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Living With Illness That Has No Cure

A DELICATE BALANCE Living Successfully With Chronic Illness By Susan Milstrey Wells; Perseus Publishing, 289 pages, $16.

August 14, 2000

Susan Milstrey Wells is a professional writer who suffers from three disorders in which a person may look healthy while quietly enduring life-altering pain and fatigue.

In her sensitively written book based on her own experiences, Wells has produced a handbook for living and coping with chronic illness, as well as some of today's difficult-to-diagnose syndromes.

Wells suffers from a number of illnesses that are not well understood by the public: fibromyalgia, Sjogren's syndrome and interstitial cystitis. Fibromyalgia is characterized by muscle and joint pain and fatigue; Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that creates dry eyes and dry mouth while slowly destroying moisture-producing glands; and interstitial cystitis is a chronic, painful inflammation of the bladder.

Wells interviewed other patients who have seen doctor after doctor in search of a diagnosis. She talks about the others' experiences trying alternative therapies, and doctors' attitudes toward them and the problem of getting care when your health plan won't cover expensive treatments.

Throughout the book, she weaves in information about symptoms, numbers of sufferers and treatment of various illnesses that have no known cure.

She includes stories about patients forced to come to terms with illness, and who redefine themselves in light of lessened abilities.

*

SPORT PSYCHIATRY Theory and Practice Edited by Daniel Begel and Robert W. Burton W.W. Norton, 276 pages, $40.

Daniel Begel, founder of the International Society for Sport Psychiatry, and Robert W. Burton, the organization's president, teamed up to edit this textbook that covers a relatively new field of medicine.

Sports psychology has become a familiar part of the sports culture as many athletes turn to professionals to motivate them and improve their performance. But Begel and Burton are more concerned with other aspects of sports psychiatry that include how an athlete develops through childhood into adulthood, mental illness and drug abuse.

This collection of chapters written by various mental health experts, including the editors, explores how athletes must cope with the pressures of sports hero worship and other stresses that can lead to mental illness which, the book says, is underreported among athletes. If they choose to be treated with medications like antidepressants or sedatives, doctors must be sensitive to how the drugs may affect them physically.

With the book, Begel and Burton hope to incorporate psychiatrists in sports not just to enhance training and competition, but to better understand the journey of an athlete from a movement-loving child to a successful, well-conditioned and resilient competitor.

With its overviews of issues and outlines of approaches to treatment, their book should be useful to doctors, coaches, trainers and others with an interest in the well-being of athletes on and off the field.

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