Pros: If I could relax after reading this book, you can, too! Faith-based elements help.
Cons: Repetitive; targetted toward women; unrealistic; discussion of alternative treatments.
The Bottom Line: This will appeal most to the common man--or, should I say, woman? Let's stick with "patient" or "family member"--one who does not require scientific jargon to be reassured.
She has a flute for a voice, shoulders that have long been used in conjunction with tissues, arms that embrace more naturally than they lift and carry, hands that serve, a heart that proclaims faith, and feet that bring good news. She writes brilliant articles, joins Tozer in the ranks of theological excellence, and turns any discussion of history into a verbal ballet recital. She is my mother.
She ... MS. Despite a recent diagnosis, I cannot place these concepts in the same sentence. Besides, it is not multiple sclerosis at all. I refer to this demyelinating disorder as singular sclerosis: peculiarly unpredictable, unwelcome, and uncomfortable.
Beth Ann Hill refers to it as chronic, manageable, and conquerable. Her truly comforting work, Multiple Sclerosis Q&A: Reassuring Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, enabled me to view the word "multiple" without trepidation. Not multiple lesions, multiple mishaps, multiple miseries--but myriad treatment options, multitudinous suggestions for a truly full life, and much in the way of hope.
Mrs. Beth Ann Hill, M.T. And, trust me, you would rather read the work of an M.T. than of a PH.D. or an M.D. The latter can provide a plethora of statistical information on neurons, neurotransmitters, and neurologists. Ultimately, this leads only to overstimulation. Those neurons in your brain that doctors are so concerned about? Oh, they don't stand for it. Instead, they cry out in protest: "Overwhelming! Overwhelming!"
No, you would most certainly prefer the work of an M.T.--that is, a music teacher! Beth Ann Hill was diagnosed with MS in 1997 and demonstrates her capacity as a working mother, an avid fitness connoisseur, and a communicative and friendly person. Now, doesn't that sound much better? Wouldn't you rather read the work of an actual patient who has visited the vast nation of MS and can remark on the culture of fatigue than the work of an MS anthropologist--a neurologist who has never been there? M.T. is the most beautiful credential you will ever encounter.
But What Will Happen, What Will Happen? ...
Certainly, Hill cannot answer these questions. She does not know which of four treatments you should use to combat MS, but she does acknowledge that the condition may be slowed in its progression. She cannot tell you which symptoms you will experience, but she makes a valiant and laudable effort to identify and explain the most common. Hill is a special patient, not a specialist.
Her work is divided into three parts. In Part I, Hill recounts her frustrating journey toward diagnosis. For years, insensitive and ignorant doctors had diagnosed her with post-partum depression, epilepsy, and tumors. Her ultimate diagnosis of MS brought relief. Ignorance is not bliss.
In Part II, Hill explores numerous challenges facing patients who have recently been diagnosed with MS. Some sample questions, with literary license and a bit of Nicolic interpretation:
"What, exactly, is multiple sclerosis?" MS is a condition in which the protective coating covering nerves in the brain, called myelin, breaks down.
"What does this mean? Will I end up in a wheelchair?" Not necessarily!
"What causes this?" Although MS presents itself as an auto-immune disorder, heat and stress may exacerbate it. Although it is not directly hereditary, some genetic links do exist.
"What are the symptoms of MS?" These are so variable that all symptoms cannot be listed, but the most common include numbness in limbs, tremor, muscle spasms, fatigue, visual disturbances, etc.
"How should I cope emotionally?" Live life fully, laugh, allow your attitude to triumph over this condition, and pray.
"Is there a cure for MS?" Not at the moment, but...
"Will there ever be a cure?" Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"What types of treatment are available?" There are four major medications; let us list them, shall we?
"Given the information you provided, Kopaxone is unequivocally the best medication for my mother, is it not?"
Sadly, Hill refuses to enlighten me on this one. Never mind that she has never made the acquaintance of my mother and has no particular knowledge of her condition. I still wanted definitive answers! As it is, Hill is so cautious about avoiding the advertisement trap that she never does fully explain her own treatment. So, I am left with a very helpful comparison chart and a very unhelpful set of new questions.
Despite this oversight, which may or may not be the product of Bethesda Lily's biases, Hill's work does an exemplary job portraying MS as it is. With all stereotypes dispelled, Hill explains that MS is chronic--that is, not life-threatening. She says this only once, and you have to hunt for it as you would a particularly precious gemstone. I would have liked to have read it ten or fifteen times, since the common stereotype promotes a grim prognosis.
Hill analyzes each medication carefully, discusses the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), explores the possible causes of MS, and addresses social and emotional complications of the condition. In fact, Part III is entirely devoted to practical and philosophical suggestions for patients, friends, and family members. These consist of a number of lists and cry out for more detail.
No Boys Allowed!
