No one should feel like this in their twenties.
28 January 2010
My goal for the weekend: I have got to find some lighter reading material.
Last night I was looking for something new to read on my pile of library books, and my glance fell upon a slim book titled The Two Kinds of Decay. I had requested this book at some point, but I couldn't remember why I had asked for it or what it was about.
Turns out it's a memoir of a young woman in her twenties, who suffered from mutliple bouts with a rare disease called chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP), which (as far as I can understand) is a disease in which the immune system attacks the healthy myelin around nerves, leading tingling and numbness of the extremities, and eventually difficulty breathing.
The author, Sarah Manguso, is also a poet, and that sensibility can be seen easily throughout her memoir, which is comprised of short chapters of short paragraphs, all displaying a masterful use of language. What's disturbing are the procedures she's often describing (such as apheresis, in which the plasma in her blood was replaced) with that economy of language:
"The fresh frozen plasma was thawed before it was infused. The four half-liter glass bottles of albumin were left at room temperature.
For the first twenty or thirty apheresis sessions, I lay under several blankets, which didn't help the cold but helped me think at least I was trying.
The temperature in blood vessels is warmer than room temperature, of course, by about thirty degrees Fahrenheit. I was very clowly infused with several liters of fluid that was thirty degrees colder than the rest of my body." (p. 39.)
And that's one of the less scary descriptions; it only gets worse from there. This is an unsettling book, and I won't tell you how it ends or what happens (although, mirroring my thought when reading the above of, "Christ, they can't warm the albumin up a bit first?", they do eventually address that issue). But it's quite different from anything else you'll read, and I would recommend it. I must say that I for one am impressed at Manguso's lack of hysteria, considering that she is a woman who knows a little something about idiot doctors and half-ass nurses.
But the fact remains: I need to find something lighter going into the weekend.