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Friday, December 20, 2013

Rain on a Distant Roof: A Personal Journey Through Lyme Disease in Canada

The following book is being offered to one lucky winner as part of the Cookie's Book Club Annual Christmas Giveaway, beginning Saturday, December 21.

Rain on a Distant Roof: A Personal Journey 
Through Lyme Disease in Canada
By Vanessa Farnsworth
(1 e-book and 1 hardcopy available)

About the Book

By 2020, it’s estimated that more than 80 percent of the population of eastern Canada will be living in regions that are endemic for Lyme disease and the numbers of infections are expected to soar. Yet what remains unknown about this debilitating illness continues to trump what is known, placing the health of Canadians increasingly at risk.

Rain on a Distant Roof uses the latest in scientific and medical research to explore the considerable challenges that have placed Lyme disease at the center of the most fractious debate in modern medicine. Those challenges include the inability of doctors to properly diagnose the illness, the absence of reliable medical tests, the reliance on controversial treatment guidelines, and a public health response that is, at best, problematic.

Along the way, readers are introduced to the bizarrely intelligent bacterium at the root of the Lyme disease – a bacterium so strange that scientists describe it in terms normally reserved for the creatures found only in science fiction - by the author, whose own terrifying battle with the disease unfolds before the reader’s eyes.

This groundbreaking book, a compelling mixture of biography and scientific discovery, is a must-read for anyone who spends time in nature or even their own backyard.

Book Excerpt

My husband suggests that maybe swinging by the hospital might be a good idea.
Swinging by the hospital is never a good idea.
I’ve been to that emergency room enough times in the preceding months to know that my problems will be greeted with malignant disinterest and I’ll be told:
a) That my illness, though manifesting in my body, is really all in my head.
b) That I’m overreacting to a simple case of the flu.
c) That emergency services are meant for patients more worthy than me.
I can’t stand the thought of having yet another doctor push me out the door having done no more than the minimum the law requires. Or worse. To be faced with a doctor who has already failed me.
I decide to sleep the whole thing off, but my husband is growing increasingly concerned so he goes off to phone a nurse. He describes the stiff eyes and the even stiffer neck, the high fevers, the skull-cracking headache, the aching joints, and the profound fatigue.
The nurse tells him to call an ambulance. The situation is urgent.
I cry. I plead. I can’t go back to that emergency room again and I’m determined that my wishes aren’t going to be overridden by some disembodied voice that clearly has no experience trying to get healthcare from the godforsaken horror show that passes for the local hospital.
I’m adamant about this. I won’t change my mind. Don’t even try me.
I don’t remember much after that, only fragmentary images with no context to anchor them.
A magnetic attraction to the hospital floor.
The pain of a needle breeching a vein.
Bright lights being shone in my eyes over and over and over again.
I remember all of this from above as I look down at the body on the bed, not quite connecting it to me, and I recall thinking that it no longer matters whether I live or die. Nothing matters anymore.
But then maybe that’s just the sort of thing people think when the morphine finally kicks in.
A Week Later
They decide to keep me. Lucky me.
I’m wheeled from the emergency room in the middle of the night and placed in a room alongside a morbidly obese patient who sleeps twenty hours a day and snores loud enough to trigger earthquakes two continents away.
Someone arrives to wake me up at regular intervals.
This really isn’t necessary. The non-stop snoring ensures I won’t be sleeping anytime soon.
Snort. Snort. Bluster. Snort. It’s like lying next to a chainsaw with a faulty motor.
It occurs to me that this is what hospital administrators do to patients who can’t take a hint. If a patient keeps coming back to the hospital after doctors have repeatedly dismissed her then they have no choice but to torture her in an effort to make sure that she will never, ever feel the need to come back again.
I feel like a character in a Stephen King novel.
The setting contributes to this feeling. The walls are painted a color that can best be described as drab and the window blinds — which are inexplicably embedded between two panes of glass — are broken, preventing them from being moved from their present position, which is partially raised yet slightly askew. The bed is a ramshackle disaster of technology that I can easily imagine being a cast-off from another, better hospital when it updated its furnishings forty years ago. And just to complete the horror-story effect, the hospital’s power goes out several times one day, forcing the back-up generators to kick in and noisily expel stale air from the vents.
Again and again and again.
I half-expect a machete-wielding lunatic to burst into my room. I’m only vaguely surprised when this doesn’t happen.
Or maybe it does; it’s not like I would remember.
I’m in the hospital for more than a week, but my memory of that time is fragmentary, disjointed, as though someone loaded a random set of slides into a projector and is flashing them on a screen inside my brain without providing any narrative glue.

Slide 1.
Someone is speaking to me — a nurse, I think — but I can’t understand what she’s saying.
“Source black round fluid next.”
“Are you talking to me?”
“Koi freak leaven irritate deer.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“Winter serif all?”
“Still not getting it.”
“Lewis late episode are ego ant alter window?”
“Look, whatever it is, can you just pretend I gave you the answer you’re looking for?”
“Rifle did jelly art kudo?”
“Jungle dime?”
“All right then, no.”
“Timeless dark swallow sit table juror dad.”
“Screw it. You’ve got a brain. Whatever it is, just figure it out for yourself.”
“Swat whiskey fur.”

Slide 2.
A doctor is standing at the foot of my bed, flipping through pages in a chart that’s resting on the rolling table where the trays of untouched food usually reside. He’s telling me that I could be in the early stages of multiple sclerosis.
Possibly lupus.
Maybe rheumatoid arthritis.
Somehow I get the impression that the choice is mine and I try to consider the pros and cons of each disease, but quickly discover that I don’t know enough about any of them to feel confident that I’ll choose the one that will be the least destructive in the long run.
The conversation veers in another direction.
I fail to veer with it.


“Rain on a Distant Roof is an excellent read. I recommend it. Our politicians at all levels and physicians of every ilk should read it as well.” — Jim Wilson, President, Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

“Rain on a Distant Roof offers uncompromising access to a very personal experience with Lyme disease, an unpredictable, debilitating and potentially fatal illness that is becoming more prevalent across Canada. Vanessa Farnsworth combines a journalist’s tenacity with a writer’s sensibility, presenting her struggle with the disease but also with a health care system that too often leaves sufferers misdiagnosed and undersupported. Farnsworth is an excellent advocate for the Lyme community, both on the page and in person: she is articulate, passionate, invested, well-informed, and vital. Her book is a clarion call to pay attention to a serious health crisis in the making.”— Charlene Diehl, Director, Winnipeg International Writers Festival

"Rain on a Distant Roof offers thought-provoking insight into the daily struggles and obstacles faced by chronic Lyme disease patients. Vanessa Farnsworth's self-described "tick-shattered life" is an all too common but seldom told story of desperately ill Canadians caught in a healthcare nightmare."— Susan McInnis, President, Lyme Disease Association of Alberta


Vanessa Farnsworth has published more than 100 columns and articles (including several on Lyme disease) in national and regional publications, including Canadian Gardening, Canadian Living, Cottage, Garden Making, The Creston Valley Advance, The Grower, Harrowsmith Country Life, Kootenay Life East, Route 3, and Vitality Magazine. She holds a degree in English from Toronto's York University, a diploma in print journalism from Oakville's Sheridan College, and she studied creative writing at The Humber School for Writers. Her literary fiction has been published in journals across Canada and in the United States, including The Dalhousie Review, dANDelion, filling Station, The New Quarterly, PRECIPICe, Qwerty, and Reed Magazine.

Twitter: @v_farnsworth




PLUS Your Local Bookseller


Published by Signature Editions.
ISBN: 978-1-927426-23-4
eBook ISBN: 978-1-927426-24-1

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WIN this book during the Cookie's Book Club Annual Christmas Giveaway, commencing this Saturday, December 21.

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