Not quite, but Hill's book is certainly geared toward women. This is natural, as the majority of members in the MS community are women. However, women are given inordinate precedence over men. Discussed are personal issues unique to the female population--rather revealing items that need not have been present unless the book were specifically marketed to women, which it is not. Ms. Hill, mind your manners! I would have preferred either a more inclusive book or one that made no pretenses about its primary audience.
Although she makes an effort to address each possible symptom individually, Hill neglects some common characteristics of MS, such as neurotransmitter-related emotional disturbance--a phenomenon in which the brain sends incorrect emotional signals to the face and body. Since this is a common symptom during relapses, I would have liked to see it described.
Relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is given prominent place here, likely to further the positive message. I do wish that Hill had included some resources for secondary and primary progressive MS. I suppose I simply like to be inundated with information.
Although Hill's description of possible treatments is objective and intricate, I felt that it was a bit too open. Alternative therapies are thoroughly considered. Aside from finding acupuncture and yoga disconcerting for faith-based reasons, I'm not quite sure that such detailed discussion of all alternative therapies is effective. Consequently, it may be sending the wrong message to patients. Can exercise or aromatherapy produce a protein that resembles myelin, the brain's most essential component? I'm skeptical.
Before I even consider placing my hands on keys that will likely start a small war within the MS community, please understand that I am well aware of the controversial depths into which I am about to plunge. Throughout Multiple Sclerosis Q&A, Hill asserts that a cure will most certainly be discovered "in our lifetime". First of all, I would be very interested to know the generation that Hill is targeting. Then, too, I am not quite certain that this information is scientifically accurate. Without providing evidence, Hill repeatedly claims that a cure will be available "during our lifetime". Please understand that I want a cure desperately--more desperately than I have ever desired anything else on this earth. However, I must have either facts or poetry--not some hidden-carbuncle mystery.
And, of course, you know about the obligatory writing worries that your poor reviewer must daily face. If this book were any exception, I would officially be disqualified from Livreville. This work, though reassuring in its conversational tone, uses recycled, cheap metaphoric paper on which sublime similes can no longer be written. In short, it is repetitive and somewhat cliché. This is to be expected from a question and answer format, but think of it: If a reviewer on Epinions has the vocabulary to write unique content for an abridged and unabridged rendition of the same audio book, surely a published author can create fresh concepts. And what on earth is that nefarious ampersand doing in the title of the work? Is Hill aware of the imposter? Did she invite him in & allow him to lodge with her, or was this hideous punctuation the idea of some well-meaning yet misguided editor?
To Whom It May and May Not Concern in the Writing Community:
Ampersands denigrate your work and make one wonder whether you have just penned an educational treatise or a slogging, sogging, sagging, saddening horror/romance. You would do well to keep this in mind.
But what does all of this matter when you now have a bit of confidence? What difference does one screaming punctuation mark make when you have the author's gentleness, reassurance, competence, comfort, and faith? True, the element of faith is kept to a minimum and scarcely perceptible to any save those who are seeking it. But for those who are, Hill's advice concerning prayer and her most beautiful dedication linger like the floral fragrance outside a bedroom window. So perfect, yet so elusive--joyous for members of both persuasions.
The Phenomenon Revisited: Multiple Hopes, Singular Options
If one book--an unscientific one at that--can fill me with renewed hope and assurance, do you not suppose that it is worth reading despite its lagging style? Somehow, I no longer feel the need to drink twice as much water just to keep myself semi-hydrated, fearing that I will grieve until my body is deprived of fluids. No longer do I drench my bed at night, only to awake with heart shaking and words incoherent. And all because of faith, hope, and love--and a swift, literary embrace from Beth Ann Hill. If you, too, must take the MS journey, allow Hill to be your traveling companion; she knows where the oases are.
This woman still has a flute for a voice, pillows or pillars for shoulders, arms that embrace joy and carry others' burdens, hands that serve, a heart that proclaims faith, and feet that publish peace. She pens free-verse poetry, joins Horatio Spafford in the ranks of patience, and turns any discussion of philosophy into a ballad. She is still my mother and, singular sclerosis, you can't change that!
Over the past few weeks, the library has proved an invaluable resource for me. From it, I derive both research materials and books to serve as distractions from the daily discomfort of difficult times. This book recently arrived from the Library for the Blind, a network of libraries funded by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. No, I did not have the opportunity to browse through shelves and curl up in an armchair to devour my literary treasure. Nevertheless, I view my library with deep appreciation and will continue to use its services for any further research. This has been a participant in laurashrti'sNational Library Week Write-Off for 2010.
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About the reviewer
I am, first and foremost, defined by my faith in Jesus Christ. All else is secondary. I am passionate about writing; this is akin to worship, and I strive daily to use this gift to glorify Him. … more
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A comprehensive resource on how to manage and live with multiple sclerosis addresses common concerns while discussing traditional and complementary therapies, explaining terminology and diagnostics, and compassionately addressing lifestyle changes.