While many memoirs serve as a vehicle of healing oneself, as the past is reviewed and considered, other memoirs are specifically intended to heal others. The MS Warriors, A Love Story is told by David A. Phillipy, a former prison chaplain, about his experiences battling multiple sclerosis as caregiver and spouse of Carol. His matter-of-fact tone belies the anguish David and Carol suffered as she progressed through this disease that attacks the nervous system and all that it connects. This couple began to battle back with an unusual weapon: strength training.
1,2,3! 3 Part Structure Outlines Healing
The memoir is written in a three part structure, similar to the traditional three act play or beginning, middle and end. Getting through the first part is difficult, as David outlines the disease, also known as MS, and its effects. He also graphically describes the care that he gives his wife, who relapsed into the debilitating disease of muscular sclerosis. One effect was numerous injurious falls, and Carol often lacked the strength to rise again, even with David’s help.
Embarking on a customized strength training program at the local YMCA, Carol’s symptoms began to improve. Noticeably. Significantly.
The second part describes how the couple takes up the gauntlet. “The patient is responsible for his or her illness,” declares the author. Taking responsibility for Carol’s healing with multiple sclerosis, they seized on the obvious – perhaps lack of muscular control could be improved by strengthening those muscles! Embarking on a customized strength training program at the local YMCA, Carol’s symptoms began to improve. Noticeably. Significantly. David documents the program and evidence both quantitatively with numbers of pounds and reps, and with anecdotal evidence: “On a visit with her neurologist, just looking at her and without further examination, he asked what she had been doing…Carol’s gains are noticeable to others.” The author also cites medical studies that touch on MS and exercise, making a convincing case for further study.
Chapter Three offers ways to take responsibility and try a new “medication” by effort, not by swallowing. David is careful to make no claims, yet thoroughly convinces one that strength training is worth a try for others with multiple sclerosis. The chapter is followed by an elaboration of David’s spiritual underpinnings gained from his experiences in life as a Presbyterian minister, and an addendum of actual exercises. These are illustrated with photos, not of a young anorexic, but of Carol, in her resistance training positions.
Author Phillipy Uses Drafts and Editions
I met David and Carol, now both in their seventies, when they attended one of my writing workshops a few years ago. I was honored when he asked me to review his Fifth Edition, saying, “Carol and I both learned writing skills and were given the inspiration to pen our own book in your workshop.” Having read an earlier edition, I know David has added more story and anecdotes, key to illustrating life lessons. He also added some words from the spirited Carol, the subject of the story, about her experiences with love.
A healing memoir, MS Warriors: A Love Story demands attention, tells a challenging story, delivers facts, and is of critical use to sufferers from multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. This memoir also motivated me to stick with my own strength training regimen, and armed me with facts that will bolster the effort. It may do the same for someone you know, and can be bought on Amazon.
You may want to write your memoir with education and healing in the subtext, if not stated outright. Life lessons are often a part of memoir. Perhaps yours, like the ones that David outlines, are actual steps to a better life, not only for you, but for someone else. That’s a big part of writing your own “Best Book Ever!”
I should write a book so the kids remember me
I’ve got things to say, I know they are still learning
I could steer away some pain with a drive down Memory Lane
from “Memory Lane” song by Femke Weideme and Deborah Wilbrink