This is not a book easily categorised. A non-fiction book, yes. Part memoir, yes. Part medical observances, yes. Then there is poetry and musing on how we live life - both socially, politically, career-wise and in the family. What I would not call it, is a self-help book. Yet, it may help. But no, the book does not strive to solve all your life's problems. Nor will it.
Over the course of the year I have had to come to terms that my health problems are not curable. At least two of them are chronic conditions. Chronic - it will not end until I do. What I had to finally say to myself is, 'I will not live in fear.' To stop worrying how bad it will be later. This is very different from living in denial or some fantasy land where all is happy-go-lucky. One needs to do today what one can to ensure the body works as best it can in the future. This means being aware of the condition, the options to manage it and making sure life is - as best one can - lived to cause minimal harm. But one must still live. And one must not sit and stew, creating horrific scenarios playing 'what if.' Practical - fine. But spending too much time worrying that someday I may be unable to write / walk - or whatever - is only going to make living today harder.
Neither condition is like breaking a bone. There is no perfect manual that says, 'If X happens, do Y.' It is more of guessing game between PT, medicine and making changes in my day-to-day life. Nor does the PT and meds always 'work' the way we thought they would. There is this fine line we all walk, trying to make things better and not worse. Sometimes something looks promising and actually turns out to be a poor choice. Learning as we go, while still trying to live a life.
Having others in my life respect my new boundaries and being willing to help or work within my boundaries is helpful.
What does not help is people telling me to 'not give up hoping for a cure.' The cure will be discovered or not regardless if I hope for one. Right now I'm busy figuring out how to open a can or get my groceries loaded into the car. Or how to type out my thoughts. Practical suggestions in these matters ARE helpful (like the person who reminded me that there IS the invention called an electric can opener). Hoping for a cure does not actually DO anything, nor does it make it any more or less likely for a cure to be discovered.
Nor do I have patience for those who ask me me to be grateful for my current state. I am, however, grateful the author addressed this - especially the load of crap heaped on cancer patients as if their 'negative attitude' CAUSED cancer.
The author also has a chronic condition. What I took away from her words is a woman trying to learn to live with her body. That her body is also linked to her mind, and the two co-exist together. What happens to one can impact the other - but not necessarily 'cure' each other. There needs to an understanding so one can live - keep mentally sane - while also an acceptance that THIS is the body you live with. There are unknowns. There are question marks hanging over the body's future. How we mentally deal with this unknown - like the unknowns in all aspects of life - will dictate how well a person lives each day.
This is not an advocacy to plaster smiles / stiff upper lip / deny anything is wrong. In fact, the author is very honest about emotion, including the small sorrow that she felt when her project - this book - was at its conclusion. She brings out the imagery of a dance - the mind and body learning to move out of respect of one another. To be give the self space to morn / grieve - yet also not to wallow.
Such fine lines. We like things put in sound bites: Be positive! Exercise is healthy! Work hard!
The truth, however, does not fit so neatly into slogans. Which is perhaps why I am rambling rather than describing this book.
What I do know is this: I read many, many books - more than I even bother to list on goodreads. There are books that I enjoy, but never loan or buy for another because I can not easily pin-point people I know in my life who are a good match for that book. Then there are books that while I read them names of people who also NEED this book keep popping into my head. I have already bought two copies of this book. I easily see myself giving this to three more people. Not loaning - because I visualise them wanting their own to lend to others. I look forward to hearing what bits intrigued others. I am sure there will be many differing responses. As for me - I've got over 30 stickies peeping out from the pages.
It is that kind of book.
- Tiah Beautement