Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

There may be a lot of chronic illness books out in the wild for young adults (and adults too, let’s be honest), but there aren’t a lot that cover the realm of invisible illness. I’m excited to share one that releases this week.

Thank you Quirk Books for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: Priya worked hard to pursue her premed dreams at Stanford, but a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease during her sophomore year sends her back to her loving but overbearing family in New Jersey—and leaves her wondering if she’ll ever be able to return to the way things were. Thankfully she has her online pen pal, Brigid, and the rest of the members of “oof ouch my bones,” a virtual support group that meets on Discord to crack jokes and vent about their own chronic illnesses. When Brigid suddenly goes offline, Priya does something out of character: she steals the family car and drives to Pennsylvania to check on Brigid. Priya isn’t sure what to expect, but it isn’t the horrifying creature that’s shut in the basement. With Brigid nowhere to be found, Priya begins to puzzle together an impossible but obvious truth: the creature might be a werewolf—and the werewolf might be Brigid. As Brigid’s unique condition worsens, their friendship will be deepened and challenged in unexpected ways, forcing them to reckon with their own ideas of what it means to be normal.

As someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, and Endometriosis, it’s really exciting to see a book that includes all three and makes me feel like I could’ve written it myself. I literally was thrown back into my high school years where I did the same thing as the characters in this novel – connected with others online who struggled with chronic illness like myself. There are a few controversial reviews about this book and how it’s advertised as an #ownvoices read. I want to make clear that this is written as #ownvoices in the chronic illness realm, not necessarily in race identity. There are many reviews that provide resources to guide you in the direction about the cultural appropriation displayed in this novel and I encouraged you to read and research as such. In terms of the chronic illness portrayal and friendships developed in this book, I really liked it!

4/5 Stars

What Doesn’t Kill You by Tessa Miller

Have you ever read a book and asked yourself, “Where has this been my whole life?”

Thank you Henry Holt and Co for my gifted copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: Tessa Miller was an ambitious twenty-something writer in New York City when, on a random fall day, her stomach began to seize up. At first, she toughed it out through searing pain, taking sick days from work, unable to leave the bathroom or her bed. But when it became undeniable that something was seriously wrong, Miller gave in to family pressure and went to the hospital—beginning a years-long nightmare of procedures, misdiagnoses, and life-threatening infections. Once she was finally correctly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Miller faced another battle: accepting that she will never get better. Today, an astonishing three in five adults in the United States suffer from a chronic disease—a percentage expected to rise post-Covid. Whether the illness is arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s, diabetes, endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, or any other incurable illness, and whether the sufferer is a colleague, a loved one, or you, these diseases have an impact on just about every one of us. Yet there remains an air of shame and isolation about the topic of chronic sickness. Millions must endure these disorders not only physically but also emotionally, balancing the stress of relationships and work amid the ever-present threat of health complications. Miller segues seamlessly from her dramatic personal experiences into a frank look at the cultural realities (medical, occupational, social) inherent in receiving a lifetime diagnosis. She offers hard-earned wisdom, solidarity, and an ultimately surprising promise of joy for those trying to make sense of it all.

Did you enjoy reading “Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cahalan? (If you have not read that book, you need to go read it now!) This reads a lot like it! I loved diving into the world of Tessa’s diagnosis because she wrote it so beautifully (it was so real and raw) for those who have never experienced a huge health crisis. There were so many times where I was saying “wow, I couldn’t have said it better myself!” As someone who struggles with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and Endometriosis, this book was spot on. This book was like a new best friend for someone who has just been diagnosed with a chronic illness (hello COVID long-haulers). Like I hinted at before, I wish I had this book 12 years ago when I was fumbling through getting diagnosed and struggling to understand what was going on with my body physically and emotionally. I will cherish this book forever.

5/5 Stars

How I Shocked My Doctors and Nurses After Surgery

As some of you may know, I just had surgery a month ago. I’ve been struggling with multiple chronic illnesses the majority of my life and was able to have a surgery to treat some of them. I’ve been struggling with endometriosis and adenomyosis for far too long and it was time to get a hysterectomy. I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I just had a baby and had a rough recovery from that, was I ready to have another recovery again? Heck no! That’s why I promised myself to put self-care first in order to prepare my body the best way I knew how.

