The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness: A Memoir

Doubleday. Mar. 2020. 432p. Mar. 2020. 432p. ISBN 9780385534079. $27.95. HEALTH. HEALTH
Blending medical writing and memoir, journalist Ramey’s first book presents snapshots of her life navigating chronic pain, searching for a name for her condition, and struggling to be understood by physicians. Ramey recounts years of embarrassment and shame, experiencing aches, fatigue, and brain fog, living in near isolation as friends drifted away. Similar to Maya Dusenbery in Doing Harm, Ramey relates how women are more likely to be misdiagnosed and mistreated by doctors and to live with misunderstood conditions, especially autoimmune diseases. Interweaving clinical research with personal stories, the book follows Ramey as she moves from doctor to doctor, surgeon to surgeon, undergoing invasive tests and examinations in a decades-long pursuit of a diagnosis of fibromyalgia or ME/CFS. This is not always easy reading, and it shouldn’t be—Ramey reiterates that the U.S. health care system is not designed with women in mind. She concludes with personal health advice.
VERDICT Though dense at times, this work is among the few about understudied chronic conditions that primarily affect women, and the little attention they receive. For those living with invisible illnesses who have been told they don’t look sick, and fans of the podcasts This Is Not What I Ordered and No End In Sight.
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