Release Date: September 10, 2019 / Support your local indie bookstore by purchasing a copy here!
Can’t really say why I’ve been avoiding medical memoirs lately, but this one…..well, this one got in my face, in my head and simply wouldn’t be denied. After losing his mother to a brain tumor while he was an undergrad, David Fajgenbaum committed himself to becoming a doctor. He wanted to fight back against cancer, however while in medical school, he found himself feeling extremely tired, his lymph nodes were swollen and other symptoms began to develop as well. Doctors suspected lymphoma or other blood cancer, but this was not a positive diagnosis. With lightning speed, he became sicker and sicker: pain, nausea, massive fluid retention, organ failure, ICU, not expected to live, saying good-bye to friends and family. Then, just as unexpectedly, his condition stabilizes and he’s released from the hospital, only to relapse soon after. Finally a diagnosis, and it is not lymphoma. Good news. Rather, it was HHV-8-negative, idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease, and he had to google that one. Almost invariably fatal with death occurring from multiple organ failure an average of one year after diagnosis. So his illness had a name, but little else, and it was certainly not good news. David was to suffer five near-death experiences from organ failure.
Castleman disease is one of many orphan diseases, orphaned because they are so rare that study and research for a cure does not come with enough bang for the buck. Maybe one researcher somewhere, maybe not. Maybe one study, maybe not. And David’s illness, as an additional complication, is a variation of this hothouse orchid of a disease, not just your “everyday” version. So, here, readers, is where the story lies. David – Dr. Fajgenbaum – chasing his cure. Around bouts of his dreadful illness, he finishes medical school, but rather than going into a residency program afterward, he goes for an MBA. He’s going to need business as well as medical savvy because, by now, he has learned how research programs work, and time is critically short. He realizes he’s going to have to find his own cure, probably through off-label use of drugs already FDA-approved for other illnesses. You will be astounded by this young man’s story and by his insightful look at the state of medical research. Everybody, thumbs up and a standing O. Good job all the way around, Dr. Fajgenbaum.
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group / Ballantine Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.