“Award-Winning” IBS Memoir

May 28th, 2008

It’s time to crack open the Cuervo Gold!!!

And break out some fresh limes…and triplesec, too!!!

Oh yeah - It’s margarita time, baby!

Hey, it probably wouldn’t hurt to pull that ice-cold bottle of jagermeister out of the freezer, either…(no, NOT in the same glass)

…Why? Because it’s time to celebrate!!!!!!

Yes, I am thrilled to share the exciting news that my IBS memoir has won its very first book award!!! Last week, the Independent Publisher Book Awards (aka the “IPPY” awards) announced the results of their 2008 competition…and Romance, Riches, and Restrooms won a Bronze Medal in the national autobiography/memoir category. To see the official results announcement and learn more about the IPPY Awards, click here. Read the rest of this entry »

Now THAT’S a luxury car…

October 23rd, 2007

In the beginning, they gave us the cigarette lighter. A decade or two later, we were treated to the cupholder. Sure, why not? It’s logical enough. The hot trend over the last few years seems to be the DVD player, conveniently built into the back of the seats no less. Seems a little extravagant, especially when I think back to a childhood spent driving down the Jersey Turnpike in a seat intentionally designed to face the rear window of our wood-paneled Ford station wagon. But what the hell? If watching ”Thomas the Train” and “Sponge Bob” episodes keeps the kids quiet and preoccupied, I suppose that’s got to be a good thing. Now, while I don’t actually remember giving the matter any conscious thought, I instinctively assumed that these mobile IMAX theaters marked the natural end of the road for luxury-good accessories. But that all changed, I’m thrilled to say, when I came across this article on Yahoo today. Safe to say that when these babies start showing up in US showrooms, I’ll be the first to stop by and take a test drive.

Back-seat toilet to end mishaps in traffic jams

Tue Oct 23, 7:30 AM ET

If you’re stuck in traffic when Mother Nature calls, Japan’s Kaneko Sangyo Co. has developed the loo for you.        

The manufacturer of plastic car accessories drew back the curtain on Tuesday on its new portable toilet for cars.

The toilet comes with a curtain large enough to conceal users and a plastic bag to collect waste.

“The commode will come in handy during major disasters such as earthquakes or when you are caught in a traffic jam,” a company official told reporters, according to Kyodo News.

Japan is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

Drivers stranded by tectonic movements or stuck in tailbacks simply assemble the cardboard toilet bowl, fit a water-absorbent sheet inside and draw round the curtain.

The product is small enough to fit inside a suitcase, the company said.

But prospective customers will have to hang on until November 15, when the firm begins selling the new product online.

IBS CHAT: Real Life Stories and Solutions

July 28th, 2007

During one of my recent visits to the IBS Self-Help & Support Group, I noticed a promotional ad for IBS CHAT: Real Life Stories and Solutionsa new book co-authored by the site’s founder, Jeff Roberts, and Barbara Bradley Bolen. Beneath the image of the book cover, the tagline read, “Your essential guide to IBS Relief.” A bold statement, if ever there was one – especially when you consider that there are literally dozens of IBS self-treatment books in print that claim to have “the” cure for IBS. However, having read this book from cover to cover, I can honestly say that the authors - with no small amount of help from dozens of real-life IBS sufferers - have definitely created a top-notch, unparalleled (and, yes, essential) resource that should be on every IBS sufferer’s book shelf. 

In my opinion, one of this book’s greatest strength (and what sets it apart from so many other IBS self-help books) is that the authors recognize and emphatically acknowledge that IBS is not a one-size-fits-all condition, but rather a complex disorder that so often affects different people in very different and individualized ways. And not surprisingly, there is still no single treatment or cure that works for all sufferers or all symptoms. So it is only fitting that the book gives readers insight into a broad range of treatment options to consider or discuss with their doctors. As anybody with IBS can tell you, getting an official medical diagnosis is rarely the end of your journey. To the contrary, it is often only the beginning of a long, frustrating quest to find which specific treatments will work best for your particular set of symptoms and triggers – a process of elimination, if you will. 

