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What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness - Lessons from a Body in Revolt

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The riveting account of a young journalist’s awakening to chronic illness, weaving together personal story and reporting to shed light on living with an ailment forever. Tessa Miller was an ambitious twentysomething writer in New York City when, on a random fall day, her stomach began to seize up. At first, she toughed it out through searing pain, taking sick days from work The riveting account of a young journalist’s awakening to chronic illness, weaving together personal story and reporting to shed light on living with an ailment forever. Tessa Miller was an ambitious twentysomething writer in New York City when, on a random fall day, her stomach began to seize up. At first, she toughed it out through searing pain, taking sick days from work, unable to leave the bathroom or her bed. But when it became undeniable that something was seriously wrong, Miller gave in to family pressure and went to the hospital—beginning a yearslong nightmare of procedures, misdiagnoses, and life-threatening infections. Once she was finally correctly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Miller faced another battle: accepting that she will never get better. Today, an astonishing three in five adults in the United States suffer from a chronic disease—a percentage expected to rise post-Covid. Whether the illness is arthritis, asthma, Crohn's, diabetes, endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, or any other incurable illness, and whether the sufferer is a colleague, a loved one, or you, these diseases have an impact on just about every one of us. Yet there remains an air of shame and isolation about the topic of chronic sickness. Millions must endure these disorders not only physically but also emotionally, balancing the stress of relationships and work amid the ever-present threat of health complications. Miller segues seamlessly from her dramatic personal experiences into a frank look at the cultural realities (medical, occupational, social) inherent in receiving a lifetime diagnosis. She offers hard-earned wisdom, solidarity, and an ultimately surprising promise of joy for those trying to make sense of it all.


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The riveting account of a young journalist’s awakening to chronic illness, weaving together personal story and reporting to shed light on living with an ailment forever. Tessa Miller was an ambitious twentysomething writer in New York City when, on a random fall day, her stomach began to seize up. At first, she toughed it out through searing pain, taking sick days from work The riveting account of a young journalist’s awakening to chronic illness, weaving together personal story and reporting to shed light on living with an ailment forever. Tessa Miller was an ambitious twentysomething writer in New York City when, on a random fall day, her stomach began to seize up. At first, she toughed it out through searing pain, taking sick days from work, unable to leave the bathroom or her bed. But when it became undeniable that something was seriously wrong, Miller gave in to family pressure and went to the hospital—beginning a yearslong nightmare of procedures, misdiagnoses, and life-threatening infections. Once she was finally correctly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Miller faced another battle: accepting that she will never get better. Today, an astonishing three in five adults in the United States suffer from a chronic disease—a percentage expected to rise post-Covid. Whether the illness is arthritis, asthma, Crohn's, diabetes, endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, or any other incurable illness, and whether the sufferer is a colleague, a loved one, or you, these diseases have an impact on just about every one of us. Yet there remains an air of shame and isolation about the topic of chronic sickness. Millions must endure these disorders not only physically but also emotionally, balancing the stress of relationships and work amid the ever-present threat of health complications. Miller segues seamlessly from her dramatic personal experiences into a frank look at the cultural realities (medical, occupational, social) inherent in receiving a lifetime diagnosis. She offers hard-earned wisdom, solidarity, and an ultimately surprising promise of joy for those trying to make sense of it all.

30 review for What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness - Lessons from a Body in Revolt

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mischenko

    Tessa Miller has written the perfect memoir on chronic disease—one that not only covers her personal story, but one that’s chock-full of research regarding problems with the American medical system, how to find good healthcare, the hurdles often faced with work and relationships, mental health struggles, and many helpful quotes for anyone who deals with chronic health problems—specifically autoimmune disease. This book is written well, and I found her advice helpful. Having a chronic autoimmune Tessa Miller has written the perfect memoir on chronic disease—one that not only covers her personal story, but one that’s chock-full of research regarding problems with the American medical system, how to find good healthcare, the hurdles often faced with work and relationships, mental health struggles, and many helpful quotes for anyone who deals with chronic health problems—specifically autoimmune disease. This book is written well, and I found her advice helpful. Having a chronic autoimmune disease, this book led me to constantly reflect throughout—from beginning to end—with chapter five hitting me the hardest. It’s raw and brought me to tears a few times. Here’s a chronic disease sufferer who’s had multiple traumas, has had problems with control…someone who’s had to face anxiety head on and deal with acceptance of a disease with an unknown prognosis. She’s experienced medical PTSD which isn’t something most doctors even recognize. I became fully aware that I was in a familiar zone here and not alone. I devoured every word. I’m not sure I’ve ever connected with a memoir as much as this one. The biggest takeaway I’m always left with after reading many memoirs is this: this is just one person’s story. It doesn’t make your situation better; in fact, it’s heartbreaking, but I believe it helps one understand the importance of gratitude, hope, and knowing you have what it takes to overcome. It’s hard not to complain when you’re constantly sick, and it’s especially hard when you don’t have anyone to talk to about it, or just a good support system in general. I think it’s stories like Tessa Miller’s that reiterate an important truth often out of sight: none of us are alone. We can also seek the help we need and should never be ashamed of it. There was a section in the book that I found thought-provoking where the author mentions taking advice from others and how it’s processed. I do agree that it’s hard to take advice from others and can be quite irritating when your ill and just downright sick of it all, but it’s something that I always welcome. Had I not been informed about my holistic doctor, I’m not sure where I’d be today as far as my health. Everything I’ve learned has been from others, whether it be books, YouTube, online, or word of mouth. I’ll be more mindful in the future about the advice that I offer to others though, because it isn’t always welcomed, and I think people get overstimulated with it all. This is just one section of the book that really got my brain churning. Overall, I found this book to be inspiring, insightful, and hopeful. This is a good book for all chronic disease sufferers, especially those dealing with Crohn’s Disease and other autoimmune diseases. 5*****

