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on April 20, 2013
I was amazed by this book. Compelling, well written, brutally honest, I couldn't put it down. It is also informative, as Cahalan did considerable research about the brain, and included some of it in some very accessible notes. There is a genuine feeling of suspense and fear, as doctors struggle to discover what is wrong with this strange patient while Cahalan's family struggle to support her, while dealing with their own fears, and terrors. I can't recommend this book enough.
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on January 15, 2014
Not to discount her experience, however, the book was not well written. The pace is very slow. I have difficulty getting through it and stopped reading it.
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on February 18, 2016
I read this book and was heavily drawn to the fact about autoimmune disorders. I feel alone with my auto immune disorder accepting what has been said to me by my family doctor and top Skin Specialist re Jerry Shapiro who diagnosed me. He has an office in Vancouver, BC and a large one in New York? My autoimmune disorder is complete body hair loss which began at age 13 with quarter size scalp hair loss that would continue to move around my scalp by growing in and a new one appearing elsewhere but always having one somewhere on my scalp. I still had hair on the rest of my body till age 50 years. Larger chunks of hair began falling out with the onset of perimenopause. When the wind blew I would usually hold my hand on that side of my head. I began complete menopause at exactly age 50 whereas I no longer had to shave my legs or armpits. By age 51 I was hairless with a bit of side hair fuzz on the sides of my scalp. I was referred to Jerry Shapiro. The Top Skin Specialist in the Country. I was told I had an auto immune disorder re Male Pattern Baldness just before age 51. I have received Kenaloga Steroid treatment now for 8 years on a monthly basis or every 4-6 weeks. I am now age 59 as of Sept 26th, 2015. I have had to use Minoxidol Foam and Clobetasol which is rubbed into the scalp daily. I have no eyebrows and received monthly injections of those as well which encouraged my bottom eye lashes to grow. I do not have top eyelashes. This year I have nearly quit all treatment. The pain I have endured each month plus the heavy headaches have made me feel that I should stop all treatment. At least until I read this book of yours Susannah Cahalan. I was shocked to read about your autoimmune disorder. I had never heard of another individual having a disorder similar in the sense that yours attacked your brain. I have been reading and re-reading your book in the hope that I can find an answer to my own auto immune disorder. Since reading your own and horrified personal journey I am convinced that there must be other treatment for me. However I am at loss of where to start? My diagnosis of male pattern baldness is not correct as I have complete body hair loss. I am beyond frustrated by this and considering the choice of stopping all treatment. My family doctor tells me constantly that it is stress whereas I do not agree. I feel differently after reading your book with 30 pages left to read as I keep going back and re reading everything you had/have experienced. There has to be some kind of answer to my monthly Kenalog steroid injections whereas 80 injections is the most I have received in one sitting. I feel tho that I have lost hope to ever have hair again even if it's white. I used to have a beautiful head of long red hair. I have 4 siblings with me being the youngest who all have a thick head of hair. I just do not understand my diagnosis and nor do I agree with the professionals. I will continue to search for an answer but I want you, Susannah Cahalan to know that it is your own personal story that has encouraged me to do so. Thank you for sharing your personal story. I came across your book only because a friend encouraged me to read it as her highly intelligent daughter had read it completely on a long airplane flight. Plus I enjoy a well written book like yours has been. I am sure you have given hope to many people with sharing your well written personal story.
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on June 25, 2015
I really enjoyed this book and I had my eye on it for a pretty long time. I knew it would be something I'd enjoy, especially because it's a memoir, which means that these terrible and amazing things that happened throughout the book are fact, not fiction.

Brain on Fire is the story of Susannah Cahalan's mystery story of a rare illness. No one knows what is happening to her but family, friends and doctors can tell that there is something going on. But what is it? Test result, after test result come back negative but Susannah's mental and psychical state is becoming worse and doctors can't find anything wrong with her. Throughout the month Susannah becomes someone else. This is a story of Susannah's and her close friends difficult journey when her brain was on fire.