And that brings me to what really makes IBS CHAT so unique and helpful. While it may have the look, feel, organizational structure, and (at over 500 pages) weight of a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the beauty of this book is that its advice comes from actual, real-life IBS sufferers who have chosen to share their personal stories so that other people can benefit from their experiences. Take it from somebody who made the mistake of battling IBS all by myself for far too long – we need all the help and support we can get! And thankfully, that’s exactly what IBS CHAT delivers. 

- Tim    




Romance, Riches, and Restrooms Gets “Breakout” Review from POD Critic

April 18th, 2007

Humorous, offbeat IBS memoirs – apparently they’re not just for IBS sufferers anymore. Well, that’s the message that I took away from this latest book review, which was posted this morning by the blogger known as POD Critic. Of course, you’ll want to read the entire critique, but here’s a little preview to tide you over:

“Tim Phelan’s Romance, Riches, and Restrooms treats us to something quite rare: we get to peer into the mind and life of an individual who, through this unabashed memoir, allows us to become intimately familiar with him, and his “functional” disorder. Peppered with humor and the hilarious situations experienced by the author, the book expertly demonstrates the great burden shouldered by IBS sufferers, who must daily walk a tightrope of social scrutiny that no human being should be forced to. 

The author’s struggles with the disorder are penned with a rare precision that is at times enrapturing—given the level of writing—and at times as suspenseful as anything I’ve read in a good mystery. Some scenes will leave you on the edge of your seat…

In short, the book is an impressive contribution that is as important for its subject matter as for its entertainment value.”

It’s worth noting that POD Critic is the lead editor at a small New York publishing house, who, for the record, does NOT suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. And to me, that’s what’s so significant about his review.

Now, I’d always hoped (and half expected, honestly) that my memoir would one day be received enthusiastically by fellow IBS sufferers, and maybe, if I was very lucky, even by their friends and family, too. And, happily, I’ve been extremely fortunate to see those hopes realized in spades, which has been enormously gratifying. Similarly, I’ve been absolutely blown away to find out that the book has built up a cult following among people afflicted with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colits – honestly, I never saw that one coming.

But, all the while, I had an even bolder vision for how my story might raise public awareness for IBS on an even larger scale. Ignoring many relevant facts – for example, I’d never written a book before and was blissfully ignorant about the depressingly long odds of succeeding in the publishing business – I had somehow managed to convince myself that my quirky little memoir would find a wide audience beyond the IBS community.

The publishing industry uses the term “crossover” for a title that breaks out of its niche and unexpectedly goes on to enjoy broad, mainstream appeal. Don’t get me wrong – I realize that Romance, Riches, and Restrooms is still a long, long (LONG) way from achieving that kind of mass readership. But in my mind, reviews from publishing professionals like POD Critic offer validation that my wild dreams might not be so unrealistic after all.


Sophie Lee, creator of IBS Tales, chronicles her own personal battle

March 30th, 2007

If you look at my “Reviews & In the News” page, you’ll notice a new book review for Romance, Riches, and Restrooms written by Sophie Lee. She’s the IBS sufferer in the U.K. who created IBS Tales - a wonderful site where people with IBS can connect with each other by sharing their experiences with what is so often an embarrassing and isolating disorder. I bookmarked her site several years ago and have been a frequent visitor ever since.

Yet, despite spending hours reading through the site’s hundreds of personal stories (I’m masochistically partial to the “Embarrassing Tales” category), I somehow missed what is perhaps the site’s true gem. You see, in addition to running IBS Tales, launching a separate IBS treatment review site, and frequently updating her own blog, Sophie also found the time and energy to write her own E-book. It’s called IBS and Me: Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I recently had the pleasure of reading it.

Wait. I left out one very important point that will only make the case for reading this E-book even more compelling. It’s FREE! That’s right, you can read Sophie’s story on her site or download a PDF file by subscribing to her newsletter. Now, on to the review…

When you first look at the length of this E-book – at 62 pages, it’s certainly compact – you might assume that it’s light on substance. But that would be a mistake because the “good things come in small packages” principle definitely applies here.
Putting her professional experience as a journalist to expert use, Sophie manages to skillfully compress fifteen years of living with constipation-predominant IBS into an engaging, easy-to-read, and yes, quite often funny, “mini-memoir” that just about any IBS sufferer will easily identify with. She carefully selects only the most relevant personal anecdotes, wisely avoids overloading the narrative with too much dry, factual IBS information, and picks just the right spots to lighten up the mood with refreshing doses of dry, self-deprecating British wit that will definitely make you chuckle out loud.

