(Reviewed by Pat Luboff)
“You know you’re having a bad week when you call 911, the paramedics come to your house, and one of them notices you’ve rearranged your furniture.”
This is the memoir, covering the years 1994 to 2011, of an adventurous soul trapped in a body that knocks her flat on her back.
Cherie signs up for the Peace Corps in 1994. She is told she will have to make a few minor adjustments to survive her assignment to Zambia. She endures the hardships and tries to believe her efforts in digging toilet pits are making a significant contribution to the people in the remote village where she is stationed. Then she is struck down with so much pain she wished for death. But death did not come. Cherie recovers but the Peace Corps will not let her go back to work in the village with the people she loves.
In the years that follow, she roams the world, from Europe to New Zealand, and then back home to California. All the while, she experiences strange symptoms. Eventually, her physical problems are so many and debilitating that her neck can no longer hold up her head and she must use her hands. Along the way, she meets and develops a relationship with Alex, who is the boyfriend from heaven, always there to help.
With help from Alex, her mother and friends, Cherie drags herself to a seemingly endless array of doctors, who put her through a myriad of tests. Not one of them can come up with a diagnosis and, of course, she’s told that it’s “all in her head.” She does see a psychotherapist, who is helpful on an emotional level, but her body still betrays her.
Excerpts from an entry in her journal, covering the period from April 2004 to October 2008 (just a few of many on her list):
“What I know, in Numbers
Blood tests (the most in one blood draw was 27 vials): Hundreds
Doctor appointments: 257
Treatment and therapy sessions attended: 517
Miles driven to appointments: 12,872
Days I was sick: 1,710
Total amount spent on medical expenses (not including amounts paid by insurance): $101,000”
It’s impressive, despite years of medical dead ends, how determined she is to recapture her health. Cherie tells the tale with just the right amount of details and insights. I was thoroughly engaged in the story of her journey. I found myself wondering, “What the heck is wrong with her and why can’t anyone figure it out?”
You’ll have to read it yourself to find the answer to that question. I recommend this book, especially to anyone who has had frustrating experiences with physical problems.