Cover Image: What Doesn't Kill You

What Doesn't Kill You

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Member Reviews

A well-written narrative about the author's journey and personal experiences with chronic illness. This hits home on several levels. I appreciate the author's perception and ability to describe the effects on a person suffering from a chronic illness. This is also a great resource for people living with the trauma of chronic illnesses, whether it be for the patient, family, friends, employer, or anyone remotely touched by living with a chronic illness. 

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book to read and review. The impressions expressed here are my own honest opinions written voluntarily.
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I don't know how to start with this one - everything I want to say about this memoir is going to sound hyperbolic. It's already a book that I know has made an impact on me for life. I've literally been quoting parts of it to my family for weeks on end now. 

So many parts of this book made me feel seen and yet it was also instructive about a larger social and political context. I am beyond impressed by Tessa Miller, who is about my age, I gather, and the wisdom she's gleaned from all her experiences with chronic illness and her research on the American health care system. She is unflinching in portraying her own history of physical and emotional suffering, but she redirects this personal pain (much of it made worse due to shortcomings of the medical system) into broader outrage and invites the reader to political activism. 

A white 30-something cis woman, Miller gives the only personal account she can - her own -, but she never ceases to reflect on her various forms of privilege, contextualize her own experience, and redirect our attention to the issue of racialized injustice in particular in American health care. What she can't give us here from personal experience, she supports with data and research, showcasing her journalism background. This woman has done a LOT of work, emotionally and in terms of research for this book, and I really respect her for it. 

In addition to her personal account and journalistic reporting, Miller also reaches out directly with this book to others suffering from chronic illness, providing "self-help" type advice specific to this experience. This is where I felt she really offered something new. For example, she examines the shortcomings of modern psychiatry in addressing the emotional journey of those with lifelong illness, namely the ongoing sense of grief that comes from such a diagnosis rather than from a terminal illness or one with a potential cure. I found this fascinating and would love to see more on this topic in the future. 

I can't say enough good things about this book and would really recommend it, especially now in the era of COVID. The audiobook narration was great too!
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Tessa Miller has written the perfect memoir on chronic disease—one that not only covers her personal story, but one that’s chock-full of research regarding problems with the American medical system, how to find good healthcare, the hurdles often faced with work and relationships, mental health struggles, and many helpful quotes for anyone who deals with chronic health problems—specifically autoimmune disease. This book is written well, and I found her advice helpful. 

Having a chronic autoimmune disease, this book led me to constantly reflect throughout—from beginning to end—with chapter five hitting me the hardest. It’s raw and brought me to tears a few times. Here’s a chronic disease sufferer who’s had multiple traumas, has had problems with control…someone who’s had to face anxiety head on and deal with acceptance of a disease with an unknown prognosis. She’s experienced medical PTSD which isn’t something most doctors even recognize. I became fully aware that I was in a familiar zone here and not alone. I devoured every word. I’m not sure I’ve ever connected with a memoir as much as this one.

The biggest takeaway I’m usually left with after reading many memoirs is this: it’s just one person’s story. It doesn’t make your situation better; in fact, it’s heartbreaking, but I believe it helps one understand the importance of gratitude, hope, and knowing you have what it takes to overcome. It’s hard not to complain when you’re constantly sick, and it’s especially hard when you don’t have anyone to talk to about it, or just a good support system in general. I think it’s stories like Tessa Miller’s that reiterate an important truth often out of sight: none of us are alone. We can also seek the help we need and should never be ashamed of it. 

There was a section in the book that I found thought-provoking where the author mentions taking advice from others and how it’s processed. I do agree that it’s hard to take advice from others and can be quite irritating when your ill and just downright sick of it all, but it’s something that I always welcome. Had I not been informed about my holistic doctor, I’m not sure where I’d be today as far as my health. Everything I’ve learned has been from others, whether it be books, YouTube, online, or word of mouth. I’ll be more mindful in the future about the advice that I offer to others though, because it isn’t always welcomed, and I think people get overstimulated with it all. This is just one section of the book that really got my brain churning.

