Thursday, March 16, 2017

Never Bet Against Occam: Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity REVIEW

I have been given this product as part of a review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although this product is a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company. Books are my thing. I absolutely love to read. I always have. It is a safe hobby, right? Curling beside an interesting book is the ideal pastime with a chronic illness. Maybe not, if you have a Mast Cell Disease

When a package arrived at the door containing my second copy of the book, Never Bet Against Occam: Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity, I could not wait to delve into its contents again. 

However, that would have to be delayed. Perhaps it is a little ironic that a book about mast cells caused degranulation of my own cells. They are less than pleased at the exposure of chemicals after the manufacturing of new paper. It had to be left outside to off gas prior to reading. Luckily, my first signed copy had already endured the process!

The thought of potentially reacting to pages in a new book is outrageous to most. With Mast Cell Disease, what is safe one moment can literally be life threatening the next. For example, a patient might tolerate a whiff of perfume in the morning, but by evening something as minuscule as temperature change or opening a new book could easily send them over the edge. It has happened to me many of times. Every day is Russian Roulette. Yes, Mast Cell Disease seems crazy, which is more reason awareness is needed. Never Bet Against Occam provides exactly that. 

Eliminating bias to conduct this review is nearly impossible. After all, the author is the doctor who has saved my life. I would not be writing this today if it were not for him concocting the treatment known as the Continuous Diphenhydramine Infusion for severe Mast Cell Disease. 

Never Bet Against Occam opens up with accounts of the doctor's multiple "mystery patients" with a strange, infrequent conglomeration of diagnoses supposedly responsible for their ailments. The experience correlates with the philosophy of Occam's Razor, favoring one cause over two or more. It is highly unlikely that his mystery patients are each plagued with numerous rare diseases. The logical explanation is that a sole diagnosis is at the root of those numerous, rare secondary conditions. 

The book continues explaining the impact of mast cells throughout the body, as well as how they play a role in other chronic illnesses, like RA, that are not necessarily mast cell diseases. Just because the symptoms are not obviously allergic, it does not mean mast cells are not involved. 

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, is discussed in one of the chapters. Afrin relates Ehlers Danlos Syndrome III with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and compares type III to alternative forms of the syndrome. 
"Here's the really weird thing about type III EDS: one or more specific mutations in one or more genes for one or more specific connective tissue proteins have been found in every other type of EDS, but in type III, no clearly responsible mutation has yet been found in any gene for any known connective tissue protein" (169). 
He tells about a subset of is EDS type III patients with a Mast Cell Activation Syndrome diagnosis. He then hypothesizes:
"...abnormal mediator release might interfere with the assembly of otherwise normal collagen proteins, thus leading to the lax joints and soft tissue abnormalities" (203).    
As an EDS and MCAS patient myself, Never Bet Against Occam is essentially the medical Bible. It outlines various treatment options. Chapters are divided by body systems mast cells can effect.

The thick, 460+ page book is not to provoke intimidation. Never Bet Against Occam is written for everyone, chronic illness patients and medical professionals alike.

It is written to be easily understood by the general population. While medical jargon is prevalent, the text features an in-depth glossary defining the words. However, I personally did not have to use it often because the language was not overly complex.

DO NOT count the book out because you do not have a Mast Cell Disease. As mentioned above, it is significantly valuable for any chronic illness patient or their families because of the function of mast cells in additional diagnoses.

Never Bet Against Occam is also humorous. Chapter titles like, "Well, We're In a World of S**t Now: Gastrointestinal Findings in MCAS," add a comical twist. It makes it difficult to ascertain that it could be used as a medical textbook.

The humor and simple understanding is not to downplay the book's meaning. It reads with intelligent information, making it perfect for medical professionals too.

Never Bet Against Occam: Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity by Dr. Lawrence Afrin is brimming with knowledge. Its title precipitates awareness. Reading it in its entirety brings understanding. Understanding leads to eventual cures for Mast Cell Disease and illnesses with mast cell involvement.

Visit Mast Cell Research for more information. Dr. Afrin's book can be purchased on Amazon