What I liked most about this story is its focus on not only the physical symptoms, but also on the day-to-day psychological mindset and the toll that IBS took on her confidence. As I know from personal experience, once IBS hits your confidence, every aspect of your life becomes exponentially more challenging and difficult to cope with.

The main reason Sophie shared her personal journey in such a public way was because she wanted to let other IBS sufferers know that they are not alone with the life challenges they face, and she also wanted to share all the helpful information she’s accumulated over the years. And she’s really done a terrific job. But don’t take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself! You’ll be glad you did.

- Tim

A HYSTERICAL New Book Review!

March 14th, 2007

This came out yesterday, and it made me laugh so hard that I had to share it here. In my opinion, the blogger/book reviewer, who goes by the name “Tabitha,” has penned one of the most original, amusing, and creative (not to mention enthusiastic!) reviews I’ve seen for my book. THANKS, Tabitha!!

I’ve posted the entire review below, but to see the original post and also read some of Tabitha’s other book reviews, go directly to Tabitha’s site.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Romance, Riches, and Restrooms


Romance, Riches, and Restrooms: A Cautionary Tale of Ambitious Dreams and Irritable Bowels by Tim Phelan
(iUniverse / 0-595-38544-3 / May 2006 / 268 pages / $19.95)

Cue up The William Tell Overture, please. A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty… Who was that running man? That was Tim Phelan, Kemo Sabe. Indian call him Running Man with Fire in Caboose! Him not need horse. He already got the trots.

Yes, sports fans, this book really is about the most secret of subject matter, the squirts, the trots, the Mexican two-step, the runs, to the bathroom, that is. Tim Phelan has written a memoir in which only the names of those who have known Pepe le Pew intimately have been changed. Mr. Phelan has been congratulated for his guts, but not for his intestinal fortitude. He has been spotted with his precious backpack loaded with emergency apparel clutched closely to his chest as he sprints toward the exits in a somewhat awkward running style. Did you know he was a triathlete? I’m not kidding: he can run with the best of ‘em. He almost turned pro!

Aside from training for the big triathlon, chasing girls, trying to build a high-powered career, successfully building a high-powered neurosis, and single-handedly keeping Pepto-Bismal in business, he found the time to write a book. It was a book only he could write, and no one else dared to write. The jokes are numerous, and the embarrassing moments, as well as a bunch of other stuff, are out of control. If you think a twelve-year-old buying rubbers for the first time is funny, how about a handsome, eligible bachelor trying to escape the corner drugstore with Fleet enema products in the bag? The author has it bad and he will try anything at least once. If you think Steve Martin and Sarah Jessica Parker had a funny scene in L. A. Story, then Romance, Riches, and Restrooms will leave you rolling on the floor. Try not to laugh while you read the book in your personal library room. You might not want to roll on that floor!

Aside from the obvious powder-room embarrassment and laughter, this is a somewhat serious book for those genuine sufferers of IBS. If you have it, or know someone who does, Tim Phelan’s tale of woe has been written specifically for you. The storyline will relieve some of your anguish with joy, and let you feel very much not alone in your embarrassing little private world. Mr. Phelan has obviously joined many others in an official capacity to aid others inflicted with IBS. Contact information for the national societies and organizations concerning IBS are listed in the back of this very professionally composed, arranged, and edited book. As for the dreaded typographical error count that I so diligently monitor in all the books I review, Romance, Riches, and Restrooms has true star power. This book has been as perfectly proofread as any POD book I have read. Congratulations, Tim, you have come officially out of the closet, the water closet, that is!

My Book Featured - and my IBS Dating Woes Exposed - on RevolutionHealth.com!

