I'm Lesli Chinnock Anderson, author of “The Lakes In My Head: Paddling An Unexplored Wilderness”.
Many people have asked me, “Why did you write this book?” “Is this a book about your canoeing experiences?” “How long did it take you to write?”
Since I was young, I've kept a journal, a semi-daily personal account of my life. The content has changed over the years—I no longer write about boyfriends or what my parents said that day that made me furious—but my need and desire to write in it has remained constant. To write this book, I looked back at my journal entries between 2006, the year I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, and 2016, the year I began to feel that it was safe to move on with my life. I tried to remember what I was feeling and thinking during this time.
One of the things I've discovered since 2006 is that most people don't know what hydrocephalus is, have never heard of it, or thought that only babies get it. I've made it my mission to pass on what I've learned about hydrocephalus, so that some day when I mention it people will respond with, “Oh, yeah. I know what that is” instead of “Huh? Hydro-what?”
Do you know how hard it is to explain what hydrocephalus is? The word itself is tough to say and remember. Most of us don't use medical terminology every day. Plus, many people don't have a clear picture of what the inside of our bodies is like, let alone what our brains look like. To make the explanation a little easier to digest, I came up with the analogy of the lakes in our heads. I live in Minnesota, the land of more than ten thousand lakes. Surely they can picture lakes connected by a river!
Not everyone enjoys listening to stories about someone's medical problems, so to make the book a little more palatable, I factored in my Boundary Waters Canoe Area knowledge. Maybe someone wondering whether or not to read the book will read it because they are interested in the BWCA. They may be reminded of the relative or neighbor who has hydrocephalus.
Being diagnosed with a relatively rare condition is tough in and of itself, but factor in that it's not visible on the outside of my body. When I approach you smiling I look quite average. When I reveal that I had a head-splitting headache yesterday, you are not especially concerned. We all get headaches. When you realize this is the third time this week I've had a severe headache...well, then you wonder what's wrong. It took a whole conversation to figure that out and it took more than just a quick glance at me.
Strictly speaking, this is not a book about my canoeing trips, but I do use a canoeing parallel that I hope is helpful to the reader. The information regarding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is as factual as I could make it. I truly have been there numerous times canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, summer and winter camping. I hope you enjoy this aspect of the book and that it provides a respite from the more intense, heavy parts of my story.