Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Wahls Protocol Review

I recently finished The Wahls Protocol, a diet and lifestyle book for treating autoimmune conditions. The author, Dr. Terry Wahls, was able to go from a state of progressive multiple sclerosis to a state of significant remission (enabling her to resume physical activity and bicycle many miles). I definitely appreciate that she is a medical doctor (M.D.) and that she embraces alternative approaches to treating disease.

 

The book presents variations of a “Wahls” diet, giving readers three levels of commitment. The diet has some of the elements of a Paleo lifestyle, including reducing carbohydrates and increasing fruit/vegetable consumption, discarding dairy, discarding gluten, and increasing organic meats and wild-raised fish. But this is only touching the surface: there are definite differences at each level of the diet. And there are also lifestyle suggestions such as proper exercise, detoxification, stress management, and vitamin supplements.

 

I really appreciated this book for a host of reasons: I like that the author is a doctor of medicine but also a doctor embracing alternative remedies, there are three levels of diet alterations to chose from, there are supplementary lifestyle alterations, and there are scientific explanations for why these changes are good. I do feel that I might incorporate some of the basic diet changes into my own regimen: getting more greens/veggies, cutting down on dairy and gluten, and increasing organic meats/wild fish.

 

I definitely think this book is worth a read, whether you have an autoimmune condition or you just want to become more healthy in general.

29 Gifts: An MS Patient’s Book About Giving

I’ve been swamped with school work as of late, but before I jumped into the fray, I had a chance to do a little summer reading and the book 29 Gifts felt much like a gift given to me by a good friend (it was actually suggested to me by an acquaintance with a great deal of insight about the values of selfless giving: I had learned about this book through another MS patient whom I’d recently met at the Nat’l Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual walk.) So in a respect, I was given this book as a gift to open my mind and find a new way of focusing on others and giving freely of both time and assets.

The book’s author, Cami Walker, recaps her ventures of giving away 29¬†things during 29 days. As a recently-diagnosed MS patient, she is trying to find her way back to a stable and productive life, something that can be very difficult for those with multiple sclerosis. One of the most satisfying aspects of the read is the author’s positive change over the course of the month of giving: she goes from struggling with the effects of a bad relapse to rallying and making not only physical gains, but emotional strides. Walker learns the benefits of selfless giving not only for the recipients, but also for herself. In the process she decides to create a website to share her new-found knowledge: www.29gifts.org. People are encouraged to try the 29 day challenge of selfless giving and to write about their experiences on the website.

*I’m finding myself considering the challenge as well. : )

New Non-Profit MS Anthology

I’m looking forward to getting a copy of this new multiple sclerosis book I’ve recently discovered. Two of my favorite online writers, Diane and Joan, have been included in an MS anthology that gives patients’ stories about the trials and victories of living with multiple sclerosis. The book is Voices of Multiple Sclerosis: The Healing Companion, with more than 30 individual stories about dealing with the condition:

States Diane: “LaChance Publishing has sold books filled with the personal stories of those whose lives have been touched by breast and lung cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s, and most recently multiple sclerosis. The “Voices of…” book series is critically acclaimed, and 100% of the net proceeds go toward the foundation Debra LaChance has started. Read about The Healing Project and buy a book for yourself or a loved one who is dealing with a health condition in the book series.”

“When I was first diagnosed with MS, I searched (and purchased) any MS book I could find. I still have them all. But, with the exception of a few autobiographies, there were no stories about the experiences of regular people. I had learned the technical aspects of my new friend (multiple sclerosis), but I would have given anything for a book like The Voices of Multiple Sclerosis. Not only does it cover, in easy-to-understand terms, all the facts about MS, but it is also filled with short stories written by others with MS, as well as those who care for someone with the condition. And unlike many other books, it is light-weight and easy to hold. I couldn’t put it down until I’d read every story. I am honored to have one of my stories included in this book.”

***Voices of Multiple Sclerosis is available in bookstores, at online booksellers ( Amazon.com), in most major libraries, and at LaChance Publishing. This would make a great holiday gift for the newly diagnosed, veteran MSers, or anyone who wants to better understand multiple sclerosis.


Review: Women Living with Multiple Sclerosis

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Women have a tendency to form close bonds with other women. It’s an intrinsic quality and it seems almost necessary for emotional survival. Men have their bonding methods (the Superbowl, horseshoes, golfing, and smoking cigars), but women naturally gravitate towards other women for feedback, inspiration, and support. It’s not surprising then that ladies with multiple sclerosis often find themselves in close-knit circles such as support groups, chat rooms, message boards, and blogging communities. One such online group forms the basis for the exceptionally heartwarming book Women Living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Written by professional journalist Judith Lynn Nichols, this book tracks the online camaraderie of 20+ women who formed their own email support group after meeting each other through a message board. Nichols tells of her own 30 year battle with MS and discusses how it affected her child rearing and her marriage. Her career as a reporter was also affected as her disease progressed, and she found solace and understanding with this group of tough MSers, dubbed the “Flutterbuds” due to members’ memory flutters.

