This book is a series of essays about the illness experience. The author developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) after a viral illness in 1988. Suddenly, this 41-year-old public policy analyst, who was also a successful writer and a competitive runner, was thrust into the world of severe disability. He developed subtle but extensive neurological deficits that affected his concentration and memory. For months he could hardly get out of bed. He discovered that not only was the cause of CFS unknown, many physicians did not even believe it was a "real" illness.

"Double Blind" tells the story of Skloot's participation in an ill-fated clinical trial of Ampligen, an experimental treatment for CFS. Other essays describe the author's experience with alternative medicine, including an intensive course of Ayurvedic "detoxification" ("Healing Powers") and a visit to Germany to encounter Mother Meera, an avatar of the Divine Mother ("Honeymooning With the Feminine Divine").

"Home Remedies" presents his comic experience with helpful calls and letters telling him how to get rid of the illness. Other essays deal with Skloot's learning to cope with chronic disability. A final section includes poems about the illness experience of several composers and artists (e.g. Carl Maria von Weber, George Gershwin, and Vincent van Gogh).


These essays are entertaining, insightful, and often humorous. Several of them would be effective as short readings describing the experience of chronic illness; in particular, the relatively common situation in which there is a discrepancy between the patient's experience of illness and disability, and the physician's assessment of disease. The patient is ill, but the physician often discounts the patient's suffering because the illness is not readily explained by disease processes, or, if it is explained, the disease process is poorly understood and not effectively treatable. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a prime example of this sequence of events.


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Place Published

Brownsville, Oreg.



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