After all, we are both “in this together.”
Friday, October 9, 2015
Book Review: "In This Together" by Ann Romney
I just finished reading Ann Romney's book called “In This Together.” Mrs. Romney was diagnosed with MS back in 1998, but you might know her better as the presidential candidate/Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s wife. After reading this book, I now think of Mitt as Ann’s husband.
If ever there was a woman who was the complete opposite of me, it would be Ann Romney. She has five children, I am childless by choice. She is a Mormon, and I am a Unitarian/Humanist. She gets tremendous value from being a homemaker; I prefer the corporate project management world where I don’t have to cook. She is a Republican, I am not. She’s comfortable with horses, I am not. She prays; I meditate.
However, our stories with multiple sclerosis are very similar. We were diagnosed within a year of each other, and experienced some of the same frustrations of trying to get diagnosed in the late 1990s. Both of us were told by our neurologists just to wait and see if the disease gets worse because the doctors didn’t know about, understand, or trust the medications that were available.
While we waited for progression, we both second-guessed ourselves wondering what we had done wrong to cause our problems. We also believed that our self-worth was tied to what we did as opposed to who we were, so our self-esteem plummeted as fatigue took over our lives and we found ourselves doing so much less. Now, we are both in remission, but still have recurring fatigue.
I guess it was about halfway through the book that I realized that multiple sclerosis became a great equalizer. Two women (me, Ann) who appear to be completely different in experiences and interests, turn out to have a common ground in the experience with Multiple Sclerosis. I suspect that if I ever have a chance to meet her for tea, we’d talk for hours. After all, we are both “in this together.”
I will confess that because of our differences, I was expecting to hate this book. Instead, I loved it. I found myself reading for hours, which surprised me because reading is very difficult for me right now. She is so honest about her struggles that I was brought to tears in a few places. I cheered when she, too, came to the realization that our value is not in what we do, but rather in who we are.
She shares stories of other people who have inspired her, including Paralympians, healers, others who have been through life altering experiences like burns from an airplane crash, friends with brain cancer. All through the book, she recognizes how blessed she is and how lucky she is to have such a strong faith and supportive husband. She isn’t “preachy,” just sharing her experience and story, which I appreciated. The title of the book was inspired by her strong partnership with her husband, and they have truly been "in this together."
All proceeds from this book will be donated to the Ann RomneyCenter for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which was opened last October. I recently had the opportunity to ask her why she is supporting a center for MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, brain tumors, and Alzheimer’s instead of just MS. Her doctor, Dr. Weiner, and a colleague, Dr. Selkoe, discovered similarities in the brain functions (or malfunctions) between these diseases. They realized that rather than a stove-pipe approach to researching these diseases individually, a collaborative approach would be more successful. By combining forces, they would increase opportunities for funding and cross-pollination of research. The five diseases were chosen because of the overlapping relationships between each of these diseases. “The mechanisms in one disease exist in the others,” says Dr. Weiner. All these diseases, including brain tumors, are related to regulatory cells (T-cells).
I think this is an exciting idea, to work collaboratively with other similar disease researchers. It gives me hope, and maintaining hope is one of Ann’s suggestions for coping with this disease.
at 12:55:00 PM