Disclaimer: Although my mom was my age when she collapsed at her nursing job due to degenerative disc disease, and was never able to return to work, (she has been on Social Security Disability since then for that social anxiety, and depression) she is the major influence behind my choosing Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein, to review.
Thank you to Charlesbridge Teen and NetGalley for an Arc in exchange for an honest review
Now, in her… ahem… I shouldn’t tell my mom’s age, I suppose, (I do have permission to share her story) it has progressed to arthritis, multiple sclerosis and scoliosis. Additionally, she has had half of a lung removed due to lung cancer and most recently (during the hiatus I took from blogging) a pulmonary embolism that has led to her needing a daily nebulizer and Inogen (portable oxygen).
This made it very validating and refreshing when the main character talks about patients knowing more than doctors about their conditions. Ricky discusses often and candidly about her fight and need to advocate for herself until she found doctors who listened to her needs. Basically, until she found the right doctor and what a long and arduous process that can be.
As a daughter, I learned so much about being an advocate for myself in ALL aspects of life watching my mom fight for hers. Until now. Now she needs my brother and I to do what she can no longer do. Had we not watched and learned from her. Had we not put it into practice for ourselves, as Ricky did. We could not do it now, for her.
It is these moments that make Cursed so powerful. I can’t say I’ve read many own voice books about teenagers suffering from chronic illness. However, I know now how incredibly important they are because they teach the lessons my mom had to learn on her own, much later in life. And these lessons are essential to a battle they will have to fight every day of their lives.
Yes, it is tiring. Yes, it is frustrating. But build the emotional grit for it now and your emotional and physical well being will thank you in the long run ten-fold. This I know from experience.
Ricky’s day-to-day swing in emotions is authentic and true. Everything I’ve already discussed would make anyone moody, disgruntled and frustrated. It would an adult. Throw in the fact that while no one feels this type of illness is fair? To a teenager it feels like the carpet of a life planned, pulled out from under you it is that much more devastating. On top of that Ricky is dealing with the demise of her parents marriage.
Silverstein does a fantastic job isolating the daily obstacles Ricky faces. Things most wouldn’t think of unless they suffer from a chronic illness. For example, taking a bath, not going to school because of a lack of mandated accommodations. It is a whole new way to live and world to navigate.
Lastly, people often mean well when they want to relate. My mom’s illness originated in her back and often people would kind of chuckle and say oh yeah my back is always killing me. Mom never made a big deal of it in public but in private she felt like people dismissed her as being dramatic.
Ricky’s struggle with those same questions- whether she really wanted authentic attention or she wanted to push back on feeling dismissed hit home.
This is an important read and not just for teenagers suffering from chronic illness. For their parents, for all educators, social workers, counselors, nurses and teenagers in general as we move to having a more inclusive approach to our school system and social dynamics.
Whether mental or physical, you don’t know what people are going through. And if you do? You might know the big picture but not the day in and day out struggles. You might not know just how to support them or what to say. That’s ok.
The best thing you can do is make yourself aware. Ask if they want to talk about what they are going through, and how you can help. And most importantly? Don’t just walk away because it is too much. If you think it is too much for you? Imagine how they feel.