A Pennsylvania physician races to find a cure for his rare illness.
In this moving memoir, Fajgenbaum (Medicine/Univ. of Pennsylvania) details his harrowing bout with a rare disorder called Castleman disease, which invades lymph node tissue and systematically wreaks havoc on major organ function. He amiably describes his early days on medical school rotations nervously fumbling through infant deliveries and delivering proactive patient care. As the son of an extroverted orthopedic surgeon, expectations were high, and there was a lot of ground to cover in a field he pursued with “reckless intensity” after his beloved mother succumbed to cancer when he was a teenager. Throughout the book, Fajgenbaum writes with consistent urgency and great emotion about how his mother’s illness inspired his future livelihood: “I was impaled by my mother’s death,” he writes. While in medical school, he noticed his energy flagging and a group of troubling symptoms, including skin lumps and severe abdominal pain. After more than a month of inconclusive tests and near-fatal conditions, Fajgenbaum remained without a diagnosis but suddenly began temporarily stabilizing. Doctors finally reached a determination of Castleman disease, which carried an uncertain and possibly fatal prognosis. The author, a former weight lifter and Georgetown quarterback, recognized this personal health conundrum as a challenge he was more than prepared to tackle. As he began dedicating his medical career to unlocking the mysteries of the disease, his research and his work with other sufferers would also teach him about hope, about his capacities and limitations as a doctor, and about the “often unfair disconnect between the best that science can offer and our fragile longevity.” Offering a distinctively uncommon perspective on disease and doctoring, Fajgenbaum also writes earnestly and frankly about the unique brand of humility one must accept as a medicinal healer with a mysterious, possibly deadly malady.
A powerful, highly personal chronicle of a doctor’s feverish rush to find a cure for the disease that afflicts him.