Thursday, July 24, 2014

Month of Madness

Susan Cahalan's, Brain On Fire is a frightening, informative story about an uneasy, biological chain of events that nearly claimed the life of this rising, NY Post reporter. In the book, Cahalan shares the intimate details about the autoimmune disease that changed her life forever when she was just 24 years old. This disease (which I won't reveal since some of you haven't read her book yet) flipped her young life upside-down and inside-out in 2009; and believe it or not, it all started with a bed bug scare. Go figure!

Cahalan (like me) prides herself on being autonomous becomes totally dependent upon her family and boyfriend of only 4 months at the time that her symptoms began to appear. I have to say that before reading Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, I probably would have naively assumed that her boyfriend would eventually break-up because of all the pressure and burden brought on by her illness. However, now that I know men like to be needed and feel empowered when a woman trusts him to take care of her, I understand why he stuck it out with her. Plus, there's the whole he loves her aspect too but I digress...

The scariest part of Cahalan's whole ordeal is how quickly she began to deteriorate after unknowingly experiencing one of the common symptoms associated with her disease. In a matter of weeks, she literally went from being a promising, young, energetic reporter living in a Manhattan studio to a hallucinating, socially-awkward, borderline psychotic, 20-something year old. Her erratic behavior reminded me of the 2009 film, Paranormal Activity, specifically during those scenes when the female character, Katie becomes possessed by the paranormal force lurking in her home.

Unable to recollect most of what took place during this debilitating period in her life, Cahalan relies upon the memories of her family and friends, her father's personal diary, her medical charts, and hospital footage to write this book.  She walks us through step-by-step the stages of her disease, including her 28-day stint at NYU's Langone Medical Center where a host of  medical practitioners worked together to douse the fire in her brain. Luckily for her, a very brilliant, Syrian physician (with a touching underdog story) was able to figure out what exactly was causing her crazy behavior and get her on the road to recovery. Thank God because I don't think my heart could've handled it if at the end of the book, she revealed that she had written her story in her new home at Bellevue. 

Overall, I thought Brain On Fire was a good book mostly because I learned something new. I now know a little more about how the brain works even though there were some moments when I felt like I was back in my old AP Biology class. Luckily for Susannah Cahalan, she had a physician that was committed to not only putting out the fire in her brain but figuring out what exactly started it; and that's the kind of physician I think we all want overseeing our care whenever we seek medical attention.

Should you Open or Close this book? Open it, especially if you're a fan of science. It's definitely not your typical memoir.
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.
What will I read next? To be determined.

What did/do you think of Susannah's story? Do you believe it was as bad as she made it seem?

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