Book Review: The Last Best Cure
(Note: I am not being paid nor otherwise compensated for this review, outside of initially receiving a copy of the book. This review is all for free and completely honest!)
I was sent the new book by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life, and offered to write a review.
I honestly had no idea what to expect, other than some sort of a description of a healing journey. (Those journeys are always interesting in one way or another, and always filled with lessons.) With praise from Andrew Weil and Sylvia Boorstein, amidst others, I was intrigued.
With a jacket-cover intro that begins, "One evening, award-winning science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa found herself lying on the second-floor landing to recover from carrying up a basket of laundry. Years of coping with an autoimmune disease had accustomed her to this kind of time-out.", I was drawn in. I still wasn't sure how it would relate to me and/or what I could learn from it, but I figured it would at least be an interesting read.
But with the rest of the jacket-cover intro continuing, "....she realized she wasn't just tired: she had lost her joy. Her children were growing up while she was spending so much time just navigating her symptoms. She was missing her life ....", I melted into excitement. THIS was the type of story I could relate to, as I'm sure many with or without chronic disease could.
The story follows the author on a year-long journey as she works with a doctor from John Hopkins to explore treatments outside of the traditional methods, not only for her diagnosed conditions but for the missing "something more" in her life - for the lack of joy. Beginning with a plan of meditation training for six months, followed by yoga and bodywork training for six months, Donna soon finds a great deal more to inform her healing.
I am deeply fascinated with this story for many reasons. The primary one? The author is a science journalist. As such, she explores the treatments with an open mind but a scientific bent. Throughout the book, she reports on the measurable medical results of her experiences, from balance to blood cell counts. She does all of this while offering subjective accounts of her journey in a refreshing, honest manner.
We are privy to her inner thoughts as she navigates motherhood on top of countless illnesses, and a healing journey with uncertain outcomes. I laughed often as she shared thoughts that constantly run through my own mind, and longed for a deeper practice as those thoughts began to change from her practice.
Along the way, she is educated on the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences and adult illness. As you might guess, the ACE's (Adverse Childhood Experiences) are challenging and stressful events that happened in childhood.
I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I was to hear the author continuously express her doubts about her own ACE's and how they would relate to her present-day illnesses. Like me (and many with whom I've talked), she considers herself a strong individual who suffered, but has moved on from her childhood traumas. Even as the evidence piles up throughout the book, she reluctantly admits to the connection in her own life. (How often we are willing to admit a reason for others to feel pain, but try to negate in our own lives! How harsh we are with ourselves.)
I truly wish I could outline the entire book for you here, to share all of the information I learned in its pages, to offer you all of the quotes I bookmarked that served as an "aha!" or inspirational moment.
(Seriously, look at all of the pages I marked:)
The closest thing I can do is highly recommend the book. In particular, I recommend it to those who are like me: Open to and fascinated by paths such as meditation and yoga, but deeply steeped in a logic-based background that sometimes makes accepting the practices difficult.
I would also highly recommend it to anyone suffering from chronic diseases, and who are looking for complementary treatments. (The author does continue her medications throughout the practices, though they are drastically reduced by the end.) I only suffer from chronic lower back pain, but could still relate to her journey. In case you are wondering if you might relate on a diagnosis-level, here's a long list of the author's diagnosed initial ailments: Vasovagal syncope, small-fiber sensory neuropathy, Pancytopenia, Von Willebrand disease, Thryroditis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, amidst other symptoms. (Seriously, if this brave woman can heal through all of this, image where you could end up!!)
The book is lengthy and detailed. If you are looking for a light-read, this isn't it. (Though the personal stories shared throughout make it an enjoyable read.) If you aren't interested in the science/medical part of healing, you might find yourself bored by all of the medical details that are shared amidst the mediation and yoga practices, or overwhelmed by the references to the multiple supporting research studies.
Beyond that, it is worth the read. The thorough appendices at the end, including a test for your own ACE score, a daily joy and contentment quiz, and a deeply beneficial list, including references, of ways to find "your own last best cure", make the end of the book alone worth the purchase.
A few final notes, because I can't help but share some quotes from the book: (Pulled randomly from those dozens you see bookmarked above)
- "Being grateful for and acknowledging what's positive in your life is likewise nourishing. People who make it a habit to express gratitude are happier, healthier, and better able to withstand life's downturns. Negativity, on the other hand, borrows from our future. It's another tool in the joy thief's hands." (p.130)
- (Trish Magyari is the meditation instructor) " (Trish) 'Can you give a word to what you are feeling?' she asks. I think about it for a second. I think of being late. My damp pants. My phone ringing, interrupting. ... My hoping I can fix it all. ...A familiar sense of self-flagellation pulses through me. 'Embarrassed?'
'What other descriptive words come to mind?'
'I'm an idiot.' I smile.
'Yes.' I think about that. 'Yes, lots of self-judgment.'
'Try naming what you're feeling and letting it be, and then coming back to the breath.' She closes her eyes again and I close mine...." (p. 60)
You can purchase the book on Amazon and read other reviews HERE.