Joyce (Joy) is a 16 year old high school student who likes parties, boys, and all the typical things teenagers enjoy. She is living her life, doing well in school, and making plans for university, when suddenly her body and mind start revolting against her. Joy is then thrown into a dizzying array of unexplainable symptoms which doctors do not seem to have any knowledge about. Joy and her Aunt, Beth, visit numerous doctors throughout all of the UK and each one gives a different answer: moody teenager, depression, ME. But nothing seems to make total sense, and nothing offers Joy that full relief. As the days progress into months, Aunt Beth takes matters into her own hands. She does some research and discovers that these symptoms align with Lyme’s Disease (a chronic illness caused by the bite of an infected tick). It is not until Aunt Beth and Joy take the route of private medicine that this in finally uncovered and Joy is able to begin her journey back towards full health.
I met the author, Morven-May MacCallum this past summer at the Ness Book Fest in Inverness, Scotland. The seminar she helped to lead was entitled “Writing and Health.” The general theme being how writing can be a powerful tool towards bringing awareness to various health struggles and also can be therapeutic towards the one suffering the physical, emotional, and mental consequences of illness.
Truthfully, I did not know much about Lyme’s Disease before this seminar nor was I entirely particularly interested, but I was drawn to the general theme. I am a writer myself and having suffered from an unexplainable illness for over a year, I do know how isolating it can be. Writing can be a very powerful tool to make one feel like they are still connected to the larger world out there and to put on paper or on computer screen their deeper thoughts and feelings of when they are in and out of doctor’s rooms.
Although Morven’s book centres primarily around Lyme’s Disease and its co-infections, the general style of the book which addresses issues such as how someone feels to be ill for so long, how illness does not just affect the patient but their family and friends as well, and how to be more sensitive and compassionate to someone undergoing testing and treatment, can be helpful to anyone undergoing a serious illness.
Joy’s story is one that sadly all too many people of different ages and backgrounds are experiencing. Not being totally taken seriously by medical professionals, being misunderstood as “lazy” or “unmotivated” when there is actually something physically wrong, and feeling helpless due to being so unwell. This is a great book that is a wonderful play on words. Finding Joy is about finding the true person whom disease and illness threatens to take away from us as well as finding joy even amidst the various trials and hardships we may face in life due to ill health. This book is definitely worth a read if you are working in the health or disability sector.