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The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  1,131 ratings  ·  296 reviews
Sarah Ramey recounts the decade-long saga of how a seemingly minor illness in her senior year of college turned into a prolonged and elusive condition that destroyed her health but that doctors couldn't diagnose or treat. Worse, as they failed to cure her, they hinted that her devastating symptoms were psychological.

The Lady's Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a memoi
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 17th 2020 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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May 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
I just read all 411 pages of this excruciating book and my only motivation for finishing it was to tell people how awful it is with more authority. Here's my rant. I can't imagine how this got published, honestly. In fact, it is so bad that I have written my first review on Goodreads since it was acquired by Amazon, just in case any of my friends were thinking of reading it.

I love sickness memoirs. At their best, they help me put what is happening to my body in a political, philosophical, and sp
My feelings about this book swung wildly from incredible to wtf real quick. As a memoir of someone with chronic illness Part I of this book is a great impactful read. I empathise with Sarah Ramey as her health worsens, and she deals with a terrible capitalist healthcare system. The medical trauma in her account is horrifying, and yet believable. I can picture several people I've worked with who would fit right in as the awful unprofessional biased doctors she had the misery of dealing with. I wa ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't want to get too hyperbolic here but this is life-changing. As a woman with a "mysterious" illness it'll make you feel seen and heard but also I hope it'll be eye-opening for others regardless. It's sometimes hard to read when it feels like parts of it are telling your own life and experience back to you, but it is reaffirming and she frames those experiences so beautifully and meaningfully. I feel grateful that she even put so much of this experience into words. And it'll make you frustr ...more
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
Woman: I have chronic pain

Sexist doctor: *kingly flourish* I diagnose you with... HYSTERIA






S.D.: I'll refer you to a proctologist to have that uterus checked out.

Woman: What--

S.D.: Try not to cry your womanly tears all over the floor on the way out.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars

"We are women with mysterious illnesses, and we are everywhere".

As a person that has multiple chronic illnesses, I knew I had to read this book. When I was 17, I went to my GP and gave her a list of my symptoms and asked her if I could have endometriosis. She said I was too young but sent me for more testing. Over the next 7 years I was passed round many different specialists and doctors, at one point being told I had a brain tumour...only for a month later being told that I actually didn
As someone who lives with chronic pain that has a specific reason, I can only imagine what chronic pain without a diagnosis is like. Sarah Ramey tells the whole truth here, without flinching, and calls every person to really listen to her story. It isn't for the faint of heart but, then again, I suppose that is the point: that not a one of us is faint of heart and we would do well to pay attention to each other. An important, essential book.

*I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGal
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In February, before the COVID-19 pandemic really hit the United States, I had a kidney infection. I had never had one before. For four days I suffered through intense, often stabbing pains. I did all my usual things: extra tea, extra sleep, curling into the fetal position and breathing when I could. Until I realized I had a fever, it didn't occur to me that I might need to seek medical attention.

You see, for me, this type of pain is normal. Wrapping around myself, maybe a few Advils, and trying
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book sounded so fascinating but I got so distracted by

The writing style

Which was there for a reason

I'm sure

But I found it so odd

As I did the repetition

And repetition

And repetition

Are women routinely ignored by doctors? Absolutely. Should doctors be given more education and training to listen? To empathize? To think about the body as a whole? Yes. Absolutely yes.

This book.

Means well.

But is not as engaging as it thinks it is.
Laura Sackton
I have so many mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, this is an incredibly powerful memoir about a woman who struggled for a decade to get doctors to take her illness seriously. She recounts the unbelievable trauma doctors caused her, over and over, as they treated her as if she was simply making up the severe symptoms of her chronic illness. It's horrifying and harrowing and a scathing and necessary critique of our broken medical system, and especially the way it fails women.

But her a
Apr 02, 2021 rated it did not like it
This book is a MESS.

