"Chronic illness doesn't come with an instruction manual," says Susan Milstrey Wells--so she wrote one. Afflicted with Sjögren's syndrome (an autoimmune disease that dries the eyes and mouth), fibromyalgia (a painful muscle disorder), and interstitial cystitis (a chronic inflammation of the bladder), she knows the ins and outs of coping with chronic illness. In A Delicate Balance, she provides a compelling mix of useful information and real-life stories (including an appendix of resource numbers for various medical and self-help organizations) to help others find the will and the way to survive and thrive.
Wells characterizes the onset of a chronic illness as the beginning of a journey toward understanding, accepting, and healing, and she organizes her book to help lead the reader on that journey. The first few chapters deal with the psychological stages of illness and the perseverance that's often needed to get an accurate diagnosis and find a suitable health care partner. Middle chapters detail the search for treatment and the effects of chronic illness on personal relationships and the ability to work. The final chapter offers the optimistic view that chronic illness is a gift--albeit one that you don't want and can't give back, but that will ultimately teach you many important life lessons. Yes, chronic illness changes your life, she writes, but such change is not necessarily bad--and having a guide like this can help you through it. --Nancy Monson