Overall, I found this book to be inspiring, insightful, and hopeful. This is a good book for all chronic disease sufferers, especially those dealing with Crohn’s Disease and other autoimmune diseases. 

5*****
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Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Company for this copy of What Doesn't Kill You by Tessa Miller. 

Part memoir, part guide to living with a chronic illness, What Doesn't Kill You is a unique book. Parts of it very much read like any other memoir and parts read like a how-to guide to living with a chronic illness. Miller lives with Crohn's Disease and shares the story of her road to diagnosis as well as lessons that she learned along the way. She also shares insight and tips for families, firend and co-workers of anyone living with a chronic illness. 

I was very impressed by Miller's candor and willingness to share the intimate details of living with Crohn's Disease. I had only heard of Crohn's and knew it was a disease of the gut so this book was an eye-opener. I had no idea the level of pain that people leaving with Crohn's deal with every day. I am so glad that I read this book, as I have several people close to me living with chronic illness. I now feel like I have the tools to be a better friend to those people. Thanks, Tessa Miller, for sharing your life and insight.
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Tessa Miller has written a thoughtful coping guide for people with chronic disease. She includes a lot of valuable information for navigating the fraught world of medical care for chronic disease. In most chapters, Miller also includes short anecdotes about her own experiences from her initial diagnosis, complications of multiple infections, and the medication that brought her disease into remission. I think her information is especially useful to the newly diagnosed or for family members and friends who would like some insight into life with chronic disease. This is a book I would have liked to have had available when I was diagnosed almost thirty years ago.
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3.5 Crohn's disease IBD, both I've heard of but this is the first time I've read about these very serious issues. In a honest, no hold barred way, the author portrays just how devastating these conditions are but how it detailed her life and how she learned to cope. Like many of us with chronic conditions she went through a cycle of incorrect diagnoses, failing treatment options and trial and error medications. I truly admire her strength. She went through a horrendous time. 

The facts and figures she presents on our healthcare, how so little, including mental health is unavailable to those who need it most. So often even if available the cost is prohibitive. This was eye opening for me, I didn't realize how truly awful this is, for so many.

She offers us glimpses into her personal life and ultimately offers advice, hope. Advocate for yourself, take care of yourself, your brain, your well being which are all integral to self acceptance, paths forward. As with all chronic diseases, there are many stresses, periods of depression, self doubt but reading her story provides one with commanalities and a shared focus. Much advice is the same as other books on the subject of living with a condition that one learns is never leaving but her story is unique as our conditions are unique to us.

ARC from Netgalley.
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Was not for me. I just think it could have been so much more. Highly recommend a rewrite. Nothing more to say.
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Tessa Miller's What Doesn't Kill You was a fascinating read into the world of chronic illness in the United States. Having been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in her early twenties and having spent the last ten years navigating the complexities of employers, insurance, doctors, medications, hospitals, and trauma work, this book should be required reading for anyone who loves someone with a chronic illness. I found so much of it eye-opening into just how difficult it is for sick people in the US to get the health care they need while having to also deal with discrimination, loss of wages, etc., all on top of the symptoms of their disease. Miller is always quick to point out the privilege she is aware she has being a white, cis, thin female and that her struggle is just the tip of the iceberg for many people who are chronically ill but also POC, fat, or transgender. I found the book highly informative, well-researched, and thought-provoking. I think we often fear what would happen if we were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness but not much thought is given to illnesses for which there is no cure but that won't necessarily kill you. We often see illness as black and white, as Miller says, we get better or we die, but there are not a lot of conversations around what happens if we get sick and our entire lives are upended and we are left to sort it all out.
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This is an incredibly powerful book that resonated with me well.  Tessa Miller is a mighty voice for the chronic illness community, with a brave, real, raw story that you have to empathize with.  Her courage in penning her journey as someone affected by a chronic illness is inspiring and one that so many of us who suffer the same can relate to.  Miller not only details her life in this memoir, but presents well-researched facts regarding the healthcare system and its failure to provide adequate treatment for so many.  The shocking facts coupled with Miller's life make for an outstanding book that is sure to have you needing your tissues.
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Tessa Miller is one amazing writer who has brought us a beautiful gift to those with chronic illnesses.  Not only does this book touch the heart of "spoonies", but it's such a great book for any audience.  Her writing is so engaging, so personal, and well-researched.  She left nothing unsaid, and kept me turning the pages to the very end.  I took notes and found myself nodding "yes!" during each chapter.  I personally have several chonic illnesses, and it was so refreshing to read such an incredible account of someone who actually understands.  I will be recommending this for days to come! Well-done, Miller!
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"80 percent of Americans who live with an autoimmune disease are women." 

