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The Cascade Effect: A Biologist Shares His Faith and His Story Living with Wilson's Disease (An inherited disorder of copper metabolism) Paperback – March 25, 2010
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About the Author
W. Mark Dendy is a marine biologist, adjunct professor of biology and natural resource management, journalist, and filmmaker. He holds a B.S. in biological sciences, and an M.S. in life sciences.
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Dendy's memoir focuses primarily on his adolescence engaged with girls, sports, and cars, and his young adulthood, when he started to drift between school, the Navy, and various jobs as he became increasingly moody and unable to focus. He details several years of drifting across the United States, and his return home at age 27 to the acceptance of his family. His health deterioriated rapidly after his return. In addition to increased moodiness, he developed a tremor and difficulty walking. He also lost a great deal of weight. During this time, Dendy reaffirmed his faith in God, and through the help of neurologists at the National Institutes of Health, obtained first a diagnosis and then treatment for a rare genetic disorder that was causing his symptoms. This disorder, Wilson's disease, prevents removal of copper from the body, and the copper then builds up, causing a cascade of liver, muscle, and neurological damage.
Because the work is short and Dendy focuses heavily on faith, it lacks great depth in terms of insight to many aspects of his behavior and decisions, making it less emotionally involving than, for example, Prickly Cactus, a memoir about a woman with a different chronic disease. However, in addition to educating the public about this rare disease, Dendy has done a service to people facing rare or chronic diseases of any kind, as well as the depression that often accompanies them. He explains often intensely private aspects of his own journey in dealing with his symptoms and diagnosis and finding support in family and faith. As he says at one point, "Many angels were watching out for me."
The workings of the human body never cease to amaze me! It's astounding how a simple genetic mutation can cause such a dangerous disorder, one that can lay seemingly dormant for years or even most of a person's life. I had never heard of Wilson's Disease before picking up "The Cascade Effect," but I understand how buildups of vital trace minerals can be dangerous. I admire Dendy's courage in allowing doctors to study this disease's effects on him personally, and especially his drive to someday donate his body to the further study of this disorder. One cannot help but hope that by telling this story, he will help at least a few people either determine the cause of their own maladies or provide support to someone newly diagnosed. This book is a good quick read and, despite its strong religious overtones, a fascinating story of coping with the peculiarities of the human body.