Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand

Author:
Julie Rehmeyer
Publisher:
Rodale Books
Category:
Health

This book appeared in Advance Copy, a column in which NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here. Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not indicate NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions. To join the discussion or submit your book, visit Advance Copy.

Julie Rehmeyer felt like she was going to the desert to die.

Julie fully expected to be breathing at the end of the trip ― but driving into Death Valley felt like giving up, surrendering. She’d spent years battling a mysterious illness so extreme that she often couldn’t turn over in her bed. The top specialists in the world were powerless to help, and research on her disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, was at a near standstill.

Having exhausted the plausible ideas, Julie turned to an implausible one. Going against both her instincts and her training as a science journalist and mathematician, she followed the advice of strangers she’d met on the Internet. Their theory ― that mold in her home and possessions was making her sick ― struck her as wacky pseudoscience. But they had recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome as severe as hers.

To test the theory that toxic mold was making her sick, Julie drove into the desert alone, leaving behind everything she owned. She wasn’t even certain she was well enough to take care of herself once she was there. She felt stripped not only of the life she’d known, but any future she could imagine.

With only her scientific savvy, investigative journalism skills, and dog, Frances, to rely on, Julie carved out her own path to wellness ― and uncovered how shocking scientific neglect and misconduct had forced her and millions of others to go it alone. In stunning prose, she describes how her illness transformed her understanding of science, medicine, and spirituality. Through the Shadowlands brings scientific authority to a misunderstood disease and spins an incredible and compelling story of tenacity, resourcefulness, acceptance, and love.

September 19, 2017

Drexel University Online