May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. This really meant nothing to me until my family was affected by Lyme last year. Now, I find myself attempting to answer the questions people ask me even though the whole disease itself raises more questions than any doctor or medical professional is able to keep up with. To be honest, the thought of delving into the topic has scared me for a long time. I knew I needed to read something about it, though, because being left in the dark began feeling even scarier. So instead of first picking up a nonfiction book, I first went to see if there were any YA novels written about Lyme.
And sure enough, I stumbled upon The Last Letter by Susan Pogorzelski.
While this book is fiction, many of the symptoms, thoughts, and feelings described by the main character, Amelia, are what Pogorzelski has experienced herself while battling Lyme. The story is written as a series of letters that Amelia writes and puts in a time capsule (a.k.a. a My Little Pony lunchbox). She does this in order to leave her mark on the world but also because she needs a place to let out all of the fear and frustration that comes with having an undiagnosed illness. Everything in her life seems to be changing so quickly–her health, her relationships, and the world around her with 9/11 having just taken place. During a time when everything feels so uncertain and she feels alone in her illness, Amelia pushes on to find meaning through her writing and understanding what it means to live with a chronic disease.
I don’t have Lyme, but Pogorzelski describes it exactly in the way I’ve witnessed it in others close to me. I would recommend this read not only to those who are facing an invisible illness like Lyme but also to those who know nothing about it. Learning is the first step to developing awareness, empathy, and a drive to make a change. I really hope to one day see answers to every question this disease has raised.