Author Aims to Raise Awareness for Lyme Disease in Novel Way
Author Susan Pogorzelski is using fiction to tell her story in The Last Letter: A Novel
Written as a series of letters between 1999 and 2003, The Last Letter: A Novel is a classic coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl who struggles to shape her own identity while a chronic illness threatens to tear her world apart. Drawing on her own blog posts and personal journal entries for inspiration, Pogorzelski crafted a narrative that closely resembles her years-long health journey. "Writing about my experiences with Lyme Disease was necessary for my own emotional healing," Pogorzelski explains. "I chose fiction as the medium because I was too close to the subject, the emotions still too raw. Fiction lets me get close enough without living through the worst of it again."
An advocate for Lyme Disease awareness since her diagnosis, Pogorzelski continues to share her experiences on her blog and social media accounts, including outlets dedicated to healing from the emotional toll of living with a chronic illness. "The emotional ramifications have been the hardest part for me," says Pogorzelski, who is still in recovery. "Especially with the neurological manifestations of this disease, you begin to feel like your sense of self is being stripped away from you. It makes you wonder, what part of your identity belongs to you and what belongs to this disease?"
Questions of identity and survival are two of the themes at the heart of The Last Letter, explored through a philosophical narrative and the protagonist's internal struggles. However, beneath this coming-of-age quest for healing lies a journey befitting of a medical mystery.
Lyme Disease remains a controversial illness in both diagnosis and treatment — points which Pogorzelski acknowledges in her book. Inaccurate testing and limited treatment options cause additional emotional strife for the patient struggling to get well, and due to a lack of awareness surrounding the disease, support can be hard to find.
Pogorzelski admits that building awareness was one of her main goals when writing her novel. "Fiction tends to encourage empathy because it bridges the gap between the reader and the narrator," she explains. "This isn't someone else's story anymore. When you read fiction, it becomes your story, too."
Susan Pogorzelski is the founder and owner of Brown Beagle Books, a publishing imprint and creative consultancy. For more information about where to purchase The Last Letter: A Novel or to receive a copy for review, please visit www.susanpogorzelski.com or www.brownbeaglebooks.com.
Susan Pogorzelski | Brown Beagle Books