ms-connected reviews of ‘uncomfortably numb’

Several people with ties to the multiple sclerosis community graciously agreed to take a look at advance copies of my MS memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, which will be published on March 3, during MS Awareness month.

Of all the folks I asked to take a look at the early version of the book, I really wanted to know what people who have lived with MS — or know a great deal about it — had to say about my chronicling of my initial symptoms and eventual diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS, as well as the struggle with how the disease changed my life. Did it ring true to them?

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Award-winning health blogger, Cathy Chester, who writes about her decades-long experience with MS at An Empowered Spirit, said this about Uncomfortably Numb:

Meredith O’Brien’s fourth book, Uncomfortably Numb, may be her most important. It is an intimate, generous memoir of living with MS that will guide newly-diagnosed patients and their loved ones through difficult challenges.

Poignant and thoroughly readable, Uncomfortably Numb is a deeply personal look at how the diagnosis of a debilitating illness such as MS profoundly affects patients and their families. It is also the story of a strong woman who is learning to adapt and is determined to persevere.

41iakd84kll._sx322_bo1204203200_Author Diane Cook, whose memoir So Many Angels: A Family Crisis and the Community That Got Us Through It details her family’s experience with her husband’s arrest and her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, wrote about Uncomfortably Numb:

Meredith O’Brien’s courageous memoir chronicles her struggles leading up to her MS diagnosis, including one doctor telling her that she should simply “de-stress,” then her battle with the symptoms. O’Brien’s tenacity shines through on every page. While managing the MS she continues to work, takes care of her … parents, and raise her children. The author refuses to give in to the many challenges that life throws her way. An inspiring read. 

A woman I’ve gotten to know well through her position as the president of the Greater New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Lori Espino, wrote:

A candid, in-depth look at one woman’s journey with MS and how it touches those around her. A great read for anyone struggling with chronic illness from diagnosis, through acceptance and into thriving in the new normal.

51texzznugl._sx314_bo1204203200_Award-winning author Savannah Hendricks — whose late mother had MS — wrote a novel, Grounded in January, in which the main character has multiple sclerosis. She offered her take on Uncomfortably Numb:

A memoir penned with such truth you won’t know if you should keep reading or pause to shed a tear, Meredith O’Brien showcases the individual effects of the debilitating reality for those facing multiple sclerosis. Not only does the author tackle the painful veracity of the disease, but provides reminders of how critical the healthcare system is to those in need. The truth of MS is as difficult to overcome as the disease is to diagnosis by health care professionals who sideline symptoms mimicked by other diagnoses.

21814Elissa Grossell Dickey, who blogs about MS for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and whose novel about an MS patient, The Speed of Light, is set for publication next year, penned this:

Uncomfortably Numb is a moving story that is both achingly familiar to someone living with multiple sclerosis and yet unequivocally Meredith O’Brien’s personal tale of a life changed by a devastating diagnosis. Weaving in the added tragedy of personal loss, O’Brien writes with the measured curiosity of a journalist and yet with a raw vulnerability, giving an honest, unflinching look at navigating life with chronic illness. With courage and tenacity, O’Brien details the frustrations of not being believed by health care providers; dealing with unpredictable, life-altering MS symptoms; and the struggle to hold on to her previous identity, both in her career and her family. Rich with compelling story-telling, Uncomfortably Numb is a triumph that will take readers on an emotional journey and leave them with hope.

header_aug2015revisedFinally, award-winning MS blogger Caroline Craven, Girl with MS, said this:

Meredith O’Brien’s journey is beautifully expressed in reality that only someone with MS understands — a must read for anyone with multiple sclerosis or connected to MS. O’Brien effectively shares what a life with MS can be like. Often, the words could come from my own experience with MS over these past twenty years. The challenges and fears and frustrations she shares with unrestrained honesty. At times, I am brought back to my own diagnosis and initial illness. I was back in the MRI, experiencing the nightmares of some doctors and finding relief in the love and nurture that can be occasionally found.  

O’Brien nails it with her ability to connect. To life. To MS. To her own honesty. The normal and not so normal. 

Reading O’Brien is like stepping into my own skin fifteen, twenty years ago: The meltdowns, the stress, the unknowns. Anxiety arises reminding me of those times, the utter fear of my body letting my down, of it failing. The fear it brought and the beauty it finally produces. We are diamonds in the rough finding our brilliance through turbulence then love.  

… [O’Brien] doesn’t tell what MS – she shows us with her words, her stories. The self care she takes proves beneficial — writing notes, keeping journals, reliable resources. They all add up. She takes command of her disease and the information/research available to her.  

This is a book to be read now. It touches on all aspects of living with MS and what we as patients need to know.  

Thank you so incredibly much Cathy, Diane, Lori, Savannah, Elissa and Caroline.

three writers on ‘uncomfortably numb:’ ‘triumphant,’ ‘riveting’ & ‘engaging’

41y3qh52bytl._sx326_bo1204203200_Three wonderful writers — memoirists and a novelist — generously agreed to read early copies of Uncomfortably Numb: A Memoir and to share with me their thoughts about it. And their words, dear reader, were very kind.

Marisa Bardach Ramel, co-author of The Goodbye Diaries: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of loss and love, wrote:

Uncomfortably Numb is a journalist’s investigation to uncover the mysterious illness that plagues her, combined with a mother’s touch to understand how it will impact her family, her career, and the rest of her life. A triumphant story of determination and resiliency. 

51spuobfyll._sx325_bo1204203200_Meanwhile, novelist Joan Dempsey, author of This is How It Begins, offered this:

A riveting memoir … O’Brien’s honesty, humility and humor will have you flying through the pages, rooting for her every step of the way.

Finally, writer Lisa Romeo — who was one of my MFA professors when I was working on Uncomfortably Numb — author of memoir, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss, was the perfect person to review the memoir because, in addition to its chronicling of my MS diagnosis, it also details my mother’s sudden illness and death at age 65. I was diagnosed with MS four months after she passed.

swg-final-with-tabsRomeo wrote:

Uncomfortably Numb pulls readers into the reality of an unexpected and life-altering diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, with forthright clarity, detail, heart, and insight. O’Brien’s memoir is not only a gift to adults dealing with MS, but also for people grappling with any other sudden onset diseases and similarly “invisible” conditions — and for the people who love them.

This story offers the full view of how MS invades a life, from fear, loss, and complications, to adjustments and small victories. The author’s story of the first few years of disease progression — overlapping with raising teenagers, continuing a career, grief, and midlife losses — takes readers through challenges, triumphs, and disappointments of all sizes, on the road to acceptance.

At turns unsettled and dispirited, O’Brien is also an appealing narrator you’ll root for as she advocates for herself (and by extension, for other women whose undiagnosed symptoms are often dismissed). Along the way, she comes to understand her disease and herself more thoroughly as she creates her new reality. An engaging, thought-provoking, informative story, and a narrator you’ll want to know and follow.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Marisa, Joan, and Lisa.

Image credits from Amazon, Joan Dempsey, and Lisa Romeo.