Memoir – Chapter One – Sneak Peek!

I am putting the final touches on my memoir — the story of the four generations of women in my family who have carried the BRCA A 1 gene.

But it’s not just another book about cancer. It’s a book about life. It’s about each and every one of us, the struggles we endure and how we can not only keep, but continue to fan, the flames of hope in life’s darkest moments.

My deepest gratitude to my savvy, talented and hard-working literary agent, Jessica Faust at BookEnds, LLC who has believed in me and my writing talent all along.

The Chapter 1 you see here is from the final draft of this book. To read the remaining chapters, Jessica tells me, you’re going to have to wait for the book!

Amy Rauch Neilson

No Safe Place (Chapter 1)

I woke up face down on the ground, covered in something green and slimy. There was a clump of it in my hair, hanging down onto my forehead, another wrapped tightly around the fingers of my right hand, a third clinging to my right knee. I remember thinking that it felt like the bowl of icy, unpeeled grapes I’d once plunged my hand into at a makeshift haunted house.

I don’t know how or why that memory came to me at that moment. But there it was – the bowl, the young girl dressed like a Ghoul, a hood shrouding her face, the sounds of zombies and their screaming victims turned up so loud they hissed through the overtaxed speakers from the back of the garage. I remember how the little Ghoul grabbed my left hand and forced it into the bowl, then leaned in to me and whispered, “Gen-u-whiine Eye of Newt.”

I lay there, my nose in the soil, taking in shallow breaths, afraid to turn my head to the left or right. There was dirt on my lips and on my tongue. I could feel the grit on my teeth. I lay that way for what felt like a moment, but could easily have been an hour. Maybe longer. It was a dark, starless night, a night with no point of reference, no use, no care for time.

I was clamped by fear. Held in place like a chunk of wood in a vice, that big, old, clunky tool that sat on the edge of my Dad’s greasy basement workbench. The one that’d hold a piece of lumber to be sanded or metal to be bent. When I was a little girl, I used to test it, swinging the arm round and round to see just how tight it could get, stopping only when the arm quit mid-cycle, couldn’t budge any further.
I tried to suck in a breath. I waited. And I listened. The earth was cool and damp. The air was still. The acrid scent of decaying leaves entered my nostrils, that, along with the pungent smell of manure.

I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate. No sound. Not a Barn Owl or the buzz of a mosquito homing in on tender skin, the promise of a good meal on a humid mid-summer’s night.
I knew then that it was too quiet. There was a void. A blackness. Like time had ceased, the very life sucked out of it.

I turned my head to one side and dared to open my eyes. I reached out and began to cautiously pat the ground around me. I felt something strong, thick coming up from the earth. I followed it, running my hand up as far as I could reach, maybe a foot, maybe two. I touched another. Then another. The next one was bent, broken, lying on the ground. I moved my fingers up the strong stem to the silky, stringy top. It felt like the tassle on a graduation cap.
Corn. I was in a cornfield.

Oh my God! Not again!

My heart began pumping so hard my chest hurt and for a moment, I felt disoriented. I brushed the soggy leaves from my forehead and reached down to pull them from my right knee. Beneath them, my skin was warm and wet; sticky. Blood. I’d been bleeding. I must have fallen. Had I been running?
That’s when I heard them. Helicopter blades, slicing through the preternaturally quiet night sky like the sails of a large ship, whipping in a violent storm at sea.

Then suddenly, I was bathed in an intense white light. A spotlight. And I knew.

The enemy was in pursuit.

I squinted. The helicopter made a pass, the blades whipping up a breeze that stirred and rattled the corn husks as they rippled and swayed. Had I been spotted? Then the sound of the blades faded as the helicopter moved off into the distance.
I dragged myself into the row of corn and lay there, my legs wrapped around the stalks, face down in the dirt, my arms above my head, scarcely breathing, trying desperately to blend in. I felt the sting of a half-dozen mosquitoes dining on my arms, my legs, my neck. I willed myself not to move.
I remembered this cornfield. I remembered it all too well. The enemy had found me here once before, five Harvest moons ago.

But how? How had it found me a second time, after all these years? After all I’d done to evade it? To disguise myself? To vanquish what it was really after?

The first time, it’d taken body parts in trade for my very survival, and I’d gladly given them up. I’d fought back with all I had. It’d been taken from my body, examined, then destroyed. I’d hit it with the most toxic, targeted chemicals known. Its weakness. Its Kryptonite. There wasn’t supposed to be a second time.

I heard the copter circling back, the spotlight illuminating a wide swath in the dark of the night. It passed over me once again.

I dared look down to exam myself. I was clad in a ripped, muddied, white tank top. My chest wall, covered only in a thin, tight layer of skin, showed through. My artificial nipples made indentations in the thin, damp cotton. I was wearing a pair of boxer shorts so thread-bare that the material was nearly transparent. I’d seen them once before. Only once. Last time.

The chopper blades hovered overhead, loud and unyielding. The corn stalks stirred frantically, violently in the windstorm. Together, they sounded like a thousand metal marbles rolling down a playground slide. The enemy was closing in. I pushed my nose even further into the dirt, holding my long blonde hair tightly to my head. I held my breath. I lay perfectly still. No use. The spotlight, the enemy locked in on me.
It must be the boxer shorts. I tried to pull them down, get them off, fling them into the field. But I couldn’t even manage to wriggle them to my knees. They clung to my skin like they’d been painted on.

