First off, I have to confess. I am sooooo overdue on putting up this post that I feel I can't begin to write about the book without first apologizing to the author, Kat Elton. Kat kindly contacted me over the summer and asked if she could send me her new book. I told her yes....but that it might take me 'a little time' to get to reading it since I work full time. I also knew that I might be moving to Boston, and let's just say that 'a little time' has turned into nearly half a year.
But let's get to the good stuff. A Resilient Life: Learning to thrive, not just survive, with rheumatoid arthritis, is quite literally the book I wish I had been able to find the day after I had been diagnosed with RA and went searching for a first hand, personal, yet informative and comprehensive account of life with RA. When I stood all by myself in that Barnes & Noble on Lexington Avenue, I wanted desperately to find a book that would cut to the chase but would also offer hope- realistic, practical hope, and most of all, I wanted to know that I was not alone, that there were others like me.
And that's the great thing about Kat: she is a lot like me. She's young, active, and determined to live a full life. And she feels this way even though she has RA. Unlike me, Kat was diagnosed at the age of two with JRA, so she's a veteran of this crap disease, and this comes through in the book- she's clearly lived what she's writing about. One of my favorite aspects of the book is how it is designed to be a practical guide- there are worksheets at the end of every chapter to help you sort through and organize feelings, game plans for pain management and flare-ups, and doctor appointment checklists. The book is broken into chapters covering everything from how to be a patient and advocate for yourself to chapters about pain, the disease itself, nutrition (but NOT in a preachy or miracle-cure way!!!!), alternative treatments, and sleep.
After getting the book in the mail (full disclosure: I received a promotional copy of the book, but did not promise to write a good review about it, or to write about it at all for that matter), I got really excited and wrote to Kat. I asked her a few questions, and she shared the following with me:
Why did you decide to write the book?
I decided to write the book when I was going through a sustained flare up. I was thinking I'd like to teach a class for people with RA that address all the things we deal with 24/7 but are rarely discussed by doctors or health professionals except in a superficial way, like sleep issues and stress. I asked myself the questions, "What are the areas in life that are most affected by the RA and vice versa? Where have I had to figure out realistic answers for myself because the experts don't have the time or inclination to help me?" So I came up with the 10 things that ended up as book chapters, and when I began to talk to friends about it I kept hearing, "You should write a book!" After about the fifth time I heard this I decided, well why not, and once I began writing I didn't look back. Writing the book gave me a purpose at a time in my life when I was needing one and I think it helped pull me through the flare quicker because I knew everything I was going through was experience with which I could help others.
What do you hope people will take away from reading the book?
Mostly I hope that people will come away with the knowledge of just how resilient and strong they actually are. I also hope that people can always remember that when it comes to their body they are always the expert, health professionals are educated, paid consultants whose job it is to give them advice, not to tell them what they have to do. As patients we are taught to grin and bear it but in reality to live resiliently with a chronic disease you have to be a bit of a maverick. I hope people can come away realizing that true health is not the absence of disease, it is living life fully and with compassion, recognizing mind, body and spirit. I think most people don't give themselves enough credit for being the amazing survivors that they are, and I hope people can come away believing in themselves and their ability to heal.
Anything else you would want people to know about you and/or the book?
I think that because I walk in your shoes every day I have a very real incentive to find answers that are realistic and true, not ones that just sound good. I keep working hard to continue that quest on behalf of myself and others.'
You can find the book, and find out a lot more about Kat at her website, katelton.com.
Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own and were in no way influenced by anyone but me.