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  Book Review
The First Year-Multiple Sclerosis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed
by Margaret Blackstone
  Margaret Blackstone is an ideal person to write about the first year of living with MS. Before her diagnosis in 2000, she had already made a name for herself as a medical writer. In this book, she documents her own first-year experience, shares interviews with others in their first year, and provides readers with the important facts for themselves, and for their families, co-workers, and friends.

The material is in chronological order, from the day of diagnosis to the end of the 12th month. Each chapter is divided into two sections: "Living" and "Learning". The first month following diagnosis makes up almost half of the book, underscoring how huge that initial impact is.

Blackstone delivers a truthful but "don't panic" picture of MS, validating and informing about the facts, the fears, and the nuts and bolts of living through each day fully and intelligently. But in her attempt to cover everything--including symptoms, medications, diet, tests, emotions, finances, and insurance--many subjects are given a light once-over.

Before writing this review, I looked back at the first book I read on the subject of MS, after I was diagnosed. On the cover of the book were pictures of four people in wheelchairs and two using Canadian crutches--hardly an uplifting or optimistic view of what the future held for me. The second chapter in this older book had a long discourse on wheelchairs and the pros and cons of different types--again, far from encouraging.

We've come a long way since then, with movie and television stars going public with their MS stories, and drugs that have reliable, if not perfect, track records in slowing the course of the illness. Although I didn't learn anything new from Margaret Blackstone's book, the volume provides a gentle, but realistic, account of dealing with an illness that will be a companion for the rest of your life.

Marlowe & Company, 2002, 232 pp.

For additional information
  Reviewed by Jane Gershaw, a frequent contributor to InsideMS.  
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Last updated February 2006