chronic illness

All posts tagged chronic illness

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death – Maggie O’Farrell

Published October 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I AM, I AM, I AM is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Intelligent, insightful, inspirational, it is a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.

A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell.
It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?

What did I think?:

Where do I even BEGIN with this book? I can’t express eloquently enough the depth of my feelings for this unforgettable memoir or even explain adequately how much it affected me but I’m going to give it a good shot. I listened to the Audible version of I Am, I Am, I Am (which I highly recommend by the way) but it’s one of those books that because it has become a favourite of mine, I simply had to get a hard copy also and was lucky enough to receive one as a gift. This book has had a lot of hype around the blogging/reviewing community and rightly so. After reading a fair few of Maggie O’Farrell’s novels, I already knew she was a gifted, beautiful writer but even after all the critical acclaim, I still wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions this book invoked. There were points when I was almost a sobbing mess and kind of wished I wasn’t listening to it in public (more on that later) and other parts which made me reflect on the nature of mortality and the fascinating journey my life has been up until now whilst fully appreciating the good things and the great people that I am lucky to have around me and hold them close. I can’t thank the author enough for reminding me how precious they really are.

Maggie O’Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am.

If you’re slightly cynical of the title and wonder how O’Farrell can possibly have had seventeen near death experiences, let me explain. The events that the author discusses are brushes with mortality that both she and her children have suffered in their lives. Some are mere whispers of things that might have been i.e. near escapes, potentially life-altering events and then there are the severe, life-threatening episodes that continue to have a dramatic effect on the author’s emotional and physical health. This ranges from a severe childhood illness that Maggie sadly still suffers repercussions from, encounters with individuals that threaten her life, problems with pregnancy and labour and the current trauma that Maggie finds herself embroiled in that profoundly affects the present and the future of one of her children. This is an honest, raw and deeply moving look at life and death in all its guises that may make you look at your own life in a whole different way but will most assuredly make you happy just to be alive.

I think I’ve become a more emotional person as I’ve got older and gone through different experiences in my life and I do find myself slightly more sensitive to difficult topics, including illness and death. However, I was profoundly moved by Maggie O’Farrell’s story and couldn’t quite comprehend a) the obstacles she has overcome in her life b) how she continues to struggle and cope on a daily basis with her daughter’s heart-breaking medical problems and c) how she manages to maintain such a strong, positive and sunny outlook. I felt humbled, inspired and honoured to be allowed into her world and, as I’ve mentioned, it did make me consider parts of my own life, particularly those parts where I felt a strong personal connection with the author.

I wrote a post a while back about how I’ve been coping with recurrent miscarriages and funnily enough, it seems to be a topic which appears in quite a few books I’ve read recently! I was worried at first about how I was going to deal with reading about it but I’m actually finding it quite therapeutic – now even more so with I Am, I Am, I Am. Miscarriage unfortunately seems to be still quite a taboo subject and when I was going through it these past eighteen months, I didn’t really feel able to talk to anyone who would really understand what I was going through. With this memoir, it’s so strange to say, but finally I feel understood and comforted. Maggie talks about her own loss so articulately and thoughtfully that it was such a relief to realise that all the emotions I was experiencing were perfectly natural and more importantly, that I wasn’t alone. Other people were going through this, other people felt the same way as me and I shouldn’t blame myself on any level. As I listened to this particular passage, I was walking to the train station on the way to work and I have to admit, it wasn’t the easiest thing to listen to whilst I was in public. But holy cow, was it rewarding? The answer is yes.

It’s often quite tricky to dissect a memoir. After all, this is someone’s life, personal experiences, tragedies and triumphs you’re talking about and we all may have differing opinions on it depending what we’ve been through in our own individual lives. However, for me this book was perfection. It reminded me about love, about how special life is and most importantly, how to hope and believe in a better future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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It’s All In Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness – Suzanne O’Sullivan

Published September 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

What did I think?:

Oh, the thoughts. Oh, the feelings. Let me try and start at the beginning and I’m hoping my words make some sort of coherent sense. If not, I apologise. I have a couple of non fiction shelves at home (which you’ll see in due course if you enjoy my Shelfie by Shelfie book tag), and never seem to get round to reading them until this year, I began a new venture where I read three books at once – a current “main” read, a non-fiction read and a re-read of an old favourite. I’ve been eagerly anticipating many of my non-fiction reads, well….apart from this one. Let me explain. I’m a sucker for an interesting title, cover and synopsis and I don’t shy away from potentially controversial subject matters if it means I can educate myself about particular topics but I really wasn’t sure whether this book might hit a little too close to home, even for me.

Neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan who won The Wellcome Trust Prize in 2016 with It’s All In Your Head.

