In this detailed debut memoir, Berkowitz tells of her five-year struggle with chronic giardiasis.
In 2008, the author and her family chose to bring home a golden retriever puppy, whom they named Buddy. What they didn’t know, however, was that the dog was infested with giardia, a parasite common in canines. Within days, Berkowitz, a marathon runner and part-time preschool teacher, was exhausted and constipated, with a distended belly and hair loss. Almost immediately, she intuited that she might have giardia or an allergy to Buddy, but a doctor dismissed her self-diagnosis. Thus began the author’s convoluted, costly odyssey through numerous medical and holistic-health professionals, who prescribed such treatments as supplements, hormone and thyroid therapy, dietary changes, and energy healing. During the process, her self-image suffered, and she often rejected intimacy with her self-employed husband, who was also responsible for their health insurance. Soon the family’s finances deteriorated, as did the author’s ability to care for her daughters and Buddy. Berkowitz writes of this challenging situation with honesty, humility, and even humor. For example, she writes of how, on a trip to Mexico, she hoped to get “Montezuma’s Revenge” for relief from her own symptoms. Although she addresses her physical and financial depletions, her story remains upbeat and informative, with clear explanations of various medical therapies, tests, and assessments, along with her own self-assessments of her behaviors and reactions. Eventually, Berkowitz realized that her calling was to advocate for those with the disease and to write this book, which aims to help afflicted people take responsibility for their own well-beings. (The book is less successful in tying this calling to Buddy, whom she calls “the dog who teaches her self-love.”) A clearer update on the author’s condition would be a welcome addition to future editions, as readers will surely wonder how she, her husband, her daughters, and Buddy are faring—a further tribute to the strength of the narrative.
An insightful, edifying tale of the toll that a parasitic disease can take.