I must confess that this is a somewhat biased book review. “We Write for the Fight” is an online MS Connection self-help group and they have pulled off an amazing feat! With the tremendous dedication of group leaders, Tracy Todd and Sean Mahoney, they have produced and published Something on our Minds: An Anthology to Benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
My bias lies in the fact that I am a contributor to this anthology, as are guest Bloggers Caroline Kyriakou and Yvonne deSousa. But I came to the group late, Tracy and Sean already had this project well on its way. Tracy is an artist and author of When the Body Says No- a Learn, Laugh, Love Story. Sean works in geophysics and has written off and on most of his life, truly embracing himself as a writer in the last 4 years. These two leaders and editors have never met. They conspired and created this book through telephone and electronic communication. When I asked Sean if this was difficult, he replied “I think the distance has worked in our favor in the sense that we have had no choice but to be very candid with each other regarding our unique responsibilities and our common goal…I think that everyone who wrote was able to create something worthwhile out of the horrible mess that is MS.”
The book is a collection of poems, short stories and reflections from thirty unique poets, authors and everyday people who all have one thing in common. Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, has affected their lives. Most of the authors are diagnosed with MS, but there are also stories of caregivers and loved ones. From the newly diagnosed to those living with MS for decades, the writers have created a journey that runs the incredibly variable and winding path of symptoms and emotions that are MS. From the inspiring and humorous Aaron Neumann to the soul-searching of Teresa Marie Fristick; contributors share joy, wisdom, sorrow, humor, cynicism and even anger, to breath life into their individual experiences.
I laughed until I cried as I read Laura Kolaczkowski’s foray into the practice of Tai Chi while undergoing tests and ultimately receiving her diagnosis of MS. Conversely, the raw emotion of some selections is hard to read and I found myself occasionally putting the book down, needing time to process my feelings. A word of caution, if you are easily offended, you can pass by the contributions of ‘Pop’. They are marked “explicit content” at the top of the entries, but I did not see this initially. With that said, I encourage you to put aside your societal politeness to brave the writings of this ‘pull no punches’ Vietnam Veteran, husband and father with MS.
This book is an answer to one author’s call to “hear from the real faces of MS”. There are no Olympic Athletes, marathon runners or famous TV personalities between these pages. Instead you will find yourself moved and inspired by everyday heroes who find a way to keep living, loving and moving as much as they can, despite MS. And sometimes, because of MS! These heroes take up their pen (or keyboard) to battle the isolation, the myths and the mysteries while managing to find some treasures and gifts along the way. They have produced this literary fundraiser as way to give back to the National MS Society (NMSS). 100% of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go directly to the NMSS.
If you or someone you know is living with a diagnosis or a suspicion of MS, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Something on our Minds. And please, all of you neurologists and MS specialists out there, I am begging you- read this book! There can be no better reality check for those of you who have spent too much time reading clinical and research studies.