Beth Ann Hill's Multiple Sclerosis Q&A: Reassuring Answers to Frequently Asked Questions is just that: reassuring. A veteran music teacher, Hill knows how to present information slowly, and six years of living with MS have taught her how to connect her own story to the wider MS world. The book begins with that story, calmly recounted even when speaking of her harrowing years of misdiagnoses. Most of the rest of the book is, as advertised, in question-and-answer format, sensitively designed not only for people with MS and their families, but also for those who have experienced symptoms that they suspect point to multiple sclerosis. The book ends in a series of "Suggestions for" spouses, families, and people with MS themselves.
Hill gives straightforward, clear explanations of the different types of MS, their distribution across geography and gender, and the role of immunomodulators (or disease-modifying drugs) in current clinical practice. She also covers a wide range of other treatment choices, from counseling to exercise and alternative treatments, stressing each time that the first step for someone newly diagnosed is to find a good neurologist. She bravely sticks her toe into the quicksand of insurance issues so that readers understand that not all treatment choices are created equal in cost. The sections on pregnancy, childbirth, and workplace issues are the best. A newcomer to MS will treasure these.
The book is not without flaws-albeit minor ones. The "Suggestions" lists sound a little 12-steppish, especially the invocation to spouses: "Pray together every day." Hill's more practical advice is at times incomplete, as when she mentions how new insurance often limits coverage for pre-existing conditions without mentioning the option, albeit expensive, of double coverage.
Last but not least, for a book meant for people with MS, the type throughout is too small-and the type in the table of contents blindingly so.
Avery Penguin Putnam, 2003, 208 pp., $14.95. Order though Amazon.com.