Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.

ALL IN MY HEAD

AN EPIC QUEST TO CURE AN UNRELENTING, TOTALLY UNREASONABLE, AND ONLY SLIGHTLY ENLIGHTENING HEADACHE

A darkly witty account of Kamen’s long search for a cure for her headache, melded with a report on medicine’s failure to solve the mystery of headaches and society’s reluctance to take them seriously—especially when it’s a woman who has them.

Kamen (Feminist Fatale, 1991), a contributor to Salon, Ms., the Chicago Tribune, and other newspapers, suffers from chronic daily headache, or CDH, a neurological disorder that she has had since the age of twenty-four. While the personal story of Kamen the patient makes up a large portion of this report, Kamen the journalist attended medical meetings, interviewed other patients about their experiences, and researched the literature to create a clear picture of the poor state of pain care today. Her aim is to increase social awareness of chronic pain as a women’s issue and to respond to the dismissive accusation that “It’s all in your head.” She takes the reader on a long and bumpy trail leading to a host of doctors and clinics, both traditional and alternative: general practitioners, neurologists, osteopaths, psychiatrists, ear-nose-throat specialists, physical therapists, and body-work and massage therapists, acupuncturists, a neuro-ophthalmologist, a brain surgeon, even a shaman. She tries countless pain medications that balloon her body, leave her groggy, and give her worse problems than her original headache. She even undergoes surgery, which only increases her headache pain. Throughout, sidebars provide pertinent facts, statistics, history, and droll commentary. There’s solid information in the text, too, as Kamen explores current views of pain as psychosomatic, explains the differences between causes of pain and triggers of pain, and reports on what new research through brain scans is revealing. She concludes with counsel for fellow sufferers and a tart, no-nonsense checklist informing doctors, the government, pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, and others what they can do to improve the lives of those with chronic pain.

Sharp, entertaining, informative, and blessedly free of poor-me-see-how-I-suffered-ism.

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7382-0903-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

A SHORT GUIDE TO A LONG LIFE

In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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