January 29th, 2007

A HUGE thanks to “Gastro Girl” (aka Jacqeline Gaulin, the editor for digestive matters over at the recently launched mega-health site, RevolutionHealth.com). Today she used her blog to shine a light on the uniquely embarrassing challenges that single people with IBS - and digestive diseases like Crohn’s and Colitis - face every day in the already-daunting dating arena.

Oh yeah, she also gave my memoir a big, old plug. Yee-Ha!! Take a look for yourself…

Irritated and Single? You can find love!


How NOT to Conceal Embarrassing Odors at 35,000 feet

December 9th, 2006
Okay, here’s something you don’t see everyday.                  

Proving once again that the cover-up is almost always worse than the original crime, this week the news wires were abuzz with this story about an American Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing after a passenger lit a match – yes, a match – to disguise the scent of her flatulence. Although IBS very well could have been at play here, most of the reports only mention that the woman suffers from an “undisclosed medical condition.”

Since it was first reported on December 6th, the tale of this woman’s harrowing midflight ordeal has been buzzing through online forums, chat rooms, and blogs at Mach Two and leaving a series of sonic booms in its wake. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on how this poor passenger could have better handled her predicament.

Predictably, as someone who has literally spent years worrying about accidentally fouling the collective coach-class air with a substance far more offensive than mere flatulence, I have my own thoughts on the matter.

Since politely excusing yourself to step outside is not a luxury afforded to airline passengers, your first line of defense against all manner of humiliating inflight rectal revolts (gas, solid, or liquid) is good preparation:

  • Always book an aisle seat as close to the plane’s aft lavatory as possible. People seated in these rows expect ungodly smells to regularly waft out of the lavatory and into the main cabin.
  • Never wear khakis or light-colored pants. Should you have an actual accident, as long as you don’t give your fellow passengers any physical evidence to condemn you with, you can still plausibly deny that you are the source of the offending odor.
  • Stowing an extra pair of pants in your carry-on bag can also be a great dignity-salvaging tool. Just remember, to avoid raising suspicious eyebrows on your way back from changing in the lavatory, pack a similar-looking (if not identical) pair.
  • Always look around to locate the nearest babies. With their amazing ability to fill diaper after diaper at will, they are natural and logical scapegoats.
  • A blanket and/or a jacket over draped over your lap will help trap the smell and hopefully prevent it from wreaking its full havoc on any innocent bystanders.
  • What about using a deodorizing spray? Well, the problem is that most of these products don’t kill the smell and they don’t really fool anybody. If it could be developed, I think I may have an idea for the world’s ultimate decoy for embarrassing bodily odors. Yes, I’m talking about bottling the smell of…SKUNK. Think about it. Not only would this pungent scent overwhelm any and every odor in its immediate vicinity, but nobody would ever think to suspect another human being. The looks on people’s prices would be priceless. Yup, that’s a skunk all right. But what in the world is a skunk doing at 35,000 feet???

But whatever you do, unless you want to end up like Richard Reid (aka “the shoe bomber”), do us all a favor and put those matches away!

Meet the “Other” Tim Phelan - An Unfortunate Case of Mistaken Identity

November 9th, 2006

I’m sure there are a few people who read my last post about the social stigma of IBS and thought, “Social stigma? I think this guy’s overstating things just a bit. Who cares if people know you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome?”

To which I say, “Oh yeah? Well then check this story out.

Apparently there’s at least one other guy named Tim Phelan currently walking the face of the earth. In truth, I’ve known about this particular Tim Phelan’s existence for two or three years. You see, every time I’d ever engaged in the periodic curiosity/vanity ritual of Googling myself, there he was - ubiquitously dominating page after damn page of search results. A little investigating revealed that “the other Tim Phelan” lives in Silicon Valley and is quite the internet marketing guru. Suffice it to say, nobody I know would ever - could ever - confuse me with anybody who knows anything about technology.

Now fast forward a few years, type “Tim Phelan” into your search engine, and lo and behold, this previously pervasive internet mogul (for the purposes of this anecdote, let’s call him “Tim Phelan #1″) is now sharing top search-results billing with a guy who wrote a book about…gasp…irritable bowel syndrome (yes, this is where I sophomorically bestow upon myself the title of “Tim Phelan #2″). But wait, as bad as that is, it gets even worse for my West Coast namesake. It’s not like this is a medical book about IBS, written by some respectable doctor - it’s a personal memoir! That’s right, it’s a revealing, tell-all narrative which chronicles, in one incriminating and self-deprecating chapter after another, how the obsessive fear of losing control of his bowels took an enormous toll on Tim Phelan’s adult life.

