As a deadly cancer spread inside her brain, leading neuroscientist Barbara Lipska was plunged into madness—only to miraculously survive with