Love Sick: A Memoir
“To anyone who’s ever felt unlovable; forget that, you’re lovable.” This is the opening to Cory Martin’s book Love Sick, detailing the story of her romances while coping with a new diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
We learn about her appearance and character, from her “highlighted blond hair” that falls past her shoulders to her love of poetry and solitude. A picture of her life emerges, from school reports to her studies at Cambridge and subsequent job with a husband-and-wife blockbuster movie team.
Looking on, the numbness which started in her thumb gradually spreads until she can no longer ignore her symptoms or attribute them to vitamin levels or stress. We listen as she contemplates the “reasons for a year-long cycle of pain in my body, numbness that comes and goes but stays longer than it’s away. Memory loss, confusion of words, and other symptoms I’ve been ignoring for far too long.”
The book describes her experiences of taking Valium as she undergoes an MRI scan, likening the experience to an earthquake, “I feel like a fiend, edgy and shaky . . . the people around me don’t know I have taken the drugs.”
Her keenness to hear the results will have to wait a few chapters, though, as she describes her move from a neighborhood of hookers and gunshots to a new place and her mother’s prediction that, “the next time you move, you’re going to be moving into a place with your husband.”
And then the bombshell, four days before her friend’s wedding: “It is likely that you have multiple sclerosis.”
Cory dissolves into tears as she breaks the news to her parents. “It’s okay . . . ,” they reassure her. “We’re gonna get through this.”
In the post-diagnosis phase, she ponders the condition, “MS isn’t like cancer or diabetes or HIV. I didn’t grow up knowing about it.” Her brain starts to ask myriad questions. “Who will marry me now? Can I still have babies? Who will love me forever? Who will take me in his arms and hold me tight?”
As she researches the disease, her excellent writing starts to slip and she falls into depression and melancholy. Initially unable to reach out to friends and family, she keeps up a façade of coping, immersing herself in meditation and trying to rationalize her experiences.
Delving deeper into the possible symptoms, Cory reacts strongly to the possibility of incontinence and sexual dysfunction, developing a new “three-month” dating rule for revealing her condition. As she goes through various dates, she discovers who to trust and who is “not the one” by the way they respond to her illness.
An emotional part of the book is her conversation with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of a presidential candidate, who discovers she has terminal cancer. As Cory looks back on this with hindsight, she describes how her diagnosis changes the way she thinks about others.
Thinking about what she could have said had she known more, understood more at the time, it is this famous lady who leaves a lasting impression, “Sometimes one person comes into your life and has more impact than they’ll ever know. Prayers to the Edwards family.”
As she ponders the effect of her illness, Cory’s childhood wishes come back to haunt her. She remembers the time when she pleaded with God for a cancer diagnosis to give her life “significance” instead of being the “fat kid” at school. And when cysts are found on her thyroid, it seems as if this desire may be coming true. . . .
She decides to go for a test she hopes will be definitive: the lumbar puncture. This will involve an injection into her spine but should confirm MS. After many months of pain and poor sleep, she admits that she has almost ruled out the possibility of the test being negative. “If it’s not MS, then what is it?”
Struggling to come to terms with the unpredictability of the disease, her no-longer-perfect writing skills and the hurtful responses of potential suitors, she realizes what a strength her family is as a constant support in her life.
Gradually she adapts while pressing ahead with her goals and pursuits, “Just like I am a girl who has a loving sister, parents, giant family; I am also a girl who teaches yoga, writes constantly, works hard, loves the outdoors, and dreams of living abroad.”
This is an honest book that does not hesitate in pulling its punches. Packed with emotion, it will leave you turning the pages in anticipation as the story unfolds and we discover whether she has finally found the one who will be her soulmate for the rest of her life.