If you’ve been looking for something inspiring to read this winter while cuddled up with a hot beverage and some blankets, you need look no further than Lisa Sniderman’s A Light in the Darkness. I received a copy from the author to review and I enjoyed this book very much. In this touching and relatable memoir, Sniderman speaks with gripping honesty about her battle with Dermatomyositis and how she used her art and creativity to guide her through the darkest periods of her chronic illness. Ultimately, it’s about finding ways to come to grips with chronic illness, still find joy in life, and accept that, as the old African proverb says, “when the music changes, so does the dance.”
Sniderman, a musician who performs under the stage name Aoede, was diagnosed in 2008 with Dermatomyositis (DM), an inflammatory disease of the skin and muscles. It affects approximately 10 in every 1 million Americans and is twice as common in women than in men. DM is diagnosed through biopsy. For Lisa, the onset was rapid and ravenous, quickly consuming her health, her energy, her life, and putting an end to her beloved career in the environmental sciences within two years of symptom onset, landing her in the hospital for nearly a month.
Instead of allowing her illness to consume her completely, she turned her attentions to her creative endeavors. Singing, songwriting and other creative projects became her salve. Her memoir takes you with her on this inspiring journey of self-discovery and healing, learning the new rhythms of the dance that is DM. She gives you a firsthand look into how she went about finding ways to manage her career goals with the hefty challenges DM has created for her life, balancing some sacrifice with some ingenuity along the way.
Those of us with rare diseases that are much harder to diagnose than DM, those who had to wait an average of 12 years for diagnosis, may be as dumbstruck by the differences in Lisa’s story to our own as we are by the similarities. What we have in common is the frustration of a body that looks whole, but refuses to do its job, the challenges of chronic, debilitating fatigue and brain fog, and the loss that every chronic illness patient suffers when their condition robs them of their ability to make life resemble what they pictured for themselves. Sniderman didn’t have to go through dozens of doctors to get a diagnosis. She didn’t get labeled with somatization or Munchausen’s and wasn’t told she “just needs to lose a little weight,” as her body continued to break down, helpless to do anything about it. She knew very early on that what she has is incurable. Her path was a little different from ours, but the lessons in her book are no less valuable.
Her words and thoughts are filled with inspiration and her ideas are largely transferable to any artform and any chronic illness. Sniderman sagely notes that there is creativity in all things, that it belongs not to just the “arts.” Her ability to focus on her art during some of the most trying times of her illness is a great tool for any spoonie, making this a valuable read for all. Sniderman is definitely the glass half full type, an attitude you can’t help but catch as she walks you through the story of learning her new dance.