book decoder blogger calls ‘uncomfortably numb’ ‘inspiring’

cropped-the-book-decoder1-1The Book Decoder blogger recently reviewed Uncomfortably Numbcalling it “inspiring.”

Here’s an excerpt:

I cried as I read Meredith’s prognosis. I don’t think I can ever express my feelings in words. Sometimes I wonder how our lives change within a fraction of a second. A diagnosis, untimely death – it’s as if, we were happy for a second and the next thing we know, we are hit by a freight train. It is easy to say “adjust to the new normal” or “learn to live with uncertainty” but it is not as easy as it sounds. Traumatic experiences make “adjusting” difficult.

Read the whole review here.

new post on the mighty: how covid-19 & ms make for a high-stakes summer

A woman with a hat in the sun

The second week of July marked the first string of days this year where I could not go outside because of my multiple sclerosis-related heat sensitivity. What makes 2020 different from the five other summers in which I’ve dealt with this particular MS symptom? There’s a pandemic going on.

I wrote a piece for the website The Mighty about the confluence of the two illnesses. Here’s how it starts:

Today was the first summer day in 2020 when stepping outside the house made me feel as though I was going to vomit. The moderate heat, combined with high humidity, enveloped me and made me instantly feel ill.

Somewhere, deep inside my brain, signals went haywire. The temperature regulation area of my brain has been damaged by my relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), meaning I can’t tolerate heat and humidity. Subjecting my body to such conditions results in nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness, blurry vision with bright lights in the corners of my eyes, and a weakening of my legs, as though my thighs have been infused with Jell-O.

To read the rest of the piece click here.

Image credit: The Mighty.

talking memoir, writing & unexpected life changes during lockdown lit @ lunch

The Booksmith of San Francisco, partnering with the literary journal Zyzzya, hosted a lunchtime chat between journalist and Black Widow author Leslie Streeter and myself, members of Lockdown Literature, a group of authors whose books have been published amid the pandemic.

Leslie and I talked about the challenges of writing memoir, of worrying about revealing too much information, and about how writing our books — hers about her husband suddenly dying as the couple was in the midst of adopting a child, mine about the death of my mom and the loss of my health courtesy of my MS diagnosis — discuss how we’ve dealt with involuntary changes in our lives.

We both read aloud from sections of our book as well. The section that I read from my book was on the impulsive decision to adopt a second dog — Tedy — so I could focus on something other than death and illness. Ironically, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is exactly what many others have done in the face of their own helplessness.

You can purchase both of our books via Booksmith, which proudly sells all of the books published by the Lockdown Literature authors.

talking hope, healing & loss w/new york writers workshop

Screenshot 2020-06-15 12.45.59Christina Chiu — working with the New York Writers Workshop and 2040Books — organized a virtual author event where she invited three writers to discuss our recent books which all touch on the subjects of “Hope, Healing and Loss.” Chiu’s recent novel is Beauty.

I was thrilled to discuss my medical MS memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, alongside memoirist Maya Lang who wrote What We Carry about her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and novelist Jacqueline Friedman whose That’s Not a Thing features a character who develops ALS.

The hour-long discussion was lively and varied, as we touched on topics from approaches to writing and research, to how the medical industry treats female patients differently than male ones.

I had to fend off Tedy, who kept trying to climb up on my chair and eventually succeeded. Then there was Max, who was snorting and moaning loudly on the floor. My husband decided it was the perfect time to make dinner so there were ambient cooking noises as well. Ah … the joys of the coronavirus quanantine and working from home!

You can watch the video of our discussion here.

 

5 things i wish people knew about ms — healthline

Screenshot 2020-06-12 13.03.13I recently wrote a post for the website Healthline about the things I wish were common knowledge about multiple sclerosis.

Here’s an excerpt:

In late July 2014, my life felt like it imploded after I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Since then, I’ve had to not only adjust the way I move through the world, but have found myself educating others about what this incurable autoimmune disease is actually like.

It would make life a whole lot easier if a few things about multiple sclerosis (MS) became common knowledge. To that end, here’s what I wish everyone understood about MS.

Read the whole piece here.

Image credit: Healthline.

the story behind the stories: ‘uncomfortably numb’ & ‘mr. clark’s big band’

Women Writers TBR pile

In the first scene in my recently-released medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, I am interviewing Jamie Clark, the music director of the middle school jazz band I’m planning to shadow during the 2012-2013 school year to witness how Clark helps his students through mourning the sudden death of a band member. The year I spend with Clark and his student musicians is the subject of my 2017 book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room.

As I’m speaking with Clark, I experience what I will later realize is the first symptom of multiple sclerosis. It will take two years before I’m officially diagnosed with the incurable autoimmune disease, and another three to see the band book through to publication.

The time line covered in my 2020 memoir Uncomfortably Numb starts with that August 2012 interview and ends with the launch of Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Pretty meta.

The inextricable link between the two books is detailed in a piece published on the website Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books. The website is also featuring my book this month as a recommended read.

Image credit: Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books.

springfield (ma) paper features ‘uncomfortably numb’

Screenshot 2020-05-25 19.09.33The Republican — the daily newspaper for which I used to work way back in the day, back when it was called The Union-News –ran a feature story about my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and my experiences with MS.

Here’s how it begins:

In her new book, Uncomfortably Numb: A memoir about the life-altering diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” West Springfield native Meredith O’Brien describes how she went overboard one Christmas season after a semester teaching ended and she proceeded to tackle “a ton of activities, too many, actually.”

Fatigue hit her hard while she was watching her son at a Christmas musical event at the high school in Southborough where she now lives. “Quite quickly, my thinking became foggy and my legs were on the verge of giving out,” O’Brien recalls. “I had to ask my husband to drive me home immediately. I spent the next several days in bed, unable to do what I wanted because my body needed the rest.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

Thank you to editor Cynthia Simison –who was my bureau chief in the Westfield, MA bureau — and to writer Cori Urban for the piece.

The article includes a plug for my June 1, 1-2 p.m. webinar with Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction to discuss “The Art of the Medical Memoir.” Sign up for the free webinar here.

Image credit: The Republican.