I came out of surgery like it was NOTHING. Not only did I shock my doctors and nurses, I shocked myself! How the heck did I feel so amazing and stay that way through my entire recovery period?! LIQUID IV, Y’ALL. I SWEAR by it. I had so many people ask me how I felt so good before and after surgery that I needed to post about this so others can have the same experience that I did. With doctor’s approval, I took two liquid IV packets for the two days before my surgery and started drinking one liquid IV every day after my surgery. I was up and walking immediately with no pain and with tons of energy (granted, Liquid IV does not have pain treatment in it, but hydration is known to help treat pain). I even called my husband to have him bring me more Liquid IV packets because the nurses wanted to try it so badly and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! Hydration is soooo important in our every day lives, let alone recovering from a major surgery. There was no way I could properly hydrate myself without using Liquid IV.

Liquid IV was kind enough to share with me an awesome package to introduce their new flavor – piña colada! It’s got such a subtle flavor yet goes down so smooth. I would definitely order yours as soon as possible because this flavor is going to sell out SO fast! I regret not buying a lifetime supply of the immune support before they sold out!

Click here to get 25% off and free shipping and you will be supporting my health adventures!

Disability and the Way of Jesus by Bethany McKinney Fox

As some of you may know, I consider myself someone with a disability. It may be invisible, but it affects my daily life much more than most realize. Most people question how I could be a Christian

Thank you Intervarsity Press for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis: The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus offering physical healing. But even as churches today seek to follow the way of Jesus, people with disabilities all too often experience the very opposite of healing and life-giving community: exclusion, judgment, barriers. Misinterpretation and misapplication of biblical healing narratives can do great damage, yet those who take the Bible as authoritative mustn’t avoid these passages either. Bethany McKinney Fox believes that Christian communities are better off when people with disabilities are an integral part of our common life. In Disability and the Way of Jesus, she considers how the stories of Jesus’ healings can guide us toward mutual thriving. How did Jesus’ original audience understand his works of healing, and how should we relate to these texts today? After examining the healing narratives in their biblical and cultural contexts, Fox considers perspectives from medical doctors, disability scholars, and pastors to more fully understand what Jesus does as he heals and how he points the way for relationships with people with disabilities. Personal reflections from Christians with disabilities are featured throughout the book, which concludes with suggestions for concrete practices adaptable to a variety of church settings. Bridging biblical studies, ethics, and disability studies with the work of practitioners, Fox provides a unique resource that is both theologically grounded and winsomely practical. Disability and the Way of Jesus provides new lenses on holistic healing for scholars, laypeople, and church and parachurch leaders who care about welcoming all people as Jesus would.

I was afraid of going into this book and reading the one thing Christians talk about with disability. Even though my disability isn’t visible, multiple of my chronic illnesses are still listed as such. I have been told by more people than I want to admit that my sin relates to why I am still sick. People have even tried to use multiple bible verses to back up their case. This is not true! I will preach that until the day I die. God has taught me A LOT through my disabilities. I would not be the person I am today without them, nor would I have such a strong faith in the Lord! I’m proud to say this book does a great job at focusing on how we as people and we as the church need to love just as Jesus did. I loved how Bethany focused on different ways the church has interpreted the stories of healing in the bible and how she recognizes the insight each interpretation brings. I loved this thought-provoking book and highly recommend it!

5/5 Stars

Eat To Beat Disease by William Li

This book has a special place in my heart. I have been battling disease for most of my life. I have gone through numerous treatments to no avail. Sometimes, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to treating disease. This is in no way saying that I believe all disease can be cured by food, but I am encouraging you to check out this review regardless.

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Forget everything you think you know about your body and food, and discover the new science of how the body heals itself. Learn how to identify the strategies and the dosages for using food to transform your resilience and health in EAT TO BEAT DISEASE.We have radically underestimated our body’s power to transform and restore our health. Pioneering physician scientist, Dr. William Li, empowers readers by showing them the evidence behind over 200 health-boosting foods that can starve cancer, reduce your risk of dementia, and beat dozens of avoidable diseases. EAT TO BEAT DISEASE isn’t about what foods to avoid, but rather is a life-changing guide to the hundreds of healing foods to add to your meals that support the body’s defense systems. The book’s plan shows you how to integrate the foods you already love into any diet or health plan to activate your body’s health defense systems-Angiogenesis, Regeneration, Microbiome, DNA Protection, and Immunity-to fight cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and autoimmune diseases, and other debilitating conditions.Both informative and practical, EAT TO BEAT DISEASE explains the science of healing and prevention, the strategies for using food to actively transform health, and points the science of well-being and disease prevention in an exhilarating new direction.

