First aired on North by Northwest (8/10/11)
In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.
--Henri Frederic Amiel
We've all been ill on occasion, and some unfortunate people suffer from a chronic disease. But few people have gone through what Robyn Michele Levy has. The year she turned 43, the Vancouver writer and visual artist found out she had Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder she shares with her father.
"The minute I heard the diagnosis I just felt like my whole world had collapsed," Levy told North by Northwest in a recent interview. "It felt like a death sentence at first. I just felt sad for myself but most of all I felt sad for my family."
But if that wasn't enough, later in the same year she found out that she had breast cancer.
She chronicles her health battles in the memoir Most of Me: Surviving My Medical Meltdown. Many might expect a bleak, depressing story, but Levy's book is filled with humour and optimism.
"I think the anti-depressants that I went on kicked in at a certain point and my sense of humour re-emerged slowly, and I began writing these updates to my family and friends [to make them feel better]," Levy explained. "I would just tell them about these weird experiences with the neurologist or my prosthesis -- Dolores, I call her -- visits at the cancer agency, there was always a quirky bent to the story."
Her husband also gave her a stylus pen for her computer, which introduced her to a whole new world of digital art. Levy began making abstract drawings and found it a fulfilling activity.
"You never know where you're going to end up and what's going to happen to you," she said. "Fortunately I've been able to turn all this stuff, all these health issues and my difficulties, into some kind of a positive experience."
Most of Me
by Robin Michele Levy
Buy this book at:
From the publisher:
"The imaginative, hilarious, and moving memoir of a woman coping with both Parkinson''s disease and breast cancer.
At age forty-three, Robyn Levy was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and, eight months later, with breast cancer. With irreverent and at times mordant humour, Most of Me chronicles Levy's early, mysterious symptoms of breast cancer (a dragging left foot, a frozen left hand, and a crash into "downward dead dog" position on the yoga mat), the devastating diagnosis, her discovery of two lumps in her breast, her mastectomy and oophorectomy (after which she discovers there is no ovary fairy), her continual struggle with Parkinson's, and her life since then dealing with her diverse disease portfolio."
Read more at Greystone Books.