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I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. This is a sponsored post. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company. 

When I was offered the chance to read and review Never Bet Against Occam: Mast Cell Activation Disease and the Modern Epidemics of Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity, I loved the title of the book.  Well, I loved the last part of the title "Chronic Illness and Medical Complexity".  I didn't really understand the first part of the title.  

I'm not familiar with medical terminology at this level.  My degrees are in music and education.  So, some of this book went over my head, but that's ok.  This book was written by a physician for physicians.  I did learn from the huge amount of case studies.  I had read many case studies in graduate school and found them very interesting.  They are a wonderful way to teach.

Dr. Lawrence Afrin wrote this large book to teach what he's learned over the years about Mast Cell Activation Disease.  He learned a lot by working with patients through trial and error.  He spent much time with them, because there was no standard protocol.  This part of the book was the easiest to read.  The last two-hundred pages or so was an appendix of terms.

The first thing I asked when I saw the book was, What is Occam?  Occam refers to Occam's Razor.  Occam (Ockham) was a Franciscan friar, who lived in the 14th century.  He was a logician and came up with the Ockham's Razor principle, which states: 
"Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." Isaac Newton stated the rule: "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances."(Gibbs, 1996 Hiroshi, 1997) I understand Newton's translation of the principle a lot better.

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell

When doctor's look at our complex cases, they should only go by what they can understand with their senses.  Make it simple.  Many of us with chronic illnesses have what appears to be so many, but they all appear to be tied together.  He says to use the Occam's Razor principle to sort it out.

Because Mast Cell Activation diseases have been thought to be rare, they are undiagnosed.  I wasn't diagnosed until I was 53.  I have been having anaphylaxis since I was in my early 20's and over-reacting to many things since I was born.  I still don't have a very good treatment, but maybe there isn't one?

MCAS and MCAD are very different from one patient to the next.  In the case studies he showed, the disease symptoms were extreme in many of these.  I'm certain that these would be the types showcased for a book.  I always think of my case as not too terrible, but maybe I downplay that.  I was asked by UVA in the '80s to be a case-study patient.  They wanted to test me for this type of thing.  I was too afraid, because they admitted it would be dangerous.  
Criteria for MCAD

Although I didn't understand everything in the chapters that came after the case studies, I did understand a lot.  If you have MCAD or have a child with MCAD, I would encourage you to read this book by Dr. Afrin.  You will gain knowledge and insight into this complicated world of Mast Cells.  We need to be as informed as we possibly can.  As we plead for more research, we need to be willing and able to read research studies and decipher them.  It does get easier with practice, and then you'll be able to talk to doctors in a more intelligent way.  

As time goes on, more treatment options will be available, and we want to be knowledgable and ready to make tough decisions for our body.  These drugs have potential life-altering and quality-of-life altering changes.  We have to make some very important decisions.  This is why we need to read books like "Never Bet Against OCCAM".
@2017, copyright Lisa Ehrman


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