The group discusses such topics as cognition issues, constipation, sexual challenges, the common “But you look so good statement”, disability income, and working with multiple sclerosis. The beauty of this book is that each topic comes with a multitude of opinions, personal experiences, and solutions. Together, the group supports and encourages those who need it. It is a testament to true, deep friendship.

This book actually came into my life before I had a good idea of what multiple sclerosis was all about. I was in a state of denial for some time, because I could get away with seeming “normal” for a number of years. Now I find this book comforting because it makes weird, scary symptoms acceptable and okay as these women share their experiences with all of them. Nothing is too strange or crazy among this tight clan and readers will feel included in their understanding and camaraderie.

PS: There is an excellent sequel to this book, Living Beyond Multiple Sclerosis, which continues the story of the “Flutterbuds” and tackles new MS topics.

Book Review: The First Year – Multiple Sclerosis

The First Year - Multiple Sclerosis

I have in my possession a great book for newbie MSers. I found it a few years ago at a book store, and I still refer to it. It’s The First Year – Multiple Sclerosis, by Margaret Blackstone. The author is a seasoned writer who has published other medical works as well as poetry and children’s books. And Ms. Blackstone has been living with MS.

The book is part of a series of health guides for first year patients. They all follow a basic structure, which starts off with the first day of having a diagnosis. The guides give advice for days 1-7, then weekly information for the first month, then tips for each month thereafter until the one-year mark of having been diagnosed.

In The First Year – Multiple Sclerosis, Blackstone gives great advice for the first turbulent week after an MS diagnosis. She allows readers to rant, feel pain and confusion, and at the same time she gives practical information about MS basics, tests, ways to build a healthcare team, holistic care, advice about who to tell, and ways to cope.

During the first month, Blackstone explains MS myths and stereotypes, ways to make daily life a little easier, wellness strategies, information on relapses, and facts about the disease-modifying medications.

The First Year – Multiple Sclerosis goes on to describe ways to manage symptoms, cope with stress, eat healthy for more energy, employ alternative medicines, handle health insurance, maintain intimacy and start a family, and learn about trends in multiple sclerosis research. The information is presented in a one-year format, so it doesn’t become overwhelming and it gives those new to MS a way to chart their courses and have some control over an unpredictable situation.

What I love the most about this book is that although it is written for the first year after diagnosis, Blackstone touches on so many topics that are important in any stage of the condition. For more information about The First Year – Multiple Sclerosis, click here…

Book Review: The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements

I just came back from volunteering at the library and I’ve had a certain book on my mind. I read it during some MS relapses, just to remind myself of what’s really important. I’ve read it again recently because I’m probably jonesing for some good non-fiction and haven’t found any. Nevertheless, here’s one of my favorite books and the reasons why:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has simple, layman’s techniques for living a joyful, true existence. This Mexican spiritualist explains his Toltec beliefs that transform a life of suffering and sadness into a vehicle for optimism and growth. He uses four simple ideologies to help steer people in the direction of happiness, no matter what their circumstances:

  • The first agreement is “be impeccable with your word.” It doesn’t quite mean what it implies. I initially thought it meant “don’t lie or make empty promises”, but it is quite a bit more. Ruiz explains that whatever comes out of our mouths should be honest but also pure in intention. People are guilty of slandering others and passing along useless gossip and negative energy. I know I’ve been guilty of such. Ruiz says the first step to happiness is to remove such verbal weaponry from your life. Then intention can become pure and true.
  • The second agreement is “don’t take anything personally.” Sounds simple enough, but there’s more to it. Everyone has his or her own agenda, thoughts, background, personal situation, and so on. What comes out of a person’s mouth is merely a reaction to his or her own situation, and nothing to do with you personally. It might seem that way, but because we all have struggles and personal lives that are not completely apparent to others (usually), we can never take insults or ignorant responses personally.
  • The third agreement goes naturally with the second agreement: “don’t make assumptions.” Again, Ruiz mentions, it is impossible to know everything about a situation or a person, so to assume things about others can make you take information or words personally. Then you become caught up in the vicious cycle of slandering and then being slandered. Tough, unproductive cycle. Ruiz suggests taking everything with a grain of salt, because you really only know fully about yourself. The rest of life is made up of other people’s realities.
  • The fourth agreement (which is my favorite and probably a great mantra for people with multiple sclerosis): “always do your best.” This is just a matter of taking each day and giving honestly what you can. Today’s best might be venturing aided or unaided down the street. Tomorrow’s best might be intently reading a good book and gaining knowledge. Ruiz emphasizes the importance of achieving the first 3 agreements to leave the mind and body pure to accomplish one’s personal best. And one’s personal best is always enough.

I would add one more personal agreement that I try to follow: “have a sense of humor.” Because it’s gonna take a hell of a sense of humor to stick to the rest of the agreements! Find out more about The Four Agreements