Finding Balance Beyond My Diagnosis
Date Published: September 7, 2023
Publisher: Acorn Publishing
Jennifer Gasner is seventeen when her dreams are shattered overnight. Receiving a diagnosis of Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic neuromuscular disease, means she must prepare herself for a life of loss. When she starts college, she can still walk on her own, but as her disease progresses, she spirals further into sadness, denial, and alienation. She turns to alcohol and a toxic relationship to distract her from what she refuses to accept—that her body, her self-esteem, and her hope for her future are failing.
When Jennifer develops a friendship with rock star Dave Matthews, her outlook changes. She begins to understand that using a wheelchair doesn’t mean her life is over. In fact, when she discovers disability culture, she realizes it’s not her body that needs to be fixed but her assumptions about being disabled.
In her captivating memoir, My Unexpected Life: Finding Balance Beyond My Diagnosis, Jennifer invites you into her world, where she must learn to view her changing body with compassion and choose gratitude over anger as she finds strength and acceptance in a whole new way of moving through life.
Can you tell us a little about the process of getting this
book published? How did you come up with the idea and how did you start?
I have always had a desire to write a book about my life. I
had just stopped working and decided to try taking a class. After that, my
focus changed to a little and I didn’t write for a number of years until I took
a year-long certificate program in memoir writing.
What surprised you most about getting your book published?
How writing it made me really sick of myself and it there’s
so much more to do after.
Tell us a little about what you do when you aren’t writing
When I’m not writing, I’m usually walking my dog or going to
the movies or catching up on British TV. I haven’t traveled since the pandemic,
but I’m hoping to start again in a few months.
As a published author, what would you say was the most
pivotal point of your writing life?
I think it’s when I returned to writing after my little
hiatus, and my teachers had told me I had improved so much.
Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that
Music. Any time I hear is song especially from my past, it
brings up a lot of memories.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That it doesn’t make sense or I’m not conveying what I want.
What has been your best accomplishment as a writer?
Finishing my memoir and publishing it, even though it’s
probably going to be difficult for some people.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two. But I wrote them a long time ago and I haven’t looked
at them. It would be interesting to see how my writing has evolved.
About the Author
Jennifer Gasner received her BA in English from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and her MS in recreation from Western Illinois University. Her work with Independent Living Centers enabled her to learn about various disability programs throughout the country and ignited her passion for disability culture. She relocated to San Diego, California, on her own at the age of twenty-eight.
As a mentor for What’s Next, a program for youth with disabilities, and as co-chair of UC San Diego’s Staff Association for staff with disabilities, Jennifer solidified her role in the San Diego disability community. In 2020, Jennifer became an ambassador for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), raising awareness about Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA). She participated in Rare Across America, meeting with legislators to discuss laws affecting more than 25 million Americans living with one or more rare diseases.
Jennifer is a member of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association, and her writing has been published in Shaking the Tree, volumes 3 and 4. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, movies, and traveling. She lives with her boyfriend Gregory and their dog. My Unexpected Life: Finding Balance Beyond My Diagnosis is her first book.