Susan H. McIntyre’s Living in the Theater of the Absurd is an insightful how-to book on living with chronic illness.
McIntyre has many debilitating chronic illness conditions: asthma, fibromyalgia, ADD, arthritis, and 13 other infirmities. She is also a breast cancer survivor. Yet she does not take on the role of victim. Instead, she labels her illnesses “monsters” and the chaos they create the “vortex.” This book is her lighthearted account of how she tries to keep the monsters at bay and takes steps to control the chaos.
In each chapter, she shares her personal experience followed by a list of lessons she has learned in trying to cope, from discovering what triggers a migraine headache; to exercising for osteoporosis; to doing housekeeping chores in new ways; to lifting her spirits by dressing fashionably and sometimes quirky for the routine of daily radiation treatments.
Organization is paramount, as she must keep track of numerous doctors, diagnoses, prescriptions, treatments, appointments — all while she is ill and lacking in energy. She also makes sure she is “always included as a respected member” of her team of doctors. She takes responsibility for carefully observing and evaluating her symptoms and conditions and doing in-depth research both online and in books. And she has learned that she needs “to trust others, but also to trust [her] own judgments and intuition.”
McIntyre is not a Pollyanna; rather she is a masterful manager who sleeps without guilt when she needs to and, despite compromising health problems, considers each day a treasure where she is on a “personal scavenger hunt to find something that [is] good, beautiful, or funny.” For many of her diseases there are no cures, but she says, “I [can] find a cure for my attitude,” and so focuses on things that bring joy and a sense of celebration.
This refreshing documentation of chronic illness provides a useful resource for those who suffer and their loved ones.
Also available in hardcover.