On the front, they were a seemingly innocent blue and white plaid. But the back. I knew what was on the back.

A bulls eye.

The chopper was circling, looking for a place to land among the cornstalks. The spotlight blinded me; the roar of the engine deafening as it closed in, ready to make its vertical descent.

It had found me. Again.

* * *

27 responses

2 06 2009

Amazing. Again.

3 03 2010
Lisa Roggin

Fabulous, Amy. Can’t wait to read the entire book.

4 03 2010
Cathy Fox

Amy,Amy, Amy You are such a great writer – and such a wonderful, wonderful person. I am glad I know you. I feel I know you even more because I know your story. I am glad you are friends with my great friend, Jodi. I hope we can spend some time together because of that.

19 03 2010

Amy….just read your first chapter. You are such a gifted writer and such a wonderful person. God did have this plan for you and I know you are helping so many other women and their families. Can’t wait for your book to be published. Love you.

31 01 2011
teri greisssinger

A friend of yours, Bob Adams suggested I get in contact, I am glad he did !

31 01 2011
Bob Hays

Our mutual friend, Bob Adams, told me about you! I am looking forward to reading your work. Hang in there and get well again, soon!!

1 02 2011
Molly MacDonald

Read first chapter. You are in Belleville, I am in Beverly Hills. I would love to gift you with a pair of Pink Fund Surthrivor sunglasses.

Let me know if your schedule permits a meeting.


1 02 2011
Danielle B.

Thank you for sharing your story! I learned about you from my aunt in sinny Florida, who is neighbor to your cousin. Know that people in Buffalo, NY are cheering for you too.

1 02 2011
Danielle B.

Thank you for sharing your story! I learned about you from my aunt in sunny Florida, who is neighbor to your cousin. Know that people in Buffalo, NY are cheering & praying for you too.

1 02 2011
Ken Peters

Bob Adams put me on to your struggle. I have learned from your words for years and look forward to many more. Hang in, endure, so we can all celebrate your next 5 years of being cancer free.

1 02 2011
Carol Johansen

The first few pages of your memoir captured me. I want to read more. Thank you for sharing your story.

2 02 2011
Ann-marie Okros

Great writing. Seriously great writing. It left me wanting to read more. Your struggle is everyone’s struggle.

3 02 2011
Nancy Allison

Wow! Kim Boggs Peterson told me about your Blog. I cannot find words to express how deeply Chapter 1 has touched me. Your story should be published for the world to read. After only the first chapter I am a huge fan who is praying for you and cheering you on.

3 02 2011
Bob Deady

Outstanding. Outstanding.

5 02 2011
Ann Hirsch

Great writing…written from the heart.

5 02 2011
Melaney Sanchez

Your voice, your strength, your raw honesty. I always teach my 5th graders Robert Frost’s quote, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” Well, you got me…
I cannot wait to read the rest.

7 02 2011
Monica Lesnau

Beautiful! Just like the author!

10 02 2011

Thank you Amy for the courage to write your story. You are an inspiration to all who have experienced this culprit we call cancer. Your book will be published….they’d be fools not to. God Bless you and your family…keep the faith and keep writing.

11 02 2011

I’m in tears already. Thank you for writing this story. They’d be fools not to publish it with all the women out there who are likely to be affected by this. God bless all of you.

11 02 2011

Hello. My sister-in-law suggested I subscribe to your blog and I am very glad I did. I am 33 yrs old and lost my mother 3 yrs ago to Her-2 breast cancer. We were very close, but much of the beginning and her actual thoughts I didnt know. Only what she said aloud, which wasn’t much as not to worry or scare me. I look forward to reading the whole book when it is published. Many prayers to you and your family, and may God be with you always 🙂

18 02 2011

You are an amazing writer, mother, human being. I have a four month old daughter and was imagining how horrific that news must have been for you, especially as a new mom. Of course I couldn’t imagine but I know I love my daughter fiercely and want to be here for a long time. I hope you get enough subscribers to your blog so your book can be published. It’s a story that needs to be told, heard, read.
Good luck with your treatment. (( hugs ))

22 02 2011

Hi Amy,

My sister Nicole told me about your situation. You keep up the fight, you hear?

I would like to ask you via email a few quick questions. I write a little blog called “So Not an Expert” at ChicagoNow, a blog site owned by the Tribune company, and would like to write an entry about your search for 5,000 blog subscribers–just to see if we can’t get you some readers from our neck of the woods.

I’ve already subscribed. Love your writing.


4 03 2011

Never stop fighting! No one knows how long we have. Looking forward to the rest of your novel.

6 04 2011

BRCA2, feeling your pain, sharing in your fear, keep writing xx

29 04 2011

I’ve been reading all your blog posts, but never noticed that part of your book was up here. You are such an amazing writer, I cannot wait to read the whole thing and share it with everyone I know!

18 11 2011
Allison Finch

Amy, this is amazing. You are such an awesome writer. I can’t wait to read the whole book. Love you!

18 02 2012
Ann Iezzi

Amy this is awesome. I am an avid reader & just love your writing. Keep going & count me in for promoting this memoir. What a great way of telling your story.

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