My wife and I were huge fans of the TV show House. We watched every week for all eight seasons and if we did miss an episode we dutifully downloaded it from a torrent site (did I just incriminate myself?) and watched it on the computer as soon as possible. I was already dealing with a mystery illness when the show debuted so it’s no surprise that a doctor with the ability to heal seemingly anyone was an obvious candidate for obsessive fandom. However, things got even more interesting in 2008 when I was finally diagnosed with Sarcoidosis. As fans of House can attest, Sarcoidosis became a sort of running gag on the show as it was inevitably offered as the possible cause for the patient-du-jour’s distress. Just as inevitable was Sarcoidosis being quickly brushed aside as the cause, typically by House himself. On rare occasions they’d actually do a test or two before Sarcoidosis was finally discredited as the possible culprit.
Every Patient on House Might Have Sarcoidosis
One thing all these episodes had in common is the fact that the symptoms presenting in the patient-du-jour, whom the medical brain trust hypothesized might have Sarcoidosis, were nothing like mine whatsoever. And I actually had Sarcoidosis! More often than not, the symptoms on the show were not only different than mine, but they were exponentially worse than anything I’d endured. So when Sarcoidosis was quickly quashed we’d chuckle each time at the seeming absurdity of it all, I’d say “well no shit”, and we’d look forward to this little inside joke in next week’s episode.
Then one week something remarkable happened; the patient-du-jour actually did have Sarcoidosis. This was a new twist. Even more confusing was the fact that, true to form, the symptoms presented were once again almost completely foreign to me. This patient was messed up and most certainly far more ill than I was or had ever been. On one hand I was thrilled that my disease was finally weird enough for House and maybe, just maybe, this purely fictional character would reveal an unbeknownst to the medical community miracle cure for my plight right then and there on network television. On the other hand I couldn’t stop thinking that my disease certainly wasn’t whatever the hell this guy had. Or what anyone else on House had ever had, for that matter. I was sick, I hated it, my life had changed but I had never experienced anything nearly this horrible.
I’ve learned a lot about Sarcoidosis in the years since that infamous episode aired. I know Sarcoidosis exhibits a wide range of symptoms and affects people in myriad ways. I know that Sarc can be almost an afterthought for some. I know that Sarc but can be extremely serious and actually kill. I also know, or have convinced myself anyway, that such occurrences are by far the exception rather than the rule. Most of the people I’ve befriended who also have Sarc are much like me, changed but surviving and getting on with our lives. And I still know that what those patients had on House was not any Sarcoidosis that I know.
Then I read this book.
Holy cockamamie, kamikaze crow! The author of this book, fellow Canadian blogger Candace Lafleur, has that Sarc. I mean, wow! The book by no means drones on about the variety and severity of her symptoms, so don’t fear that this is an exceptionally uncomfortable and depressing read, far from it. But it certainly leaves no doubt that this woman is dealing with an extremely nasty occurrence of the disease. By comparison, my experience with Sarc seems no more serious than a stubborn nasal concretion causing frustration and angst during a date. Whereas I got a brief three months on low dose steroids and puffers, she got high dose steroid injections and chemotherapy concoctions that even the hospital pharmacists were unfamiliar with and thusly leery about.
This brings me to the great irony of this book. One common thread throughout the book is the author’s fear of being seen as a hypochondriac with her endless manifestation of symptoms and subsequent trips to the doctor’s office or hospital. I can absolutely relate to this dilemma. Pain, discomfort, fatigue, and “feeling like crap” are all invisible and highly subjective medical problems. It’s not like a gaping wound or unseemly swelling which need no interpretation or “on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being nothing and 10 being the worst you’ve ever experienced” quizzing. And as time goes on and more and more quirky symptoms appear and others fade and no treatment is effective one truly starts to wonder if they’ve gone bananas and are making it all up. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt with the scarlet ‘H’ over the breast. I fully, one hundred percent empathize with Candace’s fear of being labeled a hypochondriac. The great irony of this book, then, is that reading of her far more intense Sarc symptoms than mine has left me even more fearful that I am indeed a hypochondriac.
Nonetheless, ‘Prescription for Disaster’ is a wonderful book. There are many terrific stories here; the wait for roadside assistance in the hospital loading area is a particular favourite. I won’t ruin the punch line here but just know that I laughed out loud at that one and I don’t do that very often at all when reading a book. I’m also tempted to vacation in a London hospital so that I can experience for myself the culinary treasure that Macaroni and Cheese Suspiciously Lacking in Macaroni must surely be. It’s a delightful, hilarious invasion into a complete stranger’s life and I devoured it in 48 hours (it’s no waif of a book either, clocking in at 338 pages; or 5,298,007 pages in the Kobo version).
