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.

watch virtual library event featuring ‘uncomfortably numb’

This is the recording of my recent virtual author event with the Southborough (Mass.) Library where I read excerpts from my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and fielded questions from participants.

Thank you to Valerie and Ryan for their help in coordinating and running this event.

Video courtesy of the Southborough Library.

blogger gives kudos to ‘uncomfortably numb’

Screenshot 2020-04-06 16.37.35The Sparkly Life blogger Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig named Uncomfortably Numb one of her top reads for the month of March.

Putting it in her “Liked A Lot” category, Kolsky Hertzig wrote of the memoir:

“It tells the story of the author’s life being rocked when she is diagnosed with a chronic disease (after being told by doctors that it was anxiety/all in her head). I thought it was really interesting to learn about how her illness has affected every aspect of her life, and I also thought it was a good commentary on how women’s concerns still often aren’t taken seriously by the medical community. It’s a quick read and a I love a good memoir.”

Image credit: The Sparkly Life.

tuesday, april 7: #bookpartychat author panel on femininity

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Come on over to Twitter on Tuesday, April 7 at 3 p.m. Boston time and join a panel of authors discussing “Perceptions of Femininity.”

Six authors — including yours truly — will be discussing femininity, sexuality and power. Participants include: Christina Chiu, Rachel McLean, Christina Russo, Emma Miles and Rachel Churcher. The moderator is Mai Taylor.

My contribution to the talk? How women’s medical complaints are handled and received by some physicians.

Follow @BookPartyChat and the hashtag #BookPartyChat.

stat column asks: should you tell your employer you have ms?

Screenshot 2020-03-28 15.13.08While I was gearing up to promote my memoir —Uncomfortably Numb, about the life-altering impact of my multiple sclerosis diagnosis — I realized I should probably tell my employer about both the memoir and the chronic illness.

Thus far, I haven’t had to ask for any accommodations, although I do have a handicapped parking pass to use on campus when I need it. But I thought it would be best if I told the administrator who runs my department in person. (This was well before the coronavirus caused nationwide school shut-downs.)

It prompted me to write an essay which was published by STAT News. The piece starts this way:

As I prepared to tell my employer that I have relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, I worried about what to expect.

Maybe I’d get a shocked look from the administrator who oversees the department where I teach part-time. Or maybe I’d be quietly phased out, informed that future teaching opportunities have dried up.

This “big reveal” would be, according to multiple sclerosis advocates, a risky move.

Read the rest of the essay here.

Image credit: STAT News.

READ: ‘uncomfortably numb’ excerpt at healthcentral

Screenshot 2020-03-28 15.01.36In honor of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, the HealthCentral website has published an edited excerpt of Uncomfortably Numb.

Here are the first few lines:

There’s something weird going on with my leg.

I’m interviewing a middle school band director for a book I’m working on, but something doesn’t feel right on my leg and I can’t stop thinking about it. I brush my left calf across my right shin to compare the sensations. The right leg is positively brimming with feeling by comparison.

Yeah, that’s not right. 

After the interview is over, I walk to my car. Now that I’m alone, I can fully focus on how odd the skin on my left shin feels — how the hem of my linen capri pants feels, as though it’s rubbing evenly across my right shin and calf, but not so with my left. I close my eyes and focus on my legs.

Does it feel different on my left? Does it really? Is this just something strange that will go away?

Read the full excerpt here.

Image credit: HealthCentral.

‘i couldn’t read it fast enough’ — reviewer says of ‘uncomfortably numb’

author-photo-madeline-dyer-300x300-1U.K. author, book reviewer and creator of the Twitter-based #BookPartyChat, Madeline Dyer wrote a lovely review of my medical memoir Uncomfortably Numb.

As Dyer — author of several novels including the Untamed series — is working on her own memoir about her chronic illness, her words meant a great deal to me.

While saying she “couldn’t read it fast enough,” Dyer called Uncomfortably Numb “harrowing in places,” adding that it had “so many relatable moments.”

“The writing craft itself in this book is really good too,” Dyer continued. “Stylistically, Meredith’s writing flows and just demands to be read. I’ve read quite a few medical memoirs, but I have to say, I think this is one of the best, and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.”

You wouldn’t know, just by reading this post, but I’m blushing. Thank you Madeline!

You can read her full review here.

Image credit: Madeline Dyer.

talking memoir, ms & chronic illness with The Write Review

Annie Horsky McDonnell, the book guru who runs The Write Review book group, was kind enough to have me on her Facebook live-stream to discuss my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb.

We talked about our respective autoimmune diseases, our invisible symptoms and the struggle to help others to understand what it’s like to live with chronic illness. Members of the online book group offered up engaging questions as well.

My son Jonah — home because his university closed and is having students do remote learning due to the coronavirus — took our dogs for a walk during the interview but came back at the tail-end. I think you might be able to hear Tedy’s high-pitched barking. Oh well. The hazards of working from home.

Horskey McDonnell’s interview was part of her effort to help out authors whose book events have been engulfed and crushed by coronavirus cancellations. Thank you Annie!

 

health central q&a: living with ms

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To mark the beginning of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness month, HealthCentral interviewed me about my memoir — published today! — and how multiple sclerosis has affected me since my diagnosis:

In 2014, Meredith O’Brien was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. The author, teacher, wife, and mother had spent more than two years seeking help for symptoms that were scary, strange, and unpredictable. 

In her new memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, O’Brien shares her emotional journey from health to illness to empowerment. We talked with her about her experience.

HealthCentral: What was it like coming to terms with an MS diagnosis?

Meredith O’Brien: It was a hard learning curve. Early on, I fought it because I was angry about the fact MS was impinging on my life and my ability to do things. I experienced a lot of fatigue, but I didn’t listen to my body. I continued loading my days with all these activities, and then paid the price of lying in bed afterward, feeling exhausted.

You can read the full interview here.

Image credit: Health Central.

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.