Book Review

Backbone: Living with Chronic Pain without Turning into One

Karen Duffy

Arcade Publishing,

Nov 7, 2017, Release Date

Kindle, 252 Pages

Also available in hardcover, paperback, MP3 CD, audiobook

Genre(s) Memoirs, Health

Source Author

My Disclaimer:

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.

~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it’s about…

This is the story of Karen Duffy and how she lives with sarcoidosis (chronic pain) and stays positive and caring about others throughout it all. This is her philosophy of how to keep moving forward when you deal with chronic pain and hidden illness. How to step outside of yourself and help someone else with your positive attitude, because being a grouch helps no one, not even you.

Technical Tidbits…

The cover is eye-catching and will sell, I’m sure. It makes me think of a playing card.

The storyline isn’t good or bad, it’s what was and is. Karen Duffy was a Revlon model and an actress before she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis causes the growth of inflammatory cells, in her case, on her brain, and is incredibly painful. Yet, she is often reaching out to help other people.

The character is certainly well-developed. Karen spares herself nothing, even going into her bad days when she can’t force herself out of bed because of the pain.

Writing quality is excellent throughout the book. Ms. Duffy presents her stories not as sad little vignettes, but as comedies almost. Her sense of humor seems to carry the day for her and anyone around her.

The good, the bad, and the ugly…and how much it lit up my life… ✰✰✰✰✰

“Be the best person you can be because that is what transforms a sufferer into an endurer.” Ms. Duffy says this very early on in her book and it sets the tone for the rest of what she has to say. And anyone who suffers from chronic pain or a hidden illness understands that your best changes from day to day. Most people who don’t have an intimate experience with chronic pain or a hidden illness simply don’t understand why you can look like that but you can’t go shopping at the mall all day or all morning or even raise your arms to put on your coat to go to the car. They don’t get it that today your best is getting out of bed and getting dressed in an attractive outfit and doing your hair nicely so you can sit on the couch and read.

She talks about service animals, some of the various types people have. Some are highly trained to do things and some are for comfort. She also talks about stages. Like the stages of facing a terminal disease, you have denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Well, there are the stages of living in a diminished state, too. There’s sniveling, wallowing, finger-pointing, whining and finally wondering how sick you have to get to be able to get one of those helping hands monkeys. Just think, on a bad day you could just lie in bed and the monkey could bring you another glass of water, reach the box of tissues, pick up your bookmark. All you have to do is lie there and try not to whimper.

Ms. Duffy talks about the terms we use in reference to our illnesses. She thinks we should update it a bit. We tend to talk about lumps and bumps the size of an egg or a grapefruit. Why food? It’s certainly not appetizing. She has suggestions, of course, for new terms. She thought we should use body parts to refer to the size of tumors and such. I don’t think I’ll go into specifics. Let’s just say, she was hilarious!

Something she has found helpful to herself and she recommends highly to others with these conditions is to give. Whenever your own condition allows it, help people, be useful. It will give back to you in such a way that it will feed your soul as nothing else can. And reading as a distraction. Karen is extremely well-read. She quotes from a lot of stoicism texts towards the end of the book. She’s a great believer in stoicism. And she spoke of Viktor Frankl and his meaning of life…

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


She also refers to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Reading itself, she strongly suggested as the best distraction for pain. Whatever you read, just read. It will take you out of yourself and you will be at a distance from your pain.

This should be required reading for anyone who suffers from chronic pain or any one of the many hidden conditions. Highly recommended.

841 wc

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