Review: Women, chronic illness and resurrection

(Unsplash/Carolina Heza)

The journey Sarah Ramey relates in The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness has much in common with resurrection narratives: It is only by accepting the darkness she goes through that Ramey can come out on the other side. After having explored and exhausted countless paths to wellness, most of them unsuccessfully, she has a plethora of advice for fellow WOMIs, as she calls them: “Women With Mysterious Illnesses.” Her own research into the chronic illnesses that plague millions of women is astonishing, thorough and revelatory, a valuable resource for WOMIs and those who seek to understand and treat them.

The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illnessby Sarah Ramey

Doubleday

432p $27.95

Ramey’s physical illnesses haunt her for more than a decade as they are ignored, misdiagnosed and minimized by the medical establishment until she discovers something called functional medicine and experiences an epiphany about her body. Her journey is not without its low points: “Reader, it was horrible to still be alive at all.”

Ramey struggles with inept and uncaring doctors, some of whom do more harm than good, including one who causes lasting devastation to her vagina. Eventually Ramey comes to see that the “process of death and renewal is the story of life itself. It’s the story of nature, earth.” Ramey spends most of her time in the Holy Saturday world—before resurrection and after a death of sorts, struggling to find the light—but she finally finds it in embracing the darkness: “No cure, no juggler, no miracle pill, no positive thought will ever be worth more to me than the story of my story, the story of our story, the story of the ancient, holy, and important dark.” She asserts that “a near supernatural ability to rise up from the dead—that is, and has always been, my real superpower. And my dear reader, it’s probably yours too.”

The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a rallying cry to all other women whose illnesses go untreated.

This book is a rallying cry to all other women whose illnesses go untreated but also to the general public on the need to make our medical system more responsive to chronic illness.

Ramey is a crusader for everyone who has been ignored, offering a powerful argument that “my case went unsolved for fourteen years because no one would listen to me and the reason they would not listen to me is because I am a woman.”

This book is a rallying cry to all other women whose illnesses go untreated but also to the general public on the need to make our medical system more responsive to chronic illness. Ramey’s memoir will lift you up by taking you down into the depths of despair that she experienced; you will be as inspired as you are educated about topics such as autoimmune disease, the endocrine system and the ways that society and gender affect them.

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