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    This book was amazing and riveting. Tessa Miller is an amazing writer that drew me in to her story and the difficulties of her condition and the struggle to find the right diagnosis. Three in five adults suffer from chronic illness and rising, and Miller deftly writes not only about her personal experiences about her Crohn’s diagnosis, but also writes for anyone that might experience any medical issues that would impact the person as a whole, physically, mentally and socially. The wisdom and sol This book was amazing and riveting. Tessa Miller is an amazing writer that drew me in to her story and the difficulties of her condition and the struggle to find the right diagnosis. Three in five adults suffer from chronic illness and rising, and Miller deftly writes not only about her personal experiences about her Crohn’s diagnosis, but also writes for anyone that might experience any medical issues that would impact the person as a whole, physically, mentally and socially. The wisdom and solidarity she shares bring solace and comfort to all going through this themselves or for their loved ones. I highly recommend this memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cari

    I get to be the first review for this amazing book? Awesome!! This is an absolutely necessary book for public library collections - not only does Tessa Miller share her personal story here, she also provides valuable information about how to navigate the world with a chronic illness. Although I don't have anything as severe as what Miller has - with Crohn's and inflammatory bowel disorder, she's survived multiple traumatic hospital visits - I have a few chronic conditions. My mother-in-law, who r I get to be the first review for this amazing book? Awesome!! This is an absolutely necessary book for public library collections - not only does Tessa Miller share her personal story here, she also provides valuable information about how to navigate the world with a chronic illness. Although I don't have anything as severe as what Miller has - with Crohn's and inflammatory bowel disorder, she's survived multiple traumatic hospital visits - I have a few chronic conditions. My mother-in-law, who recently passed, suffered from several as well, and I could see a lot of her journey in Tessa's words. I wish I'd had this book when my mother-in-law was still alive. There is a lot here, from grieving the lost of your past self to advocating for yourself with doctors to dealing with America's complex and broken health care system. But it is absolutely unputdownable, layered with wit and humor, both a memoir and a manual for living.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    As a Crohn's patient I was especially grateful to Netgalley for sending me this ARC. All opinions represented here are my own and unbiased. I found this book to be an excellent hybrid of memoir and advice. As a fellow Crohn's sufferer, I found the autobiographical content relatable. Not only that, it was articulate and clear about what we and other chronic illness patients go through - I definitely feel that I could give it to someone close to me and they would end up with a much better understan As a Crohn's patient I was especially grateful to Netgalley for sending me this ARC. All opinions represented here are my own and unbiased. I found this book to be an excellent hybrid of memoir and advice. As a fellow Crohn's sufferer, I found the autobiographical content relatable. Not only that, it was articulate and clear about what we and other chronic illness patients go through - I definitely feel that I could give it to someone close to me and they would end up with a much better understanding of my own experience. It also contains a wealth of information that can be useful to someone newly diagnosed and even to some who have been ill for years. I can't wait for this book to come out. I want to buy copies for my close friends and family, as well as others I know who are ill. This is a valuable resource as well as a moving tale of bravery in the face of pain and trauma.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Crohn's disease IBD, both I've heard of but this is the first time I've read about these very serious issues. In a honest, no hold barred way, the author portrays just how devastating these conditions are but how it detailed her life and how she learned to cope. Like many of us with chronic conditions she went through a cycle of incorrect diagnoses, failing treatment options and trial and error medications. I truly admire her strength. She went through a horrendous time. The facts and figure 3.5 Crohn's disease IBD, both I've heard of but this is the first time I've read about these very serious issues. In a honest, no hold barred way, the author portrays just how devastating these conditions are but how it detailed her life and how she learned to cope. Like many of us with chronic conditions she went through a cycle of incorrect diagnoses, failing treatment options and trial and error medications. I truly admire her strength. She went through a horrendous time. The facts and figures she presents on our healthcare, how so little, including mental health is unavailable to those who need it most. So often even if available the cost is prohibitive. This was eye opening for me, I didn't realize how truly awful this is, for so many. She offers us glimpses into her personal life and ultimately offers advice, hope. Advocate for yourself, take care of yourself, your brain, your well being which are all integral to self acceptance, paths forward. As with all chronic diseases, there are many stresses, periods of depression, self doubt but reading her story provides one with commanalities and a shared focus. Much advice is the same as other books on the subject of living with a condition that one learns is never leaving but her story is unique as our conditions are unique to us. ARC from Netgalley.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU: A Life with Chronic Illness - Lessons from a Body in Revolt by Tessa Miller is a really great memoir! Tessa shares her experiences living with Chrohn’s disease. She’s very open about what her body and mind went through upon first diagnosis, through treatment and dealing with work, health insurance and relationships. This book has some very helpful parts including explaining how to find a good doctor and how to be helpful to someone with chronic illness. This is a book that WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU: A Life with Chronic Illness - Lessons from a Body in Revolt by Tessa Miller is a really great memoir! Tessa shares her experiences living with Chrohn’s disease. She’s very open about what her body and mind went through upon first diagnosis, through treatment and dealing with work, health insurance and relationships. This book has some very helpful parts including explaining how to find a good doctor and how to be helpful to someone with chronic illness. This is a book that would be beneficial to anyone who is impacted by chronic illness in any way or who just wants to know more. It’s definitely a complex issue that’s affected by so many different factors but now I feel more knowledgeable about this topic. . Thank you to Henry Holt and Company for my advance review copy!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I was asked to read several ARC's to provide feedback for a local book festival. I probably never would have selected this book to read otherwise, but I'm so glad this story found me. What makes this book remarkable (besides the honesty and trials of the author) is the writer's background in journalism. She can really write. She does in depth research. And, she provides guidance for others who might be in a similar situation. Invaluable. This is a timely story about a young person who discovered I was asked to read several ARC's to provide feedback for a local book festival. I probably never would have selected this book to read otherwise, but I'm so glad this story found me. What makes this book remarkable (besides the honesty and trials of the author) is the writer's background in journalism. She can really write. She does in depth research. And, she provides guidance for others who might be in a similar situation. Invaluable. This is a timely story about a young person who discovered she had a chronic illness in her twenties and had to battle for her life, battle her health insurance carriers, battle her doctors, battle with her self esteem, etc. It's an eye opener for some. For a nation going through a devastating pandemic, many will relate to the hardship of losing your job and your insurance. It exposes once again the deep rooted flaws in the US healthcare system. The expenses of COBRA, the research needed when selecting a ACA plan, the extreme need to protect those with pre-existing conditions, who can apply for Medicare or Medicaid and what the difference is. The need for mental health support and therapy. The costs of prescription drugs and the difficulty obtaining services and medications when you travel or are out of your normal network. How to find a good doctor and how to report abuse. As someone who has a parent who has deftly handled these services & bills in recent years as a nurse caring for a failing spouse, I was somewhat familiar with these issues. But, this book shares so much more and the willingness of the author to share her resources is extremely generous and hard won. The author has Crohn's disease. I have family & some friends with chronic health conditions as well. This book is a valuable read. We need healthcare reform in the US. Highly recommend.