 ~ Tessa Miller, What Doesn't Kill You


It took me awhile to get a handle on exactly what author Tessa Miller is writing about in What Doesn't Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness--Lessons from a Body in Revolt. She is recounting her experience with Crohn's Disease, as well as advising people with a chronic illness on how to manage their lives. Miller advises on topics such as what to do about anxiety, how to choose the right doctor, and what to say and not to say to people with a chronic illness. I was most interested in Miller's personal story, as I too was a victim of the excruciating pain and humiliation of Crohn's Disease from ages 13-17. The medical tests alone, not to mention the fear of having to someday have a colostomy bag, gave me nightmares for years. I had no idea how bad Crohn's could get, as mine has been in remission since undergoing a bowel resection during my senior year in high school; Though my weight loss made me look like a holocaust survivor I remember thinking at around age 14, I never experienced the associated conditions Miller describes such as a C. Diff. infection, which made her life so miserable, and brought her close to death more than once. I was interested to read about her fecal transplants, as I had read about them in the New Yorker and was wondering if the procedure is being performed in the US (it is, but is highly regulated, and difficult to procure). This book goes into graphic detail about Miller's poop experiences, and is not for the faint of stomach if you don't have a stake or an interest in chronic disease. But if you or anyone close to you is going through or has gone through an Irritable Bowel Disease, Cancer or other harrowing health issues, I think you will find her honesty refreshing, and her advice wise and helpful. 


"Yeah, my body won't allow for a lot of ambitious plans I'd had, but it also won't allow for any bullshit--no jobs I hate, no relationships I'm not fulfilled by, no hours crying over wrinkles. Illness made me braver, kinder, and empathetic..."