If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have seen in a previous review/post that I’ve been struggling for the past eight years with a chronic illness. Basically, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome and hypermobility. It’s got to the point in my life now where I’m managing to cope really well with it. I still have my bad days of course, and at the end of the week, it’s still a mission to keep myself standing upright but I’m absolutely determined  to stay positive and that it’s not going to take my life away from me. This is why I still continue to work full-time, even if it is quite a struggle at times, I have to be honest. If you want to read more about my story, I wrote a personal post HERE.

As I was FINALLY picking up this book, I felt nervous and excited in equal measure. I didn’t know whether this book was going to make me feel horribly angry or completely vindicated about my own chronic health issues. I posted a picture of the book on Instagram and had some amazing and very interesting responses, many of whom were reacting the same way as I did when I first saw that title. Of course, a title like It’s All In Your Head seems to have been deliberately chosen to be controversial and raise a few hackles and, job done, my hackles were well and truly primed. Nobody with chronic illness likes to be told “it’s all in your head,” especially considering the amount of pain, suffering, physical and emotional turmoil we go through on a daily basis. There is literally nothing else my doctor can do for me and how to manage my pain myself has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.

However, as I soon came to realise as I made my way through this fascinating and insightful book is that we don’t have to take that title literally and assume the author is saying something she is clearly not. As I’ve learned myself through my chronic illness journey, sadly a lot of my condition is psychological but a) that does not mean I’m going crazy, b) that does NOT mean I’m imagining it, c) my pain IS real and will probably always be there and d) I have to find the best way to cope with it (with the help and support of my loved ones) that will mean I have a fulfilling and enjoyable life. The author does briefly touch on illnesses like fibromyalgia and like she confirms, there is no definitive test for diagnosing it which makes it hard for both the patient and the doctor to ensure that the treatment offered is correct. Obviously more research desperately needs to be done and is ongoing but various studies have shown that although the pain is felt physically in different regions of the body, one theory is that the actual problem may lie in the pain receptors of the brain. In this sense, when you take the phrase “it’s all in your head,” might not mean what I initially assumed it to mean when I looked at the cover of the book and was instantly offended!

In this book, O’Sullivan follows a number of different patients, all with medically unexplained symptoms ranging from tiredness and pain to numbness, paralysis and even violent seizures and when nothing is discovered in blood tests, scans etc, suggests that there may be an emotional connection to the terrifying (and often debilitating) symptoms they are experiencing. She explores some intriguing ideas, including the age-old question – when did it become such a stigma to be psychologically unwell? As a society, we have an undeniable determination to pin everything down with physical evidence of malaise, only accepting cold, hard figures and scientific facts to prove that we are genuinely unwell. However, the individuals she talks about are truly exhibiting physical signs of illness and even if there isn’t a test yet that can decipher exactly what’s going on, O’Sullivan is simply suggesting all possible avenues, even psychiatric ones should be explored so that the patient can get the most appropriate, effective and individual treatment for them alone.

I’m so glad I read this book. Not only was it an absorbing and informative read but personally, I felt like it made me look at my own health problems in a whole new light. I came to this book determined to be angry with it and sceptical of the author’s own thoughts and feelings. However, at the end I felt slightly ashamed when I realised that they were perfectly sound and sensitive, particularly in her reactions to people who are genuinely suffering. Of course there are always going to be “those” people who are attempting to cheat the system and fake illness which is a real shame for those of us who are in very real pain and torment but I loved that O’Sullivan takes each one of her patient’s ailments seriously and compassionately, ensuring all the relevant boxes are ticked before suggesting that there might be an alternative explanation for their symptoms.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

It’s All In Your Head: True Stories Of Imaginary Illness by Suzanne O’Sullivan was the forty-sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Aw…bibliobeth turns 5!

Published January 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post – the celebration of my FIFTH blogoversary! Yes, that’s right, I said fifth. I honestly can’t believe I’ve been blogging for that many years, it has just flown by and I want to thank everyone who has supported me, whether you’re a regular visitor, pop by from time to time or this is your first visit, I couldn’t do it without you. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through blogging and because this year is the big FIVE I want to do three things: first of all, thank my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads who started her blog just before mine, encouraged me to do my own, helped me during the whole wobbly setting up process, always picks me up if I get down about posts/statistics/followers/quality of my posts (the list goes on!) and is forever inspiring me with new ideas for her own blog to keep things fresh.

Thank you sis, you’re a legend and I love you.

Second of all – I know I’m not the biggest or most popular blog on the block and even though I suffer from anxiety, I’ve learned so much over these past five years. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be the best! As long as you are completely true to yourself in your content and love what you do, (which I most definitely am), I think that comes across and people will come and read your posts. That’s good enough for me – I don’t have to have thousands of followers or dozens of comments, I really love the blogging experience and count myself very lucky to be part of such a wonderful community. Thank you so much to everyone who has dropped me a like, a comment or a share, you really don’t realise how much it means to me. Thank you also to all the publishers who have sent me a review copy in exchange for an honest review, I’m honoured to work with each and every one of you.