I picked it up because I have a lot of friends who are in the depths of a mysterious illness -- friends who are in pain, who are fatigued, who are multiply allergic, who have chronic digestive problems, who are struggling to get through each and every day. I assumed it would be a handbook FOR THE AUTHOR'S mysterious illness, and that it might provide some insight into ways I could support my friends.

For the first 40% or so of the book, that's pretty much what it is. Sarah R
Nina Brown
My heart ached for Ms. Ramey, and I believe she was sick. I believe medical science is failing people like her. That said, ohmygosh, am I the only one that couldn't bear the obtusely privileged, sanctimonious, and self-aggrandizing tone of this book?

I didn't find her style witty, I found it imprudent and rambling. I was so excited to hear about her compendium of experiences from interviews with women who have mysterious illnesses, but it's all about her and it sounds like low self-esteem, person
Feb 28, 2020 marked it as to-be-continued
I’ve been MIA on goodreads for a while, not only is the world in mayhem but my own illnesses have been ravaging my body as of late. I haven’t read as much recently, but I desperately need this book right now. Finding people who understand you is sometimes the best medicine.


YES!! This book sounds like it could have been written about me, which is just a reminder that way too many women experience gas lighting and blatant dismissal from doctors. I can’t wait to read this.
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book. Phew. Reading it was an experience.

Ramey has suffered for many years from a mysterious illness, and she identifies her crowd of women with mysterious illnesses as WOMIs, a term that pops up frequently in the book. Along with Ramey's recollections of the pain she's been through, she also describes the epidemic of WOMIdom that is rampant in society, complete with levels 1-5. Ramey's strong grasp of medicine and research underlies her writing, and her exploration of the techniques that c
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book really resonated with me. Two years ago I developed a mysterious illness that caused me to be in pain whenever I would eat. I've been given a couple of diagnoses that are mentioned in the book (IBS, SIBO), but no one has ever been able to tell my why I got sick or how I can get better. I've seen a lot of doctors, tried a lot medications, and cut out a lot of foods I loved, and all I can say is that two years
Ashlee Bree
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, arcs, memoirs
"BuT. YoU. LoOk. FiNe."

How many different ways have you thought, spoken, or applied these words to someone else? How often have they assaulted your own ears? Tormented you in private? Cropped up again and again throughout your life to spiral you into frustration then into disappointment in seconds?

How many times have you heard them launch from the mouths of the people you love, the strangers you've only just met, the doctors who have no definitive answers, no diagnoses as of yet, or the friend
As someone who suffers from fibromyalgia (and suffers from shame of having to admit it) this book spoke to me on a deep level. Her story is horrifying. The pain and abuse she lived with at the hands of her health providers is appalling. The first 50% of the book is a memoir about her life with debilitating pain. Honestly when I got to the halfway point of the book, I was about to abandon it bc I just couldn’t handle reading one more near death setback, but then she changed course and started wri ...more
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hard to rate - I want everyone to read this book, despite its flaws. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who's been to a doctor and was told you're fine, it's all in your head, it's just stress, only for the condition to worsen overtime until they prescribe antidepressants, you difficult patient, you.

This is especially for people (and friends and family of people) who've had 3 or more of the following: IBS/IBD, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid, fibromyalgia, post-treatment Lyme disease, hormon
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This memoir occasionally had me wishing it would soon be over, not only for me, but for the author herself, so that she would finally be free from pain. But this is not a happy ending kind of book, and you know that going in. This is a "here is a large dose of reality" kind of book. It is not lost on me that I found it difficult to endure over the course of several days, but the author lived these infuriating hardships for over a decade.
The structure, while paging through the book, may look lik
Elise Musicant
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
When every step forward pushes you back two, how do you continue? When every doctor thinks you’re hysterical and every medication makes you sick, when the pain keeps you in bed, how do you carry on?

Through the author’s journey, we learn about many new topics in medical conversations, such as the gut microbiome and cortisol levels. We also learn more about humanity, sexism, and womanhood.