I had interesting notions going into this book. I was a tad nervous that it was going to be a book that would tell me “do this, don’t do that, stick to this or else”. It really wasn’t like that at all! It’s a larger book than I would’ve liked, but it is a great resource to keep in my library to refer to when I realize that my eating habits are ruining the way I feel. There is a ton of research backing the ideas up which I appreciate as a scientist myself. I think what I especially loved about this book is that there is PLENTY of great foods to choose from, not just a handful. That makes this plan a whole lot easier to start and keep up with versus other similar plans on the market. It may be a little overwhelming to some people, but I really thought it was more comforting to know there are a lot of options to choose from in this plan. That’s something I can stand behind.

4/5 Stars

I’ve Discovered The Key to Success

I’ve returned back to work this week. I’m a high school science teacher by trade. I’m also a wife, mother to a one-year old, a chronic illness warrior, and a human being. I forget that last part most times. I had big plans for this week:

  • Get a weekly chore list complete (and actually do them)
  • Meal plan for the next week for the whole family
  • Get fully prepared for the first two weeks of school
  • Read a lot to keep up-to-date on the blog
  • Master self-care

Did I mention I am only human? Oh right…I forgot again. Okay, so I set high goals for myself…what of it? Well, it’s Thursday, and I’m reflecting, and I’m not happy. But I think on that word happy, and reevaluate…

  • I got sick this week. I haven’t been sick in MANY months. Being sick and having 6 chronic illnesses can take a huge toll on my body. Did I give myself any credit for that? Look what I HAVE accomplished this week despite having a high fever and a throat made of sandpaper!
  • I spent the whole evening playing dress-up and reading books with my daughter. I’m pretty sure we laughed for 40 minutes straight together. Her smile is infectious.
  • I have prepared myself for the first week of school and have been able to help a bunch of my co-workers out mentally and physically.
  • I did dishes, some laundry, and made some delicious dinners this week while some nights all on my own.

So, am I happy? You BET I am! Then why am I beating myself up on this? As I put my daughter to bed and started to wrap-up my evening, I thought about reading. Then I realized I just didn’t have the energy and I felt so ashamed. That’s what kept me second guessing my ENTIRE week – all because I realized I hadn’t completed the goals I had set for myself!

I went to work – SUCCESS! I was sick and could’ve easily called it all off the entire week (don’t worry, I did take some time to rest).

The house didn’t burn down – SUCCESS! Who cares if the laundry is still sitting in the dryer for another day? If it means I get to do something to take care of myself or enjoy a moment with my loved ones, by all means.

I fed everyone including myself – SUCCESS! Who cares that I didn’t make this elaborate plan of freezer stacked meals ready to go the next day. I took that time to prepare healthy meals and sleep which my body needed most.

I watched a movie instead of reading – SUCCESS! No one is keeping track of how much time I spend reading or how many posts I make in a day – and I watched one of my favorite movies that left me in the happiest of moods and that’s all that MATTERS!

Now, don’t get me wrong…not doing certain tasks turns into a failure. Yes, I do need to make time to keep the house clean and eat well to stay healthy. I do need to prepare for work because it’s my professional duty to do so. I do need to read because it’s one of my greatest forms of self-care. Setting goals is a wonderful thing, but the key is to not get bogged down if they aren’t met. As long as you try to reach the goal, you have made some sort of success 100% of the time and that’s something to be so so grateful for! Know that making it another day one step ahead of where you were yesterday may be the biggest thing you’ve done. Who cares what others may say or see because they won’t ever know until they’ve been in your shoes.

As I spend time writing this instead of watching a movie, I’m thankful that I chose a task that is feeding my soul, feeding my creative outlet, keeping me happy, and making me feel proud and successful of the things I’ve done. I pray the same for you dear friend.

And another thing…all your best ideas come when you are in the shower (just sayin’).