Rediscovering the Joy of Reading After My Daughter’s Diagnosis

Columnist Lori Dunham finds comfort and wisdom in the pages of a good book

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by Lori Dunham |

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One of the most consistent sources of joy in my life has been reading. So many of my childhood memories are wrapped up in stories. I remember reading my favorite book, “Wendy and the Bullies,” by Nancy K. Robinson, over and over again in the fourth grade. Something about that story captured my heart and emotion. A girl standing up to her bully and succeeding was thrilling to me.

When we were faced with our daughter Grace’s diagnosis of Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, it seemed like all joy had been sucked out of my life. Everything that had once brought me contentment now left me thirsty for something more. Reading was no exception.

Throughout the early days of Grace’s diagnosis, I attempted to escape into the beauty of a story, but the words jumbled in front of my eyes. I would come to the end of a chapter and realize I had no idea what I had just read. So I stopped trying and gave up reaching for a book in my spare time.

Months passed and books I had yearned to read collected dust on my bedside table. Notebooks I’d use to record poignant quotes I’d come across while reading sat unopened. My life was consumed with Grace’s illness and how I could best help her balance life as a teenager with a rare disease.

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Finally, after more than two years, I found myself able to sit in the quiet of the morning and focus on a good story. I was no longer wracked with worry and angst over her health. Little nuggets of joy began to greet me when I cracked a book. I read with a renewed sense of appreciation for all that books bring to my life.

The best books inspire me with the stories they tell. Recently, I have enjoyed reading Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption,” the story of Louis Zamperini, a tenacious man of great determination. At age 19, Zamperini qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the youngest American to do so for the 5,000-meter race. At the Olympics, he finished eighth.

When the United States joined the Allies in World War II, the athlete became an airman and faced harrowing circumstances, including surviving a brutal air assault, crash landing at sea, drifting over a month in a raft, and then being held prisoner until the war ended. His life of determination, endurance, and service was breathtakingly admirable. His story reminds me of hope and survival when facing the most difficult of odds.

Another book I recently enjoyed was “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” by Alfred Lansing, a story about Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. On one expedition, he and his crew are left stranded and decide to embark on a nearly impossible journey of over 850 miles of the South Atlantic’s heaviest seas in order to reach the nearest civilization. This book left me in awe of the sheer resilience of the human spirit and the importance of positivity.

Books have the power to comfort us in times of sorrow. The really good ones show us that we are not alone in our struggles.

What books have brought you joy recently? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia syndrome.


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