Jarem Sawatsky is an American Professor of Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies who is living with Huntington’s Disease which has affected many members of his family before him. This book is about how he learned to accept his prognosis, and not live in fear of it, but rather to dance with the ‘Elephant in the room’. The author imparts his learnings on how to accept the changes to his mind, body and soul and endeavours to help the reader do the same.
Jarem gives many tools about how to live life fully, how to learn to live with debilitating health issues and to plan for the future – especially for families. It encourages people to think deeply about life, especially in the face of health uncertainty and gives ideas on how to learn to live with the problems not make issues worse when they arise. However, whilst many extol its virtues, I should imagine there are plenty of others who would find many of the ideologies behind his teachings, hard to get along with. Jarem is a very strong believer in Christianity, and that features very heavily behind his ideas on mindfulness – for anyone without a strong faith, it might be a bit trickier to find a way to embrace his viewpoint. For example, there is one section where he asks us to imagine we are in our last 3 minutes of life, and gives us a religious based poem to repeat in order to help have a peaceful death, however this would clearly only work for those that have strong faith.
Regardless of your faith or lack of it, there are still elements of this book which could be really helpful to anyone with a terminal diagnosis, either for themselves or for a loved one. The overarching theme of the book is about seeing things from a different perspective, turning negatives into positives and to find ways to appreciate the joy for the life that is left. Sawatsky writes in a humorous style with lots of interesting stories along the way. Although it is definitely a book where an open mind will help, Jarem and friends manage to speak from the heart in a way which can be both inspiring and joyful.
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