia. When I arrived, the Peace Corps issued all of us volunteers a small booklet called, A Few Minor Adjustments, informing us about the “few, minor adjustments” that we would experience. What a colossal understatement. It was one huge, life-altering roller-coaster of a ride! When I was searching for a title for the book, I realized that healing from a chronic illness is the same: a massive transformation, often understated. Plus, I think the title is funny, and I believe humor heals. It makes me smile whenever I think about it.
4. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
Definitely the sessions with Brenda, the therapist, she helped me work through some of the hardest moments of my life. When I first wrote my memoir, I used a pseudonym since it was too painful to use my real name for those scenes. I choose the name Maya. Once I did that, it felt safe, and I was able to help “Maya” with her cathartic writing journey. When I finished the book, I realized that I needed to own my story, and so, I thanked Maya for her help, and let her go. As much as that experience enabled me to write my memoir, the courage and confidence that I found to use my name was freeing.
5. What does your average writing day look like?
I mostly write in the mornings. It’s when my mind is clear and fresh, and my body is prompting me to write, before the chaos of the day begins. I always meditate and do gentle stretching before I write. I also enjoy listening to classical piano. It soothes me and helps me stay focused, drowning out the background of life. I am not one of those people that lug my laptop around town, writing in coffee shops or around lots of people. I generally write at home or surrounded by my greatest muse of all: nature.
6. What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?
Lately, I’ve wanted to broaden my reading and try different genres. I just read a paranormal sci-fi chick lit romance called….ready for this?…Holy Crap the World is Ending: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth, by Anna-Marie Abell. This book was an incredible read. Not only was it well-written and made me laugh, but it took me on a wild adventure that kept me wanting to turn the page. It also left me with lots of knowledge about ancient aliens. I’m excited for book two of the series!
7. What message do you want readers to take away from A Few Minor Adjustments?
We all have pain and suffering, but we all have joy and beauty. It’s really about perspective and choosing each day to show up in a positive way and to have more compassion for each other, and for ourselves. If we don’t understand something, like an undiagnosed illness, then it is our duty as human beings not to turn away, or reject the unknown, but offer compassion, even if it is something we don’t understand. Especially if it’s something we don’t understand. And also to never give up. No matter how dark life gets, there is always light. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have survived.
8. What are you most proud of about the book?
The ending. It’s tough wrapping up a memoir. You can’t just insert a happy, Hollywood ending on it and call it a day. Real life is unkempt, dirty, and raw. And it rarely gets a nice, neat ending. I cut out fourteen chapters from the last part of the book. There was so much more that I endured, but I needed it to be tight, and ultimately uplifting. That’s what I focused on. I love the way it turned out.
9. Has any other writer in particular influenced the way you write?
Absolutely. Dalton Trumbo. He wrote Johnny Got His Gun. I read it in high school. It shocked me and started me on my path to more serious reading and writing. It told the ugly truth about war. It didn’t hide. I appreciate that. I strive to write in the same way, bold and with raw vulnerability. What I have to say may not always be easy to read, but it has a message.
10. What’s next for you?
My next projects are companion books to the memoir: The Healing 100 and The Symptoms 100. The Healing 100 is the top one-hundred things I did to heal, and The Symptoms 100 is the top 100 symptoms I had and what helped me. I also have a collection of poetry, Poetry of Peace, that’s really about the emotional and spiritual aspects of healing. Lastly, I am creating a cookbook filled with delicious, allergy-free recipes: The Cookbook for People Who Can’t Eat Anything. I’m excited about these projects since the goal is to provide insight, a touch of humor, and ideas on ways to heal.
Cherie Kephart, a young woman who longed for adventure, traveled the world from the remote villages of Central Africa to the majestic coastlines of New Zealand until a mysterious illness thrust her to the precipice of death.
The persistent health challenges led to years of suffering, during which her symptoms time and again were undiagnosed by well-meaning medical doctors and healers who were sometimes competent, sometimes careless, sometimes absurd, and always baffled. The anguish, the uncertainty, and the relentless pain would have caused many people to simply give up and end their lives—and Cherie came close.
Told with brutal honesty, astonishing wit, and a haunting vulnerability, A Few Minor Adjustments is an unforgettable memoir that will move you with its fiercely inspirational account of one woman’s incredible journey to find life-saving answers. In the end, she finds much more than a diagnosis.
Cherie Kephart lives in San Diego and is passionate about healing the body, mind, and spirit and sharing her experiences to help others. She has been celebrated for her holistic approach to healing and her willingness to examine her life lessons in her writing.