This story is not for the faint of heart. There are painful medical conditions and procedures described, and
Petra Kirstein
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: petra-read
Everyone should read this!
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I saw that this book was coming out on 3/17, I couldn't get it fast enough. (Thanks again, Doubleday!) My daughter & I have both been struggling with a lot of the same "invisible" & "mysterious" illnesses that many Dr's straight up refuse to properly diagnose (I gained 30 lbs in a matter of 2 yrs with no dietary changes or lack of activity, & it took 3 Dr's for one to finally do the right blood work only to find out that I have Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroid, on top of my already diagnosed ...more
Kelly Long
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.
As a WOMI, this book was intriguing to me. The author's experience of trying to find the correct diagnosis and answers must have been incredibly frustrating. The fact that doctors and specialists don't know or understand what is going on is very relatable.
Ariel ✨
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sarah Ramey brings readers in for a very personal look at her captivating, heart-wrenching, page-turning, enraging health journey with her mysterious illness. Her vulnerability is a gift to us all, but especially those of us who suffer from mysterious, unexplained ailments doctors continually choose to ignore or explain away with diagnoses that have nothing to do with our bodies.

This gets four stars instead of five because of the very Gender Studies 101 way Ramey goes about describing "the masc
Alicia Bayer
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I finished this book several months ago and had a review written on one of my blogs that I was waiting to publish near to the publication date. Then I got waylaid by my own viral illness in the spring and the review sat in the drafts as I worked on recovery and read other books. When I first read it, I was really wrapped up in it and enjoyed it. While I don't agree with all of the conclusions Ramey comes to in terms of healing, those are mostly on the nutrition front and only in some ways. (I he ...more
Bethany Bendtsen
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for supplying me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. In the early pages of The Lady's Handbook for Her mysterious illness, Ramey recalls how a normal twenty-something life was upended by a UTI from hell--one that nearly killed her and led to six months of IV antibiotics. This UTI is the trigger for Ramey's fall "down the rabbit hole" from healthy woman to full-blown medical mystery. I found Ramey's telling of her medical struggles and the result ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books
I have no words for what this book means to me. As someone with multiple autoimmune diseases, it is often hard to explain how I feel and have people believe me. I struggled with the western medical system for years to get a diagnosis and help. And then I turned to functional medicine when I was still sick after being passed around from doctor to doctor, eventually getting diagnosed with SIBO (which the first and second GI should have caught).

This book was written for me, a Woman of Mysterious I
Kara Goulet
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You know it's an amazing & worthwhile book when you find yourself wanting to highlight nearly every sentence. You know it's great when you want to tell every person you meet "you have got to read this. It'll blow your mind!" I think just about everyone knows at least 1 person with an invisible illness, one where their body just won't cooperate. Sara manages to hold up a mirror and shine a light on these ailments, to make connections that make sense, and describes the difficulties & shortcomings ...more
Bonnie Goldberg
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I tend toward the hyperbolic so it is hard to know what to say about this book to capture its extreme erudition, startling intelligence, raw emotion, laugh out loud humour and general common senseness without sounding over the top. While you may think a "vago-recto-colo page turner" (author's words, not mine) is not for you, you'd be wrong. This is for women with mysterious illnesses, the friends and family who love them, and just generally for any woman who has felt belittled and silenced by th ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it liked it
i really liked the parts of this book that i read. i had to skim a bunch because it felt like there was just too much non-edited stream of consciousness and i was more interested in reading about her symptoms and her interactions with her doctors and how she was managing. those parts were excellent, especially towards the end. she has been through hell and i admire her for her strength and stamina.
Heather Fineisen
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
A highly readable account of the Author's journey through the wastelands of mysterious medical diagnosis. Especially relevant to those with said illness. This gives a personal face to chronic illness that is easy to relate to. Diagnosis and treatments are outlined with the Author's colorful commentary and wit.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
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