Summary and book reviews of The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

by Sarah Ramey

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey X
The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2021, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

The darkly funny memoir of Sarah Ramey's years-long battle with a mysterious illness that doctors thought was all in her head - but wasn't. A revelation and an inspiration for millions of women whose legitimate health complaints are ignored.

In her harrowing, defiant, and unforgettable memoir, Sarah Ramey recounts the decade-long saga of how a seemingly minor illness in her senior year of college turned into a prolonged and elusive condition that destroyed her health but that doctors couldn't diagnose or treat. Worse, as they failed to cure her, they hinted that her devastating symptoms were psychological.
 
The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a memoir with a mission: to help the millions of (mostly) women who suffer from unnamed or misunderstood conditions--autoimmune illnesses, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic Lyme disease, chronic pain, and many more. Ramey's pursuit of a diagnosis and cure for her own mysterious illness becomes a page-turning medical mystery that reveals a new understanding of today's chronic illnesses as ecological in nature, driven by modern changes to the basic foundations of health, from the quality of our sleep, diet, and social connections to the state of our microbiomes. Her book will open eyes, change lives, and, ultimately, change medicine.

Excerpt
The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

Dear Reader,

There may exist a graceful and elegant way to begin one's gynecologic and colorectal memoir, but it never does spring to mind.

Let us start then with a story. We can travel back to where it all began, and for a moment leave the particulars behind. That sounds much nicer—lovely even—considering it all began so many years ago with a cool, luxuriant swim in Walden Pond.

~

I remember it well. The heat was heavy, I was a summer student at Harvard with no air-conditioning, and Walden beckoned for the reasons it always will. Though I suppose the busloads of tourists beached on the imported sand should have sounded some instinctive alarm when I arrived, they didn't. I walked right on past and made my way to the side of the pond where the water was still and the snorkelers out of sight.

I remember walking into the water. I remember floating on my back. I remember the coolness and the peace and the poetry of the...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a painfully personal memoir of illness, as well as a toolkit for readers, especially women, who have grown frustrated by repeatedly being dismissed or ignored by medical professionals. It's also a philosophical treatise arguing that for women to become heroines in their own stories, they need to be willing to travel inwards and downwards, addressing their sometimes uncomfortable histories and finding the courage to listen—both to others and to their own needs...continued

Full Review (700 words).

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(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

BookPage (starred review)
Ramey’s angry about that, and she explains why with intelligence, humor and impressively thorough and far-ranging research into the various ailments that stem from trauma, exposure to harmful chemicals, consumption of unreal foods, overuse of antibiotics and more...The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a stirring and inspiring rallying cry.

Kirkus Reviews
Impassioned testimony of a fight for health.

Library Journal
Though dense at times, this work is among the few about understudied chronic conditions that primarily affect women, and the little attention they receive. For those living with invisible illnesses who have been told they don't look sick, and fans of the podcasts This Is Not What I Ordered and No End In Sight.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[I]lluminating... Ramey's uncanny grit and fortitude will deeply inspire the multitudes facing similar issues.

Booklist (starred review)
A visceral, scathing, erudite read that digs deep into how modern medicine continues to fail women and what can be done about it.

Author Blurb Chelsea Clinton, co-author of The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience
Sarah Ramey's candor in discussing more than a decade of pain, confusion, and dismissal by countless doctors is matched by compassion for herself and every woman who has been told that her symptoms are only in her head, even when she knows her body is screaming...it's a book with something resonant and useful for all of us. It's also, not incidentally, a terrific read.

Author Blurb Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
Sarah Ramey is a person of uncommon wit, bravery, compassion, honesty, and intellect. Every one of those qualities is on full display in this unflinching, important, and stunningly written memoir, which gives voice to millions of women whose experiences and pain have been ignored and minimized.

Author Blurb Alisa Vitti, author of In The FLO and founder of FLO Living
With brilliant storytelling, Sarah Ramey tells of her experience with a mysterious illness while weaving in a practical roadmap for the woman who is overwhelmed, confused, depressed, desperate, and suffering with confusing symptoms...A masterwork and a page-turning, fantastic read.

Reader Reviews

Nima

Reeks of Privilege - Not a Meaningful Contribution
My heart ached for Ms. Ramey, and I believe she was sick. I believe medical science is failing people like her. That said, ohmygosh, am I the only one that couldn't bear the obtusely privileged, sanctimonious, and self-aggrandizing tone of this book?...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Myasthenia Gravis

Patient with myasthenia gravis In her memoir The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness, Sarah Ramey mentions a litany of so-called mysterious illnesses, some of which are widely known—lupus, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis—and others that may be less familiar to readers. I was surprised to see her mention a relatively unknown condition that happens to affect someone in my family, who was lucky enough to reach a diagnosis and an effective plan for treatment and management, but not without doing a fair amount of the kinds of research and self-advocacy about which Ramey writes. The illness is myasthenia gravis, a disease that affects approximately between 50 and 200 out of every million people.

Myasthenia gravis, or MG, ...

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