Things have not been easy for me this year. In fact, I’ve had the toughest year of my life with my ongoing health dramas (chronic illness SUCKS!) and other personal problems for the last six months of the year that has really taken a toll on both my physical and emotional well-being. However, considering what I’ve been through, I’m really pleased with what I’ve done this year blogging wise and I’m so happy that I’m continuing to get posts out there and meet targets much better than I thought it would have done.

So thirdly and finally, because it’s a special year, I’d like to offer one lucky winner a chance to win FIVE books of your choice from either Amazon or The Book Depository (the only exceptions are textbooks and ridiculously priced books but this will be discussed with the winner). I will keep it open until the end of January so you have lots of time to enter and once I’ve chosen a winner at random, I’ll contact you and you can let me know your address for receiving your lovely goodies! Please make sure if you are under 18 you have permission to email me your address which will only be used for the purpose of this giveaway and not stored. Please enter below and good luck everyone!

Please note: this giveaway IS international as long as Amazon/Book Depository delivers to you!

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Blog Tour – The Way Back To Us by Kay Langdale

Published August 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I am a mess of tears on the train. Can’t remember the last time a book broke my heart so much… (Lucy Dillon on Away from You) Perfect for fans of Adele Parks and Maggie O’Farrell.

Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

What did I think?:

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog tour stop today for this fantastic and emotional novel by Kay Langdale. Thank you so much to Jasmine Marsh and Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this tour and providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. It’s no secret that I love a story that deals with difficult subjects and when I read the synopsis of The Way Back To Us I knew I simply had to be on board. In my day job, I work for Great Ormond Street Hospital where I come across a number of children who have very serious and rare diseases. Reading fiction for me is normally a great escape from the real world that I have to face but, for a change, I thought it would be interesting to read a fictionalised account of a child with a life-limiting illness. I had high expectations and I’m happy to say they were completely fulfilled – this is a moving, addictive read that had me completely wrapped up in the characters lives and even better, it was one hundred percent believable.

The Way Back To Us mainly focuses on Anna, mother of Isaac and Teddy and wife to Tom (although we hear from a number of perspectives, including the boys themselves). When Teddy was born he seemed like a normal, healthy baby until it was noticed that he wasn’t quite making those huge developmental milestones. After a barrage of tests and investigations, Teddy is diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 (SMA) which is characterised by progressive muscle weakness across the entire body, breathing issues, feeding difficulties and skeletal abnormalities. Teddy cannot stand or walk without help and relies heavily on his wheelchair and the constant loving care of his mother to get through every day and have some sense of normality in his life although what he can do is severely limited compared to his older brother, Isaac.

The story follows Anna as she struggles with daily life looking after Teddy and making sure he has the best possible life despite his sad circumstances. Everybody in the family is affected by Teddy’s illness, including Isaac who is often left to manage by himself completely unintentionally because of the level of care and dedication needed to look after Teddy. To add to her worries, Anna and her husband Tom’s relationship seems to have hit a new level of “broken beyond repair.” She takes all the responsibility of looking after Teddy upon herself and refuses to allow him in or admit that she needs help. As a result, their marriage is incredibly fragile and is teetering on the edge of disintegrating completely. Can Anna and Tom address the issues in their relationship and start to talk to each other again or is has what they once had as a couple disappeared for good?

The Way Back To Us was such a poignant and beautiful read. I adored the characters, especially the boys, Teddy and Isaac and really felt for all parties in their horrific situation. It’s true, I did feel like shaking Anna and Tom at points, especially when as a reader you could see everything that was going wrong and what the other person could potentially do to fix it….then they did the exact opposite! This frustration that I mention is only in a good way I assure you, it certainly motivated me to keep reading whilst praying that everything turned out well for the family in the end. The author has obviously done her research into a condition that is obviously distressing and heart-breaking and because of her meticulous plot and flawed but very “real” characters, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey she took me on and found this a hugely powerful read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.

From a young age she loved to read and to write.

She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.

She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.

Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.

Find Kay on GoodReads at : https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/862970.Kay_Langdale

on her website at: https://kaylangdale.com/

on Twitter at: @kaylangdale

Thank you once again to Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. The Way Back To Us was published on 10th August 2017 and is available from all good book retailers now. Why not check out some of the other stops on the tour?

GoodReads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35382450-the-way-back-to-us?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silence-Between-Us-Kay-Langdale-ebook/dp/B01KTS4XPA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503341159&sr=1-1&keywords=the+way+back+to+us