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I appreciate the author sharing her struggles with Crohn’s disease, which is widely unknown or misunderstood. The book is hitting too close to home for me to read right now, though. I’ll try again in the future. I received an ARC from NetGalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    A wonderful illustration of not only the decrepit health care system but also the years long suffering of many women in today's world due to chronic illness. In this case she's a young woman, a journalist, a writer, and career inspired female who wanted nothing more than to do her job. Yet, she couldn't partake in such manner until she uncovered the truths to why her body shut down. The fact that her body wasn't working properly was something she knew was wrong yet countless doctor appointments in A wonderful illustration of not only the decrepit health care system but also the years long suffering of many women in today's world due to chronic illness. In this case she's a young woman, a journalist, a writer, and career inspired female who wanted nothing more than to do her job. Yet, she couldn't partake in such manner until she uncovered the truths to why her body shut down. The fact that her body wasn't working properly was something she knew was wrong yet countless doctor appointments informed her she was fine, take meds, and or was sent home. It wasn't until her diagnosis with Crohn's disease that she finally received treatment. What I took away from this was similar to my own situation especially with regards to then seeking employment opportunities and being denied simply for the illnesses described above. I'm vocal about my concerns over our healthcare and after over 20 yrs of misdiagnosis upon myself I know this fear, anxiety, and stress all too well. I'm a patient with chronic illness and auto immune disorders. I have a laundry list of medical concerns including: Pre-diabetic, (recent sinus tachycardia after influenza A), 20 yrs pneumonia with acute bronchitis (finally changed to chronic in med file), non smoker with asthma, mild copd, severe spinal stenosis (requiring major back surgery that was placed on hold for severe anemia (microcytic hypochromic anemia) which requires IV fluids and iron transfusions with b12 injections. In addition, I was never told but located in online med notes of diagnosis of HUS(hemolytic uremic syndrome) which when I questioned the doctors I was then told it was cured. I'm also suffering from vertigo, Raynaud's syndrome (zero blood flow L thumb) which I located ironically during a cat scan for thyroid nodule (benign -3.5 cm in 5 cm space)which was never addressed nor removed beyond initial findings. I've also had heat stroke and due to the factory work resulting in many of my breathing issues from diesel fumes at loading docks I also now suffer from ganglion cyst which was due to chronic repetitive use of my hands to produce enormous amounts of supply in short amounts of time off a conveyor system which resulted in me being struck on my head and knocked to the ground without aid from the 2nd floor with a trolley used to transport material above us which was landed upon my head. I bring this up because like this author I was told I looked great. In fact, my issues would be unknown if you weren't behind closed doors. When I sit I can't stand. When I go home I vomit every two weeks. When I workout my hands swell. When I went for a walk/run/jog on a dike in the cold weather my hands turned white/blue. I had then sought treatment and had to have a warm water immersion test which resulted in occlusive small vessel disease but also Raynaud's yet was told to simply wear a hat, gloves, warm clothes. When I had my legs collapse from working long hours volunteering for three weeks straight to feed the poor at CEO Thanksgiving Project I was told that I was fine by PT. It wasn't until I contacted a spinal surgeon directly, had an MRI performed finally after 30 yrs of pain, and was told of a multitude of issues too numerous for review here including previously mentioned severe spinal stenosis requiring weekly chiropractic care. Now, folks I'm not an alarmist but the repeated pattern with women, healthcare, and lack of credit for concerns or lack of treatment can lead one to reasonably believe in one result. That result is that yes, we need more female doctors and yes, women are in desperate need of proper and accurate medical care. I hope we don't have to keep having discussions like this as I know the end result. I've been on the front lines when my son was life flighted to NICU spending two months upon his birth with Vater syndrome. He too was told he was fine. He too was told he could be fed via baby bottle. He luckily had my mother as his nurse and she knew from her years of experience something wasn't right after his oxygen/sat levels fluctuated. It turns out that upon being life flighted the crew noticed his tube curled in his throat he was later determined to have esophageal atresia. Meaning his throat wasn't one unit from top to bottom. He also had fistulas and pouches as mentioned by this author and an imperforated anus that needed dilation lacking a spinchter among other skeletal abnormalities, kidney/stomach reflux, and much more. Do you know he was removed from social security upon his 18th birthday because he appears fine yet still deals with these medical issues for life? This is the world we live in and it's maddening. When I went to pulmonary I was told I talk fast as a result from my lung test. When I was told I had mild copd I was told I couldn't have it because I'm a non smoker. When I was offered bronchial dilators I was told I needed an emergency inhaler or steroidal inhaler such as BREO. I refused the latter and was given a new prescription for emergency. Sadly, my doctor was so new it was kicked out and unfulfilled because of no paperwork on file with state to secure prescriptions. Therefore, a nurse had to prescribe a simple order for an inhaler. I could tell you horror stories beyond belief but I don't want to fill this review about me but rather thank the author for her continued work on this topic. We have to stay vigilant, we have to demand answers, we must seek justice. Thank you for this ARC in both digital and print.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    "What Doesn't Kill You" is a fiercely honest and brilliantly researched memoir detailing journalist Tessa Miller's body, mind, and heart-wrenching experience being diagnosed with a Crohn's disease in her early 20s while living in New York City. I have been a fan of Miller's writing for many years and looked forward to reading her first book, which did not disappoint. This is an essential read for anyone who is dealing with a chronic illness themselves or has a loved one who has been diagnosed, b "What Doesn't Kill You" is a fiercely honest and brilliantly researched memoir detailing journalist Tessa Miller's body, mind, and heart-wrenching experience being diagnosed with a Crohn's disease in her early 20s while living in New York City. I have been a fan of Miller's writing for many years and looked forward to reading her first book, which did not disappoint. This is an essential read for anyone who is dealing with a chronic illness themselves or has a loved one who has been diagnosed, because, as Miller explains, "There's very little public dialogue about chronic illness—we're brought up to believe sickness either goes away or kills you. But what about the space in between, where it does neither? Six in ten Americans exist within that space, living with at least one chronic condition, yet it's rarely talked about outside of a doctor's office or hush-hush support groups." As with all well-written memoirs, I think "What Doesn't Kill You" will also be enjoyable for readers not affected by chronic illness. Miller uses her experience to explain how she learned (and is still learning) to manage things that affect nearly all humans, healthy or otherwise, including work/life boundaries, independence, anger, anxiety, stress, control, self-blame, body-image, and complicated interpersonal relationships. Miller's writing is sharp and vividly descriptive. She is able to weaves deeply personal stories from her life seamlessly with her medical journey. Being a journalist, I was not surprised that Miller includes a substantial amount of research (with footnotes and appendix) and interviews covering essential topics related to chronic illness management and care—the convoluted American health care system, mental health assistance, patient advocacy, support groups. Though full of harrowing details that are sometimes difficult to read, or even imagine, Miller’s book is also full of hope and gratitude, the deepest kind that comes from having something completely upend your body, mind, and soul. She beautifully shares, “Illness and infection brought me close to death more than once, but each time I returned with one devastating thought: I want to live. Not just that, I want to notice when and how I’m alive. I’m still learning many of the lessons in this book, some of which will take an entire life’s work to grasp. What mattes to me is no perfection but practice. I’m proud that I haven’t let incurable illness coarsen my heart to the good things this world has to offer—instead it opened me up to kindness, humor and connection.” I highly recommend Tessa Miller's first book for fans of "Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness" by Susannah Cahalan, "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed, and "The Rules Do Not Apply" by Ariel Levy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Knittyb