Yes, I'll admit that some of the language, like the medical terminology and statistics did overwhelm at times and I had to read this book little by little, however I still really enjoying it.

Reading about memoirs fascinate me. The stories of people's lives interest me and especially those who have such a different lifestyle and/or growing up story than myself. Let's just say I love to know how the other side lives. I like to know how other people are doing from their point of view. It's just so interesting to me. Or just the fact that I like to know everything.

Susannah does a great job telling it how it was from what she gathered in researching her month of madness. Detailed of when her brain was on fire, which I believe when writing the story was hard for her to tell the whole world "embarrassing" details. But she did and for the most part, from how the story goes, she did it to spread the word and to help other people who went through this or for the people who know someone going through something similar or perhaps the same thing.

Even though this book is about the terrible state of a mystery disease Susannah went through there was a light in the tunnel by the end of the book. It was a great touch how Susannah gave some up-to-date statistics of how known the disease is now and the expected recovery numbers and so on.

I really think that this story captures Susannah's state of madness real and personal. I recommend this book to readers who already enjoyed mental illness, mystery, memoirs and/or moving stories. Even if it's not your type of book, read it because this is such an amazing story.

Here's a video of Susannah talking about her illness: I urge that if you don't want to know what she has before reading the book to only watch to about the 3 minute mark. However, even if you know what she was diagnoses with, the journey of her story is something to read.

Original review:
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on May 7, 2014
I read this book for a book club I belong to.

What a story. A true story of a woman's fight (the author) with a little known diesease called anti-NMDA-receptor autoimmune encephalitis. Look it up for a full explanation of what it is. We went through her syptoms as they developed. We went through fears and worries as she stayed in hospital. We went through her recovery and return to society.

The author did a great job with controlling our emotions. The story took me down with her descent into madness as the disease took control of her life. Then she lifted us up with her miraculous diagnosis and recovery.

I liked how the author did not feel sorry for herself. She did wonder about why it happened to her and why she was so lucky to survive it.

The author did a good job of revealing her character in the book. This was critical to the story as the disease altered her character while it was developing. It could have altered her forever.

The book was easy to read and kept me engrossed. The chapters were short so I could read little bits of it here and there. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
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Story Description:
Simon & Schuster|August 6, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4516-2138-9
An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery. BRAIN ON FIRE is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her idenity.
When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life; at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?
In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. "A fascinating look at the disease that...could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life" (People). BRAIN ON FIRE is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.
My Review:
Susannah's story is almost unbelievable, but it is real. It just shows how complex our brains really are and how quickly something unexpected can happen. During her month into hell, I wasn't sure she was going to make it out the other end. If it hadn't been for the dedication and devotion of one specific doctor she most likely would have lost her mind forever and never regained her self.
The story was riveting to say the least and kept me glued to my seat. The medical jargon was explained in layman's terms so it was easy to understand exactly what was going on with Susannah each step of the way.
I would highly recommend this book to friends and relatives.
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on July 12, 2013
This book is a great read, not only does Susannah relive her experience but you can tell she did a lot of research on what happened to her during her "month of madness". By showing the emotion everyone felt around her during this time its almost like you were there too.
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on March 21, 2013
I kept thinking what if this had happened to me!

True story from which I learned a lot about health and love.

I recommend it!
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on March 9, 2016
I was really hoping for a little more from this book, I suppose. The writing seemed almost as disjointed as the illness...maybe that was the point? Because the author was the patient, I was hoping that the research of how others were responding to the illness, their thoughts and fears, the doctor's journey of discovery, etc. might have been a little more fleshed out. The last chapters on prognosis and resolution were very informative, though!
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on February 3, 2014
A well written book on a very interesting premise. Insightful, succinct and educative account of a crippling disease of the mind and the patience's odyssey back to normalcy. True to life and helpful stories like Susannah Cahalan's Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, and other Janvier Chando's educative story The Grandmothers, help give us strength and hope in life.
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