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Sick: A Memoir, by Porochista Khakpour.

June 24, 2018

Sick: A Memoir
Sick: A Memoir, by Porochista Khakpour.  HarperCollins, 2018.


4 stars

The narrative of a Iranian American writer about her experience with lyme disease, her difficulty getting it diagnosed and treated and strange ways in which she felt its life-changing impact.

Porochista Khakpour was born in Iran in 1978 to wealthy, educated parents who supported the Shah.  Not able to survive his overthrow, thefamily left Iran while their daughter was still a toddler.  They moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles but her father was an academic whose credentials never provided him with the kind of position he had had in Iran.  Porochista showed her creative ability at an early age, but describes herself as never “at home in her body.”  She went east for college and began a career as a writer and college teacher. Her extraordinary writing ability allowed her to get residences and jobs, but she was chronically attacked by undiagnosed symptoms that threatened both her mind and her body.  Friends and lovers helped her and doctors could track what was happened physically, but no one knew how to end her problems.  Finally she was diagnosed with lyme disease by an eclectic group of doctors and healers in Santa Fe.  Although she was able to teach and write for several years, a car accident left her with a concussion which, in turn, triggered a severe relapse of lyme disease.  As she states in her book, she has no idea what role her illness will have in her future.

The power of Khakpour’s book is her ability to describe the agonizing, confusing details of her disease.  Lyme disease is one of a growing number of severe problems which continue to baffle the medical profession.  Because these diseases and syndromes challenge the neat lines between mind/body, mental/physical, they have been labeled dismissively as “only emotional” and not adequately treated.  Khakpour shows us that such a disease must be taken seriously.  Her symptoms were concrete enough for the medical profession to take try to help her, but they offered little assistance. For Khakpour to give voice to what it means to have such a disease  may help promote the research and respect that these illnesses demand.  I hope so.

Sick is not a happy book. It is far too honest be cheerful.  But Khakpour herself remains a determined and resilient individual, despite her illness.  That in itself makes reading this book a positive experience.  I recommend it to other readers, especially any readers who have dealt with poorly diagnosed illnesses.

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