    I was really excited to read this book and then disappointed. It feels sort of mean to rate a memoir poorly, but I want people know what they’re getting. This books is mostly ‘educational’ and not memoir. I’m not sure who it’s targeted at, maybe newly diagnosed people or more their families? A lot of it seems to repeat all the ‘so you’ve been diagnosed with x’ blogs/pamphlets/Instagram posts I’ve seen over the past seven years (since my own diagnosis with lupus). If I see “you’re not unreliable, I was really excited to read this book and then disappointed. It feels sort of mean to rate a memoir poorly, but I want people know what they’re getting. This books is mostly ‘educational’ and not memoir. I’m not sure who it’s targeted at, maybe newly diagnosed people or more their families? A lot of it seems to repeat all the ‘so you’ve been diagnosed with x’ blogs/pamphlets/Instagram posts I’ve seen over the past seven years (since my own diagnosis with lupus). If I see “you’re not unreliable, your illness is” one more time... But here’s what really bugs me: there is A LOT of what I categorize as ‘illness as journey’. That is, you’ve been sick, or hospitalized, or nearly died- but now you know what’s REALLY important in life and focus on the positive. For example, a quote from Miller, “After life-threatening illness and extended hospital stays, something shifted. I was grateful to be alive, sure, but it was more than that. I sensed the sun on my skin as I had thousands of times before but now noticed and appreciated its warmth.” If that’s your jam, you’ll like this. Otherwise, you may want to steer clear.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    What Doesn’t Kill You by Tessa Miller is a chronic illness memoir. The author has Crohn’s Disease, like I do, but like many chronic illnesses, our symptoms and treatment paths are completely different. I did find this one leaning heavily on her experience in US healthcare and her persistent infections with C. Diff, neither of which I have personally experienced. She also goes a lot into her own personal history with abuse and the affects that had on her mental health during this experience as we What Doesn’t Kill You by Tessa Miller is a chronic illness memoir. The author has Crohn’s Disease, like I do, but like many chronic illnesses, our symptoms and treatment paths are completely different. I did find this one leaning heavily on her experience in US healthcare and her persistent infections with C. Diff, neither of which I have personally experienced. She also goes a lot into her own personal history with abuse and the affects that had on her mental health during this experience as well, which was very personal to her. So if you are reading this as a primer on Crohn’s, you’ll get some great information, especially if you are a US patient. But you will also get a lot of personal chapters that you would expect from a memoir. Having Crohn’s can feel isolating as most people don’t love much “bathroom” talk so I appreciate anyone willing to share their story so I can feel a little less alone.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This is a powerful memoir about author and journalist Tessa Miller suddenly developing Crohn's Disease in her early twenties. Miller doesn't hold back. Things get sh*tty and then sh*ttier. Miller's prose is evocative and vulnerable and open and she engages with disability theory and also gives practical advice for disabled and chronically ill folk. I will be recommending this a lot this year. Content warning for sexual abuse. This is a powerful memoir about author and journalist Tessa Miller suddenly developing Crohn's Disease in her early twenties. Miller doesn't hold back. Things get sh*tty and then sh*ttier. Miller's prose is evocative and vulnerable and open and she engages with disability theory and also gives practical advice for disabled and chronically ill folk. I will be recommending this a lot this year. Content warning for sexual abuse.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holstrom

