"I want to wake up in the morning and take a deep, full breath. I want that breath to fill me up, to imbue me with joy and energy, not to irritate or pain me and set off a spasm of coughing. I want to be able to do the things that I dream of while I sleep, things that are taxing in reality: hiking, running, biking, swimming, diving, kicking, screaming, dancing, laughing, jumping, failing, leaping, soaring." - Mallory Smith
Salt In My Soul is the posthumously published diaries of Mallory Smith. The journals follow her journey through life with Cystic Fibrosis from middle school until her death at the age of 25.
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is a disease of the lungs that is present from birth and gets progressively worse as the sufferer ages. It's a filling of the lungs with mucus which can make it hard for those with cystic fibrosis to breathe deeply. Sufferers are especially prone to lung infections, and can also suffer from other symptoms like malnutrition, extreme fatigue, sinus infections, diabetes, and more.
Salt In My Soul Review
I wasn't sure what to expect when I received this book. Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are very different illnesses than CF, so I wasn't sure how much I would relate to Mallory's story. However, from the first page, I felt a strong connection to Mallory and her life with chronic illness. In high school, Mallory was active on several sports teams but sometimes had to miss competitions or weeks of school due to getting an infection and getting ill. In between her hospital visits Mallory worries about school, grades, sports, boys, and getting into University.
For someone facing a life-threatening illness, I was surprised at how much I related to Mallory's fears and concerns. Her high school experience felt "normal". It felt so close to the things I went through in high school, including the awkwardness of missing chunks of school, to bonding with friends and crushing on boys.
As Mallory gets older and goes to University, her illness progresses, and she spends more time in and out of the hospital while trying to maintain her academics and extra curricular's. Despite her increasing health troubles, Mallory finishes University and begins working as a freelance writer focusing on environmental issues – a subject which she is passionate about. The book slowly transforms from the mundane day to day musings of a teenage girl and young adult to the unreal medical challenges those suffering from Cystic Fibrosis face. Unfortunately, Mallory's lungs are not able to keep up with her active and ambitious life. Mallory passed away surrounded by family and friends shortly after her 25th birthday.
Nature and Chronic Illness
"Ever since my parents threw me into the water at age three, the ocean has been my escape, my passion, and a powerful healing agent." - Mallory Smith
Mallory, along with her friends and family, takes frequent trips to Hawaii. She finds that being in the ocean and near water is nourishing to her body, mind, and soul. Mallory finds that being in nature helps her feel better. Researchers have had the same findings – those with cystic fibrosis who spend time in nature live up to 10 years longer than patients who don't.
This relief in nature is part of the reason Mallory becomes an environmental writer and advocate. She sees the pollution of air and ocean as inextricably linked to the mucus and viruses in her lungs. She wants to show the world that the earth is sick. If we don't take better care of it, it will get progressively worse. Just as if she doesn't take time off from activities she enjoys to take care of her body, her illness will progress at a faster rate.
I think that Mallory is sharing such an important message around the role of nature and environment in health in this book. Part of the reason that I travel so often is that I find location can have a massive impact on my health. If I go to a warm sunny climate near the sea or mountains with low air pollution, I have more energy and get sick less often than if I'm living in a busy city. Taking care of our environment and seeking out natural spaces that are nourishing can improve your health and add years to your life.
Yoga and Cystic Fibrosis
"Yoga restores peace, confidence, and a sense of spaciousness for those who are claustrophobic within the trap of disease. Most of all, it gives us hope." - Mallory Smith
Mallory begins a regular yoga and meditation practice as a teenager and continues practising yoga throughout her life. When she was younger, and the illness was at a less advanced stage, she preferred to play competitive sports. But eventually learned to love yoga as it's not competitive or about pushing your body, but about merely meeting yourself where you are on the mat.
This felt similar to my story with yoga. It was inspiring to see the insight Mallory gained into her mind and body through her yoga practice.
One of the many inspiring things about Mallory was her search for joy. She continues travelling to Hawaii not just because the weather, nature, and ocean improve her health, but because she loves to surf, and meets her boyfriend there. She makes time to spend with family and friends and doing the things she loves. Even if it sometimes meant taking a health risk, she knew that the power of joy can sometimes outweigh any physical benefit of staying home and resting.
This is one of the only books I've earmarked with passages that stood out to me as so much of the book was moving and inspiring. It's a rollercoaster of a book. By the end, I felt like I had really gotten to know Mallory and was devastated by her passing, even though I knew it was coming. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that is definitely worth the read.
You can find Salt In My Soul on Amazon here, make sure to keep your notebook and tissue box handy,