LEGWORK: An Inspiring Journey Through a Chronic Illness by Ellen Burstein with Patricia Burstein MacFarlane

LEGWORK: An Inspiring Journey Through a Chronic Illness

Email this review


This gritty story of a woman's desperate struggle to overcome severe chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is a sometimes grating reminder that the disabled are no better than the rest of us. By her own account, MacFarlane is no angel. After an economically privileged but emotionally deprived childhood, she entered adolescence angry and self-absorbed, a self-described ""fighter."" Eventually she found her niche as a consumer advocate, uncovering scares on a TV news show in Orlando, Fla. Fairly happily married as well, she was on a roll. Then an intermittent weakness in her left leg was diagnosed as MS. MacFarlane shrugged off the news, convinced that exercise and sheer willpower would keep the disease at bay. But, after a period of remission, it returned in full force. After a fall that left her unable to move for hours until help arrived, MacFarlane finally succumbed to the use of a cane and a walker. She began to lose control of her bladder. She cut back on her workload, and her marriage collapsed under the strain. One treatment after another failed, and her stubborn hope of recovering began to fade. Then her ego suffered a shuddering blow: The former medical reporter and longtime consumer watchdog fell for a classic con. After reading about a doctor who claimed to have a cure for MS, MacFarlane convinced her mother to pay him $100,000 for ""treatments"" that left her worse off than before. She was soon confined to a wheelchair, counting on aides and a ""canine companion"" to do simple tasks like turning a light on or off. Now only her characteristic rage and blind determination seemed to keep her going. She filed suit against the doctor with the phony cure. And she composed this book -- with the help of her twin, Patricia, whom she cavalierly dubs ""my Number 2 pencil."" This scrappy tale is a testament to what a powerful will can -- and can't -- do in the face of severe MS.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Scribners