    Tessa Miller writes in such a candid way about all the shit she's gone through with Crohn's and other diseases/infections/horrifying experiences. I am in awe of her strength. Tessa Miller writes in such a candid way about all the shit she's gone through with Crohn's and other diseases/infections/horrifying experiences. I am in awe of her strength.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review. Trigger/Content Warnings: Graphic depiction of bodily functions, medical trauma, medical PTSD, sexual assault, detailed hospital visits Chapter Length: ~15-20 pages; there are endnotes with the research citations at the end of each chapter. This book is brutally honest in its portrayal of chronic illness. Tessa Miller makes you feel her pain, physical and emotional, along with her. The pages are filled wi Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review. Trigger/Content Warnings: Graphic depiction of bodily functions, medical trauma, medical PTSD, sexual assault, detailed hospital visits Chapter Length: ~15-20 pages; there are endnotes with the research citations at the end of each chapter. This book is brutally honest in its portrayal of chronic illness. Tessa Miller makes you feel her pain, physical and emotional, along with her. The pages are filled with her own experience with Crohn's mixed with social and political commentary on how fucked up it is to be sick in the United States. And if you didn't understand that before, she provides drug prices without insurance to make the point hit harder (I honestly loved that bit). Ultimately, if you don't get how much chronically ill and disabled people are shit on in the U.S., then you never will. There were moments were I wanted to hug Miller. I felt such a kinship when she had complicated feelings surrounding her relationships with her family. I wanted to cry for her with each C.dif diagnosis, fully knowing it was just another thing to add to an already tired body. It's rough to read such a story when you know the psychological effects yet another diagnosis adds. At the end of the book, I felt like Miller was working on healing herself. It wasn't preachy or "live laugh love"; I don't think anyone with chronic illness can find healing with such platitudes. Instead, it was filled with reality, honesty, and scientific backing which we love to read when dealing with long-term illness.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary G.

