Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: “Tales from the Throne: Living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis” Laughs and Learnings from the Gutsy Generation

Find out more about "Tales From the Throne" by clicking on the link at the left hand side of the page.

Review written by Dr. Brent MacDonald


Most folks reading this review either have or know someone who has IBD. Those folks would do very well indeed to read “Tales from the Throne” (a title rich in irony and one of the best puns ever!). Indeed, many of the stories in this excellent collection revolve around getting one's tail either on or off a throne - people who design and locate public washrooms would benefit from reading the humorous/ horrifying stories of people with IBD in their searches for appropriate facilities under duress.

The collection of stories from a wide range of individuals who have Crohn’s or colitis elicit alternatively laughter, tears, and, ultimately, a sense of pride. Had this book been around when I was diagnosed in the mid-1980’s, I can assure you that it would have been dog-eared from being read and re-read. (On a side note, I’m not sure if the editors planned it this way, but the stories are just about perfect length to read in a good – uhm – “sitting”). There is fear in almost every story – fear of being ill, fear of having a chronic illness, fear of being caught without a washroom, fear of pain. But, more prevalent, is the overarching theme of strength. The authors of each story, whether they mean to or not, describe a great internal strength. This strength extends to those who support individuals with IBD, particularly family, friends, and health care providers. However, it should be noted that there are also a great number of stores of frustration with these same people, particularly related to beliefs – prior to diagnosis – of malingering; one of the challenges of IBD seems very much to be the non-specific nature of some of the symptoms, which can lead others to assume that the person with IBD is either faking or is stressed out/ anxious.

Not all of the stories are “happy” in the traditional sense (Hollywood would have written a cure for us!), but each vignette provides perspective. It seemed to me that perhaps there might be a wider audience for a set of stories of struggle and so I have placed my copy of the book in the waiting room of my office, where I work predominantly with adolescents and young adults who have a variety of psychological and educational challenges. While most of them do not have IBD, it’s amazing to see them pick up the book out of curiosity (again, give an award to whoever titled it!) and then ask why it’s in my office. As I explain, more often then not, they seem to understand perhaps not the disease, but certainly the experience of not being believed and the value of support. And, kids being kids, anything to do with “bathroom humor” is greatly appreciated!

I could not recommend this book any more highly. The contributors should be very proud of what they have collectively accomplished with this publication. As a long-term “Chronie,” I learned a lot about taking pride in having the disease…if having Crohn’s means that I can in any way be associated with folks like the contributors to this book, then I am proud to have the disease!

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