While in graduate school, I moved away from pleasure reading while in because any time spent reading for fun was taking away from research and writing. It was a bad habit/mindset I allowed myself to fall into and wanting to change. In order to shift into reading more books again, I am trying to read and review one book a month that relates to the blog’s theme. January is about finding ways to make small improvements with a chronic illness, so it made sense to review Lisa A. Sniderman’s book A Light in the Darkness.
Lisa details her journey through the diagnosis, coping with a chronic illness and the roadblocks the illness places before her. Lisa also highlights the importance of making simple changes as a means of healing and coping with the illness. I rather enjoyed reading Lisa’s story and hopefully you will take the opportunity to do so as well.
Note: I was approached to review this book, though I received no compensation to do so. All links are unaffiliated and I receive no monetary benefit
Title: A Light in the Darkness
Author: Lisa A. Sniderman
Date Published: 2018
Publisher: Crimson Cloak Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Inspirational
An inspirational memoir, A Light in the Darkness begins with Lisa detailing her experience with art and music as a creative outlet. An environmental scientist by day, Lisa took to embracing a musical career outside of work after divorcing her first husband. Music takes on a greater role in her life, though she has to contend with the impact and roadblocks a chronic illness diagnosis brings with it.
Lisa jumps right in with her diagnosis story, which she acknowledges her luck in getting an immediate diagnosis, something many contending with a chronic illness takes years to get. Diagnosed with Dermatomyositis (DM) a skin and muscle autoimmune disease that presents with rashes, muscle weakness, and in Lisa’s case, fatigue.
As is the case with many people coping with an autoimmune disease, Lisa writes about trying to hide the symptoms and effects of her disease until it’s impossible to do so. The DM forces Lisa to spend weeks in the hospital and in physical therapy to heal and recover from the toll the illness takes on her body. Even after all the time spent recovering, Lisa acknowledges that she struggles to find the appropriate balance between life/work and effectively managing her illness.
The illness forces Lisa to take a step back and re-evaluate what she considers failure and success for her life. As is the case for many coping with a chronic illness, DM causes an identity crisis for Lisa. Once a successful scientist with a busy music career, she must re-evaluate how to manage life with a walker, wheelchair, and fatigue on her worst days. Lisa’s perception of her identity and abilities had to change with her DM getting in the way.
In the chapter “Facing your Fears,” Lisa really gets self-reflective about her personal concerns and fears in her own life. Expressing universal fears, Lisa talks about her fear of failure and rejection. She additionally reflects upon the fears that come from dealing with a chronic illness, particularly when going public with it. The concerns of missing opportunities because people are afraid that she won’t be able to take them or will she only receive sympathy from others, preventing her from earning the respect she deserves for her work?
When Lisa eventually goes public with her DM, the reception she gets is overwhelming. She provides fans an opportunity to connect with her over her chronic illness and the chance to see someone managing the illness while finding professional success. Her original fears are not realized and instead she sees new opportunities to provide others a “light in the darkness” when it comes to chronic illness.
Throughout this autobiographical book, Lisa provides her thoughts, wisdom, and experiences dealing with her DM. At the end, the reader can find important bits of advice, self-reflective questions to ask themselves, and resources for those dealing with a chronic illness.
Thoughts and Recommendation
A Light in the Darkness is a wonderful read for anyone newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, not just those dealing with DM. Lisa details her fears, concerns, setbacks, and victories in an accessible manner for those questioning and scared about what is happening to them. I found a lot of what she experienced mirrored my own journey with my MS diagnosis.
I really appreciate that she focuses on what we’re working on this year at the MS Mommy Blog: the importance of healing and shifting perspective in light of a chronic illness. Lisa did not see her illness as a roadblock to her own life goals, though she did experience self-doubt like we all do, but as an opportunity to help others in a direction she did not previously anticipate.
There was a lot of myself in Lisa’s journey which helped me connect with her book on a deeper level: she initially wanted to avoid using medication; hide the external manifestations of the illness from others; not allow the illness to stop her from her current professional trajectory; and finally, learning that accepting the illness wasn’t an admission of defeat, but an opportunity to grow even more.
I enjoyed the inclusion of photos throughout the book, as it also provides a way for Lisa to connect with the reader. She lays bare her whole journey in these photos: the initial rash, the rehabilitation, the toll the DM takes on her body when she cannot eat; all of these photos provide the reader a chance to see similarities in their own chronic illness.
Lisa’s prose sustains the reader’s interest through this quick read. There are times where she gets a little bogged down on some repetitive details, but it isn’t enough to turn the reader off. Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of her journey: her diagnosis, coping with the illness, limitations experienced, her success, support, inspiration, and her current life’s direction.
Mixed in the book are her words of wisdom on how to approach a chronic illness. She reminds readers to listen to what their bodies tell them; accepting ourselves as we are; not comparing ourselves to others; learning to appropriately balance our lives with illness management; and most importantly, taking the time to alter our perspective away from what we aren’t able to do but what we can do.
It is clear throughout the book that music played a huge role in learning how to manage her illness. Lisa promotes the idea that through art can come healing, no matter what medium a person chooses to express themselves.
I highly recommend A Light in the Darkness for a newly diagnosed person with an autoimmune/chronic illness, thought Lisa’s inspirational stories and frank discussion makes the book accessible to someone at any point in their chronic illness journey. The book provides points of connection between Lisa and the reader, showing the reader that while their journey is unique they are not alone in taking it. A Light in the Darkness is truly a light in the darkness of chronic illness.
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Featured photo credit: Lisa Sniderman and Crimson Cloak Publishing