MISDIAGNOSED

THE SEARCH FOR DR. HOUSE

Beamon’s first memoir (I Didn't Work This Hard Just to Get Married, 2009) tells of how multiple specialists struggled to diagnose her many ailments.
The author began her battle with chronic illness in her mid-20s, just as she started a new high-pressure job as a television journalist in New York City. Early on, her symptoms descended upon her with vigor, including abdominal and joint pain, debilitating fatigue and fevers. She collapsed at work, at home and even on her first overnight stay with a man who became her longtime boyfriend. Soon, her life revolved around exam rooms, lab tests and medical forms. Beamon hid her condition at work despite growing weaker as years passed. Eventually, after both her parents had health scares of their own, Beamon became despondent about ever feeling well again. Her desperation, frustration and, later, anger at being subjected to multiple hospital visits, invasive exams, and increasingly befuddled experts led her to search for a Sherlock of rare illnesses—her own “Dr. House,” as in the former Fox television drama House, M.D. Using Google, Beamon found her doctor-savior in an autoimmune disorder specialist named Dr. Reed; once the physician gave her condition a name (or, rather, a collection of initials followed by a numeral: IgG4-related systemic disease), Beamon found peace of mind at last. Much of the book follows her numbing routine of doctors’ appointments, which becomes less distressing and more mundane as the book goes on. At first, her confusion and anger at each inconclusive test result seem overwrought, but later, her voice turns jaded, reflecting the toll that the anxiety had taken on her mind and body. Beamon includes moments when her precarious health is in check, including intimate rendezvous with men in her life. At times, she alternates naughty sex acts with graphic medical incidents, and this variety is engaging—even shocking. However, it also makes the book’s plot seem uneven. Overall, the author’s vacillating health status drives much of the action, and at times, her pessimistic inner monologue can feel draining, yet she rarely succumbs to self-pity.

A saga of dealing with a chronic illness that shows how health intertwines with work, love and life.

Pub Date: July 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500436674

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2014

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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