Book Review: MS for Dummies

The wonderful people at Biogen (the makers of Avonex) were nice enough to send me a free copy of Multiple Sclerosis for Dummies to give me a basic guide to MS for my family.  This is a really nice idea, since a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about MS and what it means for them… I know that my initial reaction when my opthamologist first mentioned the possibility of MS was to envision myself bedridden and unable to use my arms or legs!  So many of us think the worst when we think of MS, and while there’s a lot the experts don’t know, there is also a lot they do know that is not publicized as much as the worst-case scenarios.

This book does a great job of keeping it very, very basic.  What’s nice (but also annoying) is that anyone could pick it up and flip to any chapter and read it independent of the rest of the book.  Why is this irksome?  The authors feel the need to repeat a lot of basic facts (including what MS stands for) at the start of every single chapter.  This, I assume, is the “for dummies” part.  (It kind of reminded me of reading The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High as a kid.  We KNOW Kristy is the President!  We KNOW the Wakefields are identical!  Let’s get to the STORY!)

My biggest problem with the book is that the authors didn’t seem to have a definite purpose.  Rather, they had TWO purposes, and sometimes the two conflicted.  Sometimes they wanted to inform me.  Sometimes they wanted to comfort me.  Unfortunately, when it comes to a chronic illness like MS, sometimes it’s not possible to do both simultaneously.  A lot of the facts are scary, and it comes across as condescending to try to say things like “80% of people with CIS are diagnosed with MS within three years” or “you may randomly become so fatigued that you are incapable of basic activities” in a positive way.  These are not positive things.  They are sad, scary things.  Don’t try to act like they are anything but.

Funniest advice from the book:  The folks at MS for Dummies suggest that I run outdoors because it is a calming environment, but they say it is a bad idea to exercise in any warm places.  These people have never been to Georgia in the summer.

Overall, I’d recommend this book as a resource for anyone who wants a realistic overview of MS.  However, it misses the mark when it tries to be overly positive even when discussing the very worst of outcomes.

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