Well, once Romance, Riches, and Restrooms started to get some mainstream buzz, it didn’t take long for news stories about my book to circulate all around - and how ironic is this? - the internet.

If I have my facts straight, I believe I’ve pinpointed the precise moment when Tim Phelan #1 realized that his life, through sheer coincidence, would also be negatively impacted by IBS (in this case, my IBS). The unfortunate chain of events that follows started when Skirmisher.com picked up a feed from my interview with US News & World Report and posted When Tim Phelan Says, “My Life Is Crap,” He Literally Means It. And no, that is NOT me pictured on the toilet, either.

It must have been shortly thereafter that the “OK. This ISN’T me. Just want you to know” thread - an inevitable reaction - appeared on Warrior Forum (that’s Tim Phelan #1’s site). Granted, it’s always tricky to gauge somebody’s true tone from words printed on a screen, but after reading this thread, I think it’s safe to say that Tim Phelan #1 is less than thrilled with the possibility of being confused with an IBS-afflicted author. If I had to guess, I would chart his reaction as somewhere beyond “tweaked” but short of “ballistic.” My favorite part is not how he vehemently denies any association with IBS or my book, but rather how he actually entertains the theory that “Tim Phelan” might not be the name that appears on my birth certificate.

I have to say, watching this thread unfold from afar, post after hilarious post, kept me in stiches for hours on end. Every time I hit refresh, Tim Phelan #1 grew more flustered and Tim Phelan #2 was laughing so hard he nearly soiled himself.

But all kidding aside, I’m sure he’s a decent guy. And just to show him that there are no hard feelings, if he sends me his mailing address I’ll gladly send him a personally signed, free copy of the book. Who knows? I may very well need his internet marketing services someday.

So, getting back to the original question, is there really a social stigma attached to having irritable bowel syndrome? Well, there are at least two guys named Tim Phelan who sure seem to think so.


Tim (aka Tim Phelan #2)

Researchers at Northwestern University Study the Social Stigma of IBS

November 7th, 2006

Last week I was excited to stumble across a new research study sponsored by the Northwestern Center for Functional Gastrointestinal and Motility Disorders. Unlike other clinical studies designed to determine the causes of IBS or new treatment methods, this online study goes in an entirely different direction and focuses on an area that is particularly near and dear to my heart: the social stigma of IBS.

Rather than attempt to paraphrase what the study seeks to accomplish, I’ll just paste the official description:

The Northwestern Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders is conducting a research study looking at attitudes and opinions about people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The purpose of this study is to develop a questionnaire that would measure social stigma toward those who are affected by IBS that could be used by health care providers to address this important area of quality of life. We are seeking volunteers to complete 3 online questionnaires that include questions about demographic information, attitudes others may have had toward you because you have IBS, and how open you are about your condition. This study should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.

If you would like to participate, please click here. Also, if you have any questions or concerns about this research, please contact the study coordinator at (312) 694-7717 or FGIDResearch@northwestern.edu

Let me tell you, this was absolutely the easiest study I’ve ever participated in. From the comfort and confidentiality of my home computer, I candidly answered the first-round questionnaire in less than 15 minutes. In about two weeks, I’ll be receiving an email with a second questionnaire to answer. The way I see it, the greatest thing about this study is that it gives people who might otherwise be reluctant to discuss their IBS a rare opportunity to give the medical community honest (and anonymous!) feedback about what it’s really like to live with irritable bowel syndrome. As I’ve said before, the whole reason I wrote Romance, Riches, and Restrooms was to help erase some of the stigma of IBS by getting more people to talk (and laugh, too!) openly about IBS. The bottom line is that any efforts that encourage more open communication about IBS are going to eventually make this an easier condition for all of us to live with. I think this Northwestern study is an exciting and important step in this direction.

So…if you do suffer from IBS, why not click on the link above and participate in the study?