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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME Support for Family & Friends

Author: Elizabeth Turp
Published By: Jessica Kingsley (London)
Pages: 240
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 978 1 84905 141 5

Reviewed by Philip Joy.

As a long-term ME sufferer myself I can recommend this book: in particular its comprehensiveness and accessibility/readability, issues doubtless borne in mind by the author who is a recovered ME sufferer. Although it is not a Christian book, Christians get ME and there is much ignorance about the illness in the churches. The main angle of the book is to be informative. As well as being written for sufferers, its chief intended readership are the perplexed friends, loved ones and carers who find this contradictory illness so hard to understand, yet, who, in the opinion of the author, are the key to management and recovery. It features short headed bullet-style paragraphs, plain advice, case studies and the actual words of sufferers.

Turp proceeds by asking what ME/CFS is from a medical point of view and what are its common symptoms, across a range of severities from mild to bedridden. Rather than getting bogged down in a seminar on causes and current research, she remains practical and a gives a run-down of the common and less common strategies for recovery (in an illness that so far has no cure); she helpfully shows how families and friends can become caught up, systemically, in the illness; also how they can help their loved-one to cope; she offers practical social advice, including matters such as disability rights, mobility, and benefits as well as personal issues like hygiene, nutrition and management. A final chapter on “ten top tips for help” is capped by an excellent appendix on resources, charitable trusts etc. as well as a well populated index.

For the pastor struggling to understand the illness of one of her congregation or for the new sufferer or family to get to grips with the uncertainties that now face them, this book is rather good. It covers pretty well all the relevant angles, with the exception that it does not say much about children with the illness, and that it is a little woolly on the exact medical definitions (CFS being a social descriptor adopted by the authorities to describe a class of symptoms, and ME being the medical name for an illness caused by entero-viral infection). I’m not sure it quite plumbs the depths of the social rejection and disbelief endured by sufferers, not only personal but corporate and governmental – e.g. the pain caused by the current benefits lottery. But it does better than most, and is the only truly comprehensive yet easily readable layman’s guide I have come across.

Of course, it does not cover the experience of Christians surrounding the illness. It has long been my belief that the churches need a book rather like Turp’s, but with the angle of “ME: a guide for pastor and people”: an informative handbook for pulpit and pew, which also addresses the strange disbelief that many Christians sadly still have regarding this ‘yuppie-flu,’ the particular spiritual challenges the illness throws up for sufferers, issues surrounding dodgy healing services and organizations, and the unique situation thrown up by a pastor who goes down with the illness in a denomination with a congregational/associational/central system of church government (my own personal story).

In the absence of such a book, however, Turp’s fulfils one key role: informativeness. In one volume there is enough information to arouse the compassion of believers, offer practical ways for churches to love the sick and for those with frankly medieval opinions to be reconstructed. This will certainly do in the interim!

Philip Joy

Specialist in Old Testament narrative and typology

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You are reading Issue 55 of Ministry Today, published in July 2012.

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