Hardcover 303 pages, Audiobook 9 hours 12 minutes. ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 on Good Reads in our RipeReads group. What are you reading this week? Please leave a comment below! We love reading about your book recs!
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Did you enjoy reading "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Cahalan? (If you have not read that book, you need to go read it now!) This reads a lot like it! I loved diving into the world of Tessa's diagnosis because she wrote it so beautifully (it was so real and raw) for those who have never experienced a huge health crisis. There were so many times where I was saying "wow, I couldn't have said it better myself!" As someone who struggles with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and Endometriosis, this book was spot on. This book was like a new best friend for someone who has just been diagnosed with a chronic illness (hello COVID long-haulers). Like I hinted at before, I wish I had this book 12 years ago when I was fumbling through getting diagnosed and struggling to understand what was going on with my body physically and emotionally. I will cherish this book forever.
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A wonderful illustration of not only the decrepit health care system but also the years long suffering of many women in today's world due to chronic illness.
In this case she's a young woman, a journalist, a writer, and career inspired female who wanted nothing more than to do her job. Yet, she couldn't partake in such manner until she uncovered the truths to why her body shut down.
The fact that her body wasn't working properly was something she knew was wrong yet countless doctor appointments informed her she was fine, take meds, and or was sent home. It wasn't until her diagnosis with Crohn's disease that she finally received treatment.
What I took away from this was similar to my own situation especially with regards to then seeking employment opportunities and being denied simply for the illnesses described above. I'm vocal about my concerns over our healthcare and after over 20 yrs of misdiagnosis upon myself I know this fear, anxiety, and stress all too well.
I'm a patient with chronic illness and auto immune disorders. I have a laundry list of medical concerns including: Pre-diabetic, (recent sinus tachycardia after influenza A), 20 yrs pneumonia with acute bronchitis (finally changed to chronic in med file), non smoker with asthma, mild copd, severe spinal stenosis (requiring major back surgery that was placed on hold for severe anemia (microcytic hypochromic anemia) which requires IV fluids and iron infusions with b12 injections. In addition, I was never told but located in online med notes of diagnosis of HUS(hemolytic uremic syndrome) which when I questioned the doctors I was then told it was cured.
I'm also suffering from vertigo, Raynaud's syndrome (zero blood flow L thumb) which I located ironically during a cat scan for thyroid nodule (benign -3.5 cm in 5 cm space)which was never addressed nor removed beyond initial findings.
I've also had heat stroke and due to the factory work resulting in many of my breathing issues from diesel fumes at loading docks I also now suffer from ganglion cyst which was due to chronic repetitive use of my hands to produce enormous amounts of supply in short amounts of time off a conveyor system which resulted in me being struck on my head and knocked to the ground without aid from the 2nd floor with a trolley used to transport material above us which was landed upon my head.
I bring this up because like this author I was told I looked great. In fact, my issues would be unknown if you weren't behind closed doors. When I sit I can't stand. When I go home I vomit every two weeks. When I workout my hands swell.
When I went for a walk/run/jog on a dike in the cold weather my hands turned white/blue. I had then sought treatment and had to have a warm water immersion test  which resulted in occlusive small vessel disease but also Raynaud's yet was told to simply wear a hat, gloves, warm clothes.
When I had my legs collapse from working long hours volunteering for three weeks straight to feed the poor at CEO Thanksgiving Project I was told that I was fine by PT.
It wasn't until I contacted a spinal surgeon directly, had an MRI performed finally after 30 yrs of pain, and was told of a multitude of issues too numerous for review here including previously mentioned severe spinal stenosis requiring weekly chiropractic care.
Now, folks I'm not an alarmist but the repeated pattern with women, healthcare, and lack of credit for concerns or lack of treatment can lead one to reasonably believe in one result.
That result is that yes, we need more female doctors and yes, women are in desperate need of proper and accurate medical care.
I hope we don't have to keep having discussions like this as I know the end result. I've been on the front lines when my son was life flighted to NICU spending two months upon his birth with Vater syndrome. He too was told he was fine. He too was told he could be fed via baby bottle. He luckily had my mother as his nurse and she knew from her years of experience something wasn't right after his oxygen/sat levels fluctuated. It turns out that upon being life flighted the crew noticed his tube curled in his throat which was later determined to be esophageal atresia. Meaning his throat wasn't one unit from top to bottom. He also had fistulas and pouches as mentioned by this author and an imperforated anus that needed dilation lacking a spinchter among other skeletal abnormalities, kidney/stomach reflux, and much more.
Do you know he was removed from social security upon his 18th birthday because he appears fine yet still deals with these medical issues for life?
This is the world we live in and it's maddening.
When I went to pulmonary I was told I talk fast as a result from my lung test. When I was told I had mild copd I was told I couldn't have it because I'm a non smoker. When I was offered bronchial dilators I was told I needed an emergency inhaler or steroidal inhaler such as BREO. I refused the latter and was given a new prescription for emergency. Sadly, my doctor was so new it was kicked out and unfulfilled because of no paperwork on file with state to secure prescriptions.
Therefore, a nurse had to prescribe a simple order for an inhaler.
I could tell you horror stories beyond belief but I don't want to fill this review about me but rather thank the author for her continued work on this topic.
We have to stay vigilant, we have to demand answers, we must seek justice.
Thank you for this ARC in both digital and print.
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Loved this one.  Reading the author's experiences and all the crap she's gone through sounded pretty harrowing.  And maybe saying I "loved" the book isn't quite the way to word it, but maybe more, I really admire the author for her writing and enjoyed reading about her journey.