This is the second book I’ve read in this “memoirs of the common folk” genre that left me shockingly aware of just how dull and safe my life has been. The first was ‘Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar’ by Kelly Oxford. I finished that book and was in awe of the ballsy, wild life some people have lived and continue to live. The charmed, no-fear types that are able to do whatever they want and not only survive, but come away relatively unscathed. I was even more in awe of the willingness to tell the world about it. Even if I had the cojones to do much of what she did I doubt I’d be writing it down and telling the world.
Now I’ve read ‘Prescription for Disaster: The funny side of falling apart’ by Candace Lafleur and again I’m left utterly bewildered only this time it’s not because of what she’s done in her life, though she’s certainly a no-fear flag bearer, so much as what life’s done to her. My god this woman is a mind-boggling magnet for mishap; comically bizarre mishap at that. So much for coming away unscathed! A few pages into this book and you are hooked if for no other reason than wondering what could possibly happen next as the “oh my god” reaction of the previous tale still resonates through your brain. It gets to a point where you almost feel guilty for laughing but then you remember that she’s laughing right along with you. It must all be true too because I doubt very much even the most imaginative of fiction authors could come up with stuff half this ridiculous. I won’t even hint at any of it for fear of ruining the stories for you, just trust me and read it.
My only gripe is that I do wish this book had been professionally edited. This is a self-published endeavour by the author and that alone should be applauded. And I suppose the self-published, self-edited nature gives the book a comfy homemade feel and Candace comes across as a far more likeable and genuine heroine (unlike, say, Karen Duffy in her book about Sarcoidosis which I felt wasn’t very flattering of her as a person at all). I just felt the impact of the story was lost with the narrative jumping around in time so much. I’d have preferred a more chronological layout of her battle (gah, I shouldn’t use that word considering she admonished its use in the book, but I’m weak) with Sarcoidosis. Maybe that’s just something I wanted because the Sarc angle was more personal to me. Or perhaps I’m too much a slave to the slickness of modern media. Candace is a good writer with fantastic tales to share and I think with a bit of professional guidance could be great. I really hope this book becomes one of those internet sensations that gets thrust into the mainstream, earns a book deal with a major publisher and becomes a best seller.
I also have to say that there is a most peculiar use of the words ‘sat’ and ‘stood’ in this book which I can only assume is the fault of the Brits with whom she now resides. As a fellow Canadian I know these peculiar tenses are not our doing. It’s always so strange to see firsthand how oddly the English speak English.
I loved this book. If you’ve ever had Sarcoidosis yourself or know someone who does, read this book. Even if you or someone you love is dealing with a different chronic illness, read this book. Even if neither of those situations applies, read this book. Not only will it tickle your funny bone it will also inspire you tremendously. It’s amazing to read about someone that is snubbing her nose at a disease and continuing on with life unabated. I couldn’t do it. I haven’t done it. I look at what I’ve given up with my relatively mild version of Sarcoidosis and to read about this woman’s determination to continue with a vibrant life despite her ongoing near death travails due to Sarc is truly amazing.
I’m also finding myself, once again, wishing to be a better person. Some of the stories, while funny happening to someone else, would have left me in a rage (the nasty, self-important Russian lady for example). I don’t handle situations like that well and I certainly don’t view them as entertaining snippets of my life’s lore. I’m obviously not quite the lover of life and people person Candace is, but this book leaves me thinking about that at least. Seeing someone handle terrible situations, nasty people, horrible luck, and just bizarre circumstance with such grace (tears and squeaky voice notwithstanding) is sure to give you pause. I won’t make a silly proclamation that I’m a better person for having read this book but I certainly feel myself wanting to be and perhaps that’s an important first step.
I give this book 4 1/2 Baby Dill Pickles* out of 5. It’s a definite must read. I’d give it 5 out of 5 for entertainment alone but the stickler in me just can’t stop wishing it was a bit more polished.
I should note that Candace also has a blog that you’ll undoubtedly enjoy just as much as this book.
*This is the first review where I’m using my new rating system. Baby Dill Pickles. They are made in crocks which makes them the perfect gimmick for this blog and they are the very best kind of pickle in existence.