    Without warning, Tessa Miller's life changed forever. It started with a stomach cramp, then days of horrible pain and hours spent in the bathroom, and finally hospitalization. From there, it's a journey of tests, procedures, misdiagnoses, incompetent and condescending doctors, and the uncertainty that things will ever improve. After being diagnosed with Crohn's disease, Tessa is forced to confront the idea that her life will never be the same and figure out how to accept her chronic illness. Tess Without warning, Tessa Miller's life changed forever. It started with a stomach cramp, then days of horrible pain and hours spent in the bathroom, and finally hospitalization. From there, it's a journey of tests, procedures, misdiagnoses, incompetent and condescending doctors, and the uncertainty that things will ever improve. After being diagnosed with Crohn's disease, Tessa is forced to confront the idea that her life will never be the same and figure out how to accept her chronic illness. Tessa's honesty about her condition makes this book a must-read - she gives an unflinching and raw account of her experience with the disease, including multiple bouts with C. difficile, a notoriously terrible infection. She tells it like it is - the good and the bad - and I could not put the book down. You can tell she is a great journalist and storyteller. I also appreciated Tessa's emphasis on the mental health changes that come with chronic disease. But despite the darkness of her story, she adds plenty of light to the narrative. We see how her illness has helped her say no to the things she doesn't value, to live her life on her own terms, and to find joy in the good days. And she's not alone - the book contains quotations from lots of people in the chronic disease community about their gratitude in daily life. If you suffer from chronic illness, this book has a lot of useful advice on how to deal with your job, your insurance, your doctors, and your family and loved ones. As a family member and friend to multiple people with chronic illnesses, I highly recommend this book to others looking to better understand the life-changing nature of chronic illness. Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. for providing an ARC on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    Speaking from her past & present as a chronically ill person (with IBD and Crohn’s), Tessa Miller put together a memoir with guidance for the newly diagnosed, offering a tool to help the able-bodied learn how to best serve the needs of an ailing loved one, or the disabled community at large. I’m sure most of us already know that as it stands in the U.S. the health and social systems we have in place were Not meant to help those who need the most from either. Miller’s struggle to get care when she Speaking from her past & present as a chronically ill person (with IBD and Crohn’s), Tessa Miller put together a memoir with guidance for the newly diagnosed, offering a tool to help the able-bodied learn how to best serve the needs of an ailing loved one, or the disabled community at large. I’m sure most of us already know that as it stands in the U.S. the health and social systems we have in place were Not meant to help those who need the most from either. Miller’s struggle to get care when she was at her most sick isn’t even the most dire example she presented here. At the end of the day, though it took time for her to learn how to best advocate for herself, flying in the face of arrogant doctors who don’t believe her or try dismiss her symptoms as due to stress or flagging mental health— and then don’t choose to treat her for either— Miller could have had it so much worse. She could mostly rely on her family for support, she could take off time from work when she had to be hospitalized, her insurance was expensive but allowed her to afford treatments. And yet, what an exhausting & unfair existence. She details when she left NYC (where she’d been living, working, and being treated for a decade) early in the pandemic and had to make endless phone calls in order to seek the right approval to receive her IV medication near where she was staying in a new state. And that example is an aside to the fear of COVID, during a period when she didn’t have a flare-up, or any secondary infections. When her life was threatened with a recurrence of C-Diff and the FDA had installed stiff regulations on the stool transplant that had previously saved her, Miller had to push even harder to get what she needed, even with both a family donor and a doctor she could trust by her side. I loved how she also went out of her way to point readers towards the expertise of others by including additional titles that can & should be turned to for more detail on healthcare, the mistreatment of Black citizens, mental health, etc. This is for anyone hoping to start educating themself on how the reality of disabled living and how to push for progress.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mcguire

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review. Trigger Warning: If you have experienced any rough days in the hospital be warned that some chapters will be especially difficult to finish. For me this was chapter 8. The book contains some graphic descriptions of difficult procedures from the author's perspective. Despite its often grim subject matter, Miller manages to keep a good sense of humor throughout the book and weave in enough wisdom to make Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review. Trigger Warning: If you have experienced any rough days in the hospital be warned that some chapters will be especially difficult to finish. For me this was chapter 8. The book contains some graphic descriptions of difficult procedures from the author's perspective. Despite its often grim subject matter, Miller manages to keep a good sense of humor throughout the book and weave in enough wisdom to make this a must-read. This eye-opening memoir is an important read for those living with chronic illness. It will also help those not living with chronic illnesses to understand better the life of those who do. The sections on maintaining mental health are universally important reminders. All of us will have to deal with grief, anxiety, or guilt at some point. I found myself hooked on reading about Miller's journey. The book provides tips for being the best friend for your friends living with chronic illness including how to be supportive and what to say. Simply telling your friend with Chron's that you read this book to learn about their experience will be very powerful. The last few chapters are important reminders for the role that gratitude can play in your life. The last chapter combines quotes from Miller's friends with chronic illness explaining the joy they find in life as a collective it gets better message.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ramona Mead

    First off, if you have a chronic illness this book will probably re-traumatize you. That's not saying you shouldn't read it - you definitely should - it's a warning, so you can be prepared. This is one of the most complete and honest illness memoirs I've read. It's only part memoir, the other component is a guidebook for those living with a chronic illness. Tessa beautifully weaves her own narrative with anecdotes and facts about the health care system. She covers everything from racial and sexu First off, if you have a chronic illness this book will probably re-traumatize you. That's not saying you shouldn't read it - you definitely should - it's a warning, so you can be prepared. This is one of the most complete and honest illness memoirs I've read. It's only part memoir, the other component is a guidebook for those living with a chronic illness. Tessa beautifully weaves her own narrative with anecdotes and facts about the health care system. She covers everything from racial and sexual discrimination in medicine to how to tell your boss you are ill to how to have boundaries with your family and everything in between. Tessa's writing is raw and honest, bordering on crude but in the most necessary way. She is transparent and vulnerable with her reader when it comes to sharing the intimate details of her life with Chron's Disease and before. She addresses heavy topics with dark humor. She covers not only her physical health but mental health, romantic relationships, family dynamics, death and grief. This is an important, powerful book, though it isn't an easy read at times. I highly recommend it for readers of memoir and those looking for support and guidance in regard to chronic illness. Many thanks to NetGalley for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is such a powerful read! Miller shares her own experience with chronic illness while sharing information on the American healthcare system, finding a good therapist, and ways to support your friends who experience chronic illness. She alternates sharing her life regarding her diagnoses, her dating life, and how much her life changed over time as well as helpful information on everything from sex with a chronic I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is such a powerful read! Miller shares her own experience with chronic illness while sharing information on the American healthcare system, finding a good therapist, and ways to support your friends who experience chronic illness. She alternates sharing her life regarding her diagnoses, her dating life, and how much her life changed over time as well as helpful information on everything from sex with a chronic illness to how a racist and fatphobic medical system underserves so many people. Miller is open and vulnerable talking about how poor her care was at times and how awful she felt physically and mentally. She dives into the difficulties of having a failing body and how isolating fear can be. She's also very honest about her relationship with her mother, how that impacted her recovery, and he relationship with her at the time boyfriend. It's such a heartfelt and compelling read! For those experiencing chronic illness, especially at a young age, it's a reminder that you're not alone with tips on finding good mental health supports. For those who want to support friends and improve the American healthcare system this book offers examples. It's both a harrowing and beautiful read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    What Doesn't Kill You is an insightful, moving memoir about the author's experience living with Crohn's disease. A number of people in my life have been affected by Crohn's, so it was especially moving to read about Miller's experience and helpful to learn the ways in which I can be more supportive of people who suffer from chronic illness. Divided into sections, Miller details how her diagnosis affected various parts of her life: her work, her relationships, and her own self-worth. Her observati What Doesn't Kill You is an insightful, moving memoir about the author's experience living with Crohn's disease. A number of people in my life have been affected by Crohn's, so it was especially moving to read about Miller's experience and helpful to learn the ways in which I can be more supportive of people who suffer from chronic illness. Divided into sections, Miller details how her diagnosis affected various parts of her life: her work, her relationships, and her own self-worth. Her observations are honest and profound. And her insights on America's broken healthcare system that puts chronically ill patients through the ringer was particularly powerful. Miller does a fantastic job of defining chronic illness and helping the reader understand the life-altering ramifications of being diagnosed with one. She accounts for the physical effects, of course, but she also gives great attention to the emotional toll these conditions can have, and how critical it is for patients to prioritize their mental health as well as their physical health. Overall, a heartfelt account from a really strong writer about a seldom-discussed topic.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

    What Doesn’t Kill You is an unapologetically honest memoir about living with a chronic illness. Miller writes with grace and keeps a sense of humor as she explains her experiences living with Crohn’s disease. Through constant pain, she deals with the uphill struggles of trying to find the right doctors, misdiagnoses, and fighting with health insurance carriers. Miller details how her diagnosis has affected her personal life: her career, family, relationships, mental health and how she eventually What Doesn’t Kill You is an unapologetically honest memoir about living with a chronic illness. Miller writes with grace and keeps a sense of humor as she explains her experiences living with Crohn’s disease. Through constant pain, she deals with the uphill struggles of trying to find the right doctors, misdiagnoses, and fighting with health insurance carriers. Miller details how her diagnosis has affected her personal life: her career, family, relationships, mental health and how she eventually came to terms with her diagnosis. Miller’s candor is refreshing. She acknowledges her privilege as a cis, white, young woman and touches on the discrimination that others face in healthcare. Throughout the book, Miller also shares valuable, well-researched resources and data about our failing healthcare system and how to navigate it. Although I don’t have Crohn’s disease, I was able to relate to Miller’s writing on a personal level. Today, three in five adults in the US suffer from a chronic disease and those numbers are expected to rise post-COVID. This is a highly informative, brilliantly insightful memoir and I highly recommend. 🌻

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness-Lessons from a Body in Revolt by Tessa Miller is an excellent, very informative book. This book is both a memoir and a guide on how to navigate that world. Miller makes us aware that along with the disease, there are also psychological, social and economic problems associated with it. Miller was Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness-Lessons from a Body in Revolt by Tessa Miller is an excellent, very informative book. This book is both a memoir and a guide on how to navigate that world. Miller makes us aware that along with the disease, there are also psychological, social and economic problems associated with it. Miller was in her twenties and living in New York when she experienced searing stomach pain for the first time. Ultimately Miller was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, but it was a long process that took many years including lots of procedures and misdiagnoses along the way. There is a huge market for this book. In the United States, three out of five adults have an incurable, or chronic, illness. I recommend it, especially for those who are chronically ill themselves or are dealing with a chronically ill person. One of the most important lessons you will take away is that the American health care system can be very difficult to navigate and that you need to become a strong advocate for yourself in order to get the proper diagnosis and care.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Kellenberger

    An eye-opening account about life with IBD. Tessa Miller's does not hold back with her descriptions of life with illness and what it means to be sick. It's very graphic and very honest, and I think every Spoonie can relate in some way to this book, whether you suffer from Crohn's, UC, or other types of painful invisible illnesses. I love seeing other Spoonies succeed and tell their story. It's so important that we have the opportunity to do this because when we share our stories, we're not only An eye-opening account about life with IBD. Tessa Miller's does not hold back with her descriptions of life with illness and what it means to be sick. It's very graphic and very honest, and I think every Spoonie can relate in some way to this book, whether you suffer from Crohn's, UC, or other types of painful invisible illnesses. I love seeing other Spoonies succeed and tell their story. It's so important that we have the opportunity to do this because when we share our stories, we're not only benefiting from the cathartic process of telling our own story, but we are most definitely benefiting others who will almost certainly learn they are not alone. What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness - Lessons from a Body in Revolt is part memoir and part self-help. I like that she includes practical tips, advice, and resources for living with chronic illness, and she hits every point a Spoonie would want other folks to know. I'll add some of my favorite points later, but for now, I'd like to say that if you're someone who suffers from IBD or you know someone who has IBD, or you're someone who has a loved one in your life who is living with pain and invisible illness, this might be a great read for you!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Longley

    I knew this book would be well-written and educational going in, but I didn’t anticipate how much it would hit me to my core. I am not chronically ill, but Tessa does an incredible job conveying the experiences of someone who is (as well as they can possibly be conveyed without direct experience - as an able bodied person, I can never truly understand). And while it’s written through the lens of chronic illness, the lessons on empathy, society, relationships, and mental health are truly applicabl I knew this book would be well-written and educational going in, but I didn’t anticipate how much it would hit me to my core. I am not chronically ill, but Tessa does an incredible job conveying the experiences of someone who is (as well as they can possibly be conveyed without direct experience - as an able bodied person, I can never truly understand). And while it’s written through the lens of chronic illness, the lessons on empathy, society, relationships, and mental health are truly applicable to all. Each of us has a role to play in making the world a better, more accessible place, and What Doesn’t Kill You offers actionable guidance on how you can help. So whether you know someone who suffers from chronic illness, anxiety, grief, stress, or trauma from abuse or are simply curious about any of these very common, very human afflictions, I highly recommend you read this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    I thought it was fitting to close out one of the crappiest years on record with a memoir that tackles crap, literally and figuratively. Before I read Miller's book, I had a basic understanding of Crohn's Disease. Reading about her experiences left me aghast. She has been through the wringer and back. I learned about fecal transplants and a stool bank (now I have heard everything). Not just a memoir, but she shares tips on surviving a chronic illness from many different angles. I have much empath I thought it was fitting to close out one of the crappiest years on record with a memoir that tackles crap, literally and figuratively. Before I read Miller's book, I had a basic understanding of Crohn's Disease. Reading about her experiences left me aghast. She has been through the wringer and back. I learned about fecal transplants and a stool bank (now I have heard everything). Not just a memoir, but she shares tips on surviving a chronic illness from many different angles. I have much empathy for the author and her suffering. She did have a tendency to pontificate quite a bit about healthcare and other issues, which I skimmed over. Overall, it's an enlightening read. Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt for the advance read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    From an early story of a male doctor questioning whether the author was actually bleeding from her rectum and couldn't it possibly just be her period, I knew that I would be all in on this book (seriously men, I promise we can tell the difference between our rectums and vaginas). Having been diagnosed with Crohn's colitis about a year and a half ago, this book was everything I needed. Part memoir, part how-to manual, part social commentary, Tessa Miller has drafted a book that is a must-read for From an early story of a male doctor questioning whether the author was actually bleeding from her rectum and couldn't it possibly just be her period, I knew that I would be all in on this book (seriously men, I promise we can tell the difference between our rectums and vaginas). Having been diagnosed with Crohn's colitis about a year and a half ago, this book was everything I needed. Part memoir, part how-to manual, part social commentary, Tessa Miller has drafted a book that is a must-read for anyone dealing with a chronic illness and the people who love them. Having had so many experiences as the author (including the already mentioned "are you sure it's not just your period?" from a male doctor), this book really forced me to address a lot of personal feelings on my diagnosis I have been suppressing. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for the ARC.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Oertel

    Thank you, Tessa for writing this book. I really needed it, and I think it's going to help a lot of people - especially if those without chronic illness can read it and learn how to support us in the best ways. You mentioned anticipating some negative reviews for the "political" parts, but I found those to be some of the strongest points in the book. If more people are aware of how much additional preventable suffering we (and especially BIPOC and other marginalized groups) go through with our i Thank you, Tessa for writing this book. I really needed it, and I think it's going to help a lot of people - especially if those without chronic illness can read it and learn how to support us in the best ways. You mentioned anticipating some negative reviews for the "political" parts, but I found those to be some of the strongest points in the book. If more people are aware of how much additional preventable suffering we (and especially BIPOC and other marginalized groups) go through with our illnesses because of our political and health care systems in the U.S. maybe we can finally see some changes? Ultimately this affects all of us, and I'm grateful for you sharing your story, and our story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    books_by_bethany

    Tessa Miller recounts her life living with Crohn’s Disease, and sheds light of the difficulties of living with a chronic illness. This book is different from other non-fiction that I have read, being that it is part memoir and part informational text. I was most interested in Miller’s personal story of her life living with Crohn’s Disease, so these portions of the novel were my favorite parts to read. The book is thoroughly researched and provides extensive information, along with additional reso Tessa Miller recounts her life living with Crohn’s Disease, and sheds light of the difficulties of living with a chronic illness. This book is different from other non-fiction that I have read, being that it is part memoir and part informational text. I was most interested in Miller’s personal story of her life living with Crohn’s Disease, so these portions of the novel were my favorite parts to read. The book is thoroughly researched and provides extensive information, along with additional resources in the appendix. As someone who also deals with a chronic condition, so much of this novel resonated with me, and I truly appreciate Tessa Miller for sharing not only her her battle with Crohn’s disease, but the other hardships and obstacles she has overcome throughout her life. Thank you to Henry Holt and Co. for my gifted copy of this book!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Philip Manougian

    The biggest takeaway I have from this book, of many positive takeaways, is why and how to appreciate what I do have and how to look forward with optimism and anticipation of the positives in life. That's hard to convey to a reader, but Tessa manages it. She mentions in the book that on occasions she makes successes through sheer spite of being told she can't do something. It feels as though life, in some ways, is trying to tell her she can't live normally, can't live fully, and through sheer spi The biggest takeaway I have from this book, of many positive takeaways, is why and how to appreciate what I do have and how to look forward with optimism and anticipation of the positives in life. That's hard to convey to a reader, but Tessa manages it. She mentions in the book that on occasions she makes successes through sheer spite of being told she can't do something. It feels as though life, in some ways, is trying to tell her she can't live normally, can't live fully, and through sheer spite is succeeding wildly at that and will continue to do so. The mentality is rubbing off on me and it gives me hope for myself and others. This book is worth the time invested, and on more than one read-through.

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