4/5 Stars
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First off, if you have a chronic illness this book will probably re-traumatize you. That's not saying you shouldn't read it - you definitely should - it's a warning, so you can be prepared.  

This is one of the most complete and honest illness memoirs I've read. It's only part memoir, the other component is a guidebook for those living with a chronic illness. Tessa beautifully weaves her own narrative with anecdotes and facts about the health care system. She covers everything from racial and sexual discrimination in medicine to how to tell your boss you are ill to how to have boundaries with your family and everything in between. 

Tessa's writing is raw and honest, bordering on crude but in the most necessary way. She is transparent and vulnerable with her reader when it comes to sharing the intimate details of her life with Chron's Disease and before. She addresses heavy topics with dark humor. She covers not only her physical health but mental health, romantic relationships, family dynamics, death and grief. 

This is an important, powerful book, though it isn't an easy read at times. I highly recommend it for readers of memoir and those looking for support and guidance in regard to chronic illness.
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From an early story of a male doctor questioning whether the author was actually bleeding from her rectum and couldn't it possibly just be her period, I knew that I would be all in on this book (seriously men, I promise we can tell the difference between our rectums and vaginas). Having been diagnosed with Crohn's colitis about a year and a half ago, this book was everything I needed. Part memoir, part how-to manual, part social commentary, Tessa Miller has drafted a book that is a must-read for anyone dealing with a chronic illness and the people who love them. Having had so many experiences as the author (including the already mentioned "are you sure it's not just your period?" from a male doctor), this book really forced me to address a lot of personal feelings on my diagnosis I have been suppressing. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for the ARC.
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Tessa Miller's very honest look at living with a chronic illness is a must read for anyone who has a loved one suffering from any type of chronic illness.  Her very raw honesty about the frustrations of getting a proper diagnosis, treatment and trying to live your life in a world that isn't always compassionate or understanding is very real, as anyone who suffers can tell you.
This book was hard to read at times due to the very true descriptions of treatments and hospital visits but so very worth it.
Thank you NetGalley, Henry Holt Company for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review.
Tessa Miller, thank you for your honest look at a life that can be hard at times and sharing your bravery.
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I found the book a little uneven. I wish it was more of a straight memoir, I didn’t think her parts about the culture and stigma surrounding illness were very strong.
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As a Crohn's patient I was especially grateful to Netgalley for sending me this ARC. All opinions represented here are my own and unbiased.

I found this book to be an excellent hybrid of memoir and advice. As a fellow Crohn's sufferer, I found the autobiographical content relatable. Not only that, it was articulate and clear about what we and other chronic illness patients go through - I definitely feel that I could give it to someone close to me and they would end up with a much better understanding of my own experience. It also contains a wealth of information that can be useful to someone newly diagnosed and even to some who have been ill for years.

I can't wait for this book to come out. I want to buy copies for my close friends and family, as well as others I know who are ill. This is a valuable resource as well as a moving tale of bravery in the face of pain and trauma.
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What an incredible account of what it means to live life with a chronic illness. Miller leaves out no detail when describing what she endures as someone with Crohn’s disease. The details, while very hard to read, are so important to help others understand what living with Crohn’s means. It isn’t pretty. It is messy, painful and utterly exhausting. 

I read this book to gain better insight on what it is like living day in and day out with Crohn’s. I learned so much. Miller went into detail about how to navigate the healthcare system; from how to select good doctors to dealing with difficult insurance companies, her experiences laid bare in the hopes that what she can help someone else avoid the struggles she had to go through. 

Much of the book is hopeful and focuses on how important it is to find a community of other folks dealing with chronic illness, either online or in person.
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