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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Paperback – August 6, 2013
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*Starred Review* In this fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter previously known for going undercover as a stripper and writing a butt-implant story headlined Rear and Present Danger, Cahalan describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity after an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures. Her divorced parents put aside their differences and rose to the occasion, sitting by her during the month she was confined to the hospital, about which she remembers nothing. Her boyfriend stayed with her, and one wonderful doctor, noticing that she walked and talked like a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient, was determined to get to the bottom of her medical mystery. Luckily, she was insured, because her treatment cost $1 million. Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific and medical information about autoimmune diseases, which are about two-thirds environmental and one-third genetic in origin. So, she writes, an external trigger, such as a sneeze or a toxic apartment, probably combined with a genetic predisposition toward developing aggressive antibodies to create her problem. A compelling health story. --Karen Springen --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Captivating…Cahalan’s prose carries a sharp, unsparing tabloid punch in the tradition of Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A fascinating look at the disease that – if not for a nick-of-time diagnosis – could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life.” (People magazine)
“The bizarre and confounding illness that beset the 24-year-old New York Post reporter in early 2009 so ravaged her mentally and physically that she became unrecognizable to coworkers, family, friends, and—most devastatingly—herself… She dedicates this miracle of a book to ‘those without a diagnosis’… [An] unforgettable memoir.” (Elle)
“Swift and haunting.” (Scientific American)
“This fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter…describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity…Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific information…compelling.” (Booklist (starred review))
"An intense, mesmerizing account of survival. . . Cahalan's deft descriptions of her spooky hallucinations could be right out of a Poe terror tale." (BookForum)
“For the neurologist, I highly recommend this book on several grounds…First, it is a well-told story, worth reading for the suspense and the dramatic cadence of events…Second, it is a superb case study of a rare neurologic diagnosis; even experienced neurologists will find much to learn in it…Third, and most important, it gives the neurologist insight into how a patient and her family experienced a complex illness, including the terrifying symptoms, the difficult pace of medical diagnosis, and the slow recovery. This story clearly contains lessons for all of us.” (Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology)
“Focusing her journalistic toolbox on her story, Cahalan untangles the medical mystery surrounding her condition…A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.” (Publishers Weekly)
"The best reporters never stop asking questions, and Cahalan is no exception...The result is a kind of anti-memoir, an out-of-body personal account of a young woman's fight to survive one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. And on every level, it's remarkable.....Cahalan is nothing if not tenacious, and she perfectly tempers her brutal honesty with compassion and something like vulnerability. It's indisputable that Cahalan is a gifted reporter, and Brain on Fire is a stunningly brave book. But even more than that, she's a naturally talented prose stylist — whip-smart but always unpretentious — and it's nearly impossible to stop reading her, even in the book's most painful passages....Brain on Fire comes from a place of intense pain and unthinkable isolation, but finds redemption in Cahalan's unflagging, defiant toughness. It's an unexpected gift of a book from one of America's most courageous young journalists." (NPR.org)
“What is most impressive about “Brain on Fire” is that Cahalan has little recollection of her month of insanity…. Thanks partially to her talent as a journalist and to the fact that her parents kept journals, Cahalan was able to recapture her month, leaving no holes in the narrative.” (The Daily Texan)
“Compelling…a New York Post reporter recounts her medical nightmare.” (Mental Floss)
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Top Customer Reviews
It was only after consistent misdiagnoses (one particularly doctor assuring her mother that she was merely drinking, working and partying too hard) and $1M in tests that one single doctor took the time to sit with her, listen, reflect, and give her the zero-cost test that ultimately led to her diagnosis, recovery and ability to write this book.
Susannah's story is ultimately inspirational, though life is never perfect. At her side were two doctors in particular, and her supportive parents, boyfriend, and friends/colleagues, who were crucial to her eventual recovery.
That said, the statistics she cites of those mis- or undiagnosed is staggering. I hope this book raises both awareness of and tons of money for this inscrutable disease.
Thank you, Ms. Cahalan, for sharing your story and, in doing so, educating both the medical profession and the public so we may help - by contributing to causes like The Encephalitis Society (www.encephalitis.info/) - other sufferers who do not have resources or a support system to aid and guide them.
BRAVO for being brave enough to examine that time of your life, and share it with others!
I have just finished reading it and haven't reflected on what I've read yet but felt compelled to leave this five star review with a thank you to the author for writing this book and making herself so vulnerable for us.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan.This novel is about Susannah Cahalan’s real life experience of a disease.Read more