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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness



Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan

Rating: ★★★★½ 

I couldn’t put this book down, ripped through it in three days! Cahalan tells the story of her rapid degeneration from an outgoing and successful reporter to unresponsive catatonia, chronicling the bafflement of doctors as to the cause of her condition and her experiences during her treatment. A good chunk of the book was made possible by videos that recorded her behavior during the worst of her symptoms, can’t imagine what it would have been like for her family and friends as she slipped away. Don’t want to spoil too much of the story, but certainly an amazing tale…

Booklist: In this fascinating memoir by a young New York Post reporter previously known for going undercover as a stripper and writing a butt-implant story headlined Rear and Present Danger, Cahalan describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity after an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures. Her divorced parents put aside their differences and rose to the occasion, sitting by her during the month she was confined to the hospital, about which she remembers nothing. Her boyfriend stayed with her, and one wonderful doctor, noticing that she walked and talked like a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient, was determined to get to the bottom of her medical mystery. Luckily, she was insured, because her treatment cost $1 million. Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific and medical information about autoimmune diseases, which are about two-thirds environmental and one-third genetic in origin. So, she writes, an external trigger, such as a sneeze or a toxic apartment, probably combined with a genetic predisposition toward developing aggressive antibodies to create her problem. A compelling health story.