Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book: Chronic Christmas by Lene Andersen

I don't usually write book reviews here - I reserve those for my other blog, Books Anonymous. However, the author, Lene Andersen, is a blogger I met online via the network of bloggers who write about Rheumatoid Arthritis - initially via her blog, The Seated View. She was also on Creaky Joints, and then I found her pages on Facebook. She's now someone I see very much as a colleague and friend - albeit long distance, as she's in Canada and I'm here in Australia. Lene contacted me and asked if I'd read and review her new book, Chronic Christmas, so here it is. 
The book had its beginnings in blog posts from The Seated View, where Lene wrote a series of posts about dealing with the additional pressures of special holidays like Christmas, and the ways they can impact on people with a chronic illness. From there, the concept developed into a book that addresses the potential issues for both the person with a chronic illness and those around that person - partners, family, friends and carers. 

Living with a chronic illness, especially one of those increasingly known as 'invisible illnesses,' can be stressful and challenging at the best of times. Factor in the pressures of particular holidays and you have a recipe for all sorts of physical emotional mayhem. 

Chronic Christmas takes the form of an Advent Calendar. Instead of little windows you open up to find chocolates or other treats, each chapter deals with something specific to the run up towards Christmas Day. Topics range from Christmas shopping, to various social events, catering for said social events, family tensions and time out. The chapters are divided into two sections - one addressing the person with the illness, and the second addressing the person who is looking after the person with the illness (who may or may not be an actual carer). There are strategies, possible solutions to specific problems, lots of lateral thinking and not a little humour in each chapter - headed with the date in December, rather than actual chapter numbers. 

What really stood out for me, the further I read, was that the common ground with each suggestion was that they're all good, old-fashioned, home grown ideas that many of us (myself included) speak, write, or complain about disappearing from today's busy world.  Simple things like putting down all the 'shoulds' for a while and taking time out to play - go for a walk, make snowmen (maybe build sandcastles if you're in my neck of the woods!), play cards, etc - anything that means taking time to just BE in the company of others having simple fun. The practical suggestions are just that - practical. Outsourcing various tasks, giving gifts of time, making room for people, and - most importantly - teaming up to achieve the desired goals. 

I had to laugh when I got to the last chapter - which wasn't the 25th of December. It was the 31st of December, and it was constructed as a single entry - and it was what I'd been thinking all along as I read the book. ALL the things Lene has written about are practices that can well be incorporated into everyday living - whether you're the person with the chronic illness, or the one on the sidelines trying to figure out how best you can offer appropriate help to that person. Being sick can be incredibly isolating. It can be lonely and frustrating. There can be a lot of grief about what is lost of a former life before the illness took over. Also, there can be a lot of practical challenges due to mobility issues, pain, fatigue and the like. The themes running through Chronic Christmas point to strategies that are about living life - living fully, regardless of the restrictions that can be inherent with chronic illness. They're about being creative and finding a way through, being part of communities - family, friendship groups, work environments. It all takes energy - even for people who are well, and all the more when they're not, and this book puts a huge emphasis how succeeding is the result of collaborating with people - it can't be done alone. It takes everyone remembering - the chronically ill person included - that each life is more than just the illness. As Lene says, we have interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes just as healthy people do, which reach far beyond the constraints of illness. 

It's an easy read, and would make a great gift for family members, friends and colleagues of someone who is chronically ill. It's also a handy reminder for someone who is ill that there are ways to tackle what can look insurmountable - ie, the expectations and activities that pertain to Christmas, particularly, in this instance, but which are applicable to other situations, and just daily life too.

Buy it here, but bear in mind that the paperback version is only available on the US, Canada and UK Amazon pages, but the kindle version is available on all of them:


  1. So thrilled that you reviewed my book. Thanks so much!

    1. You are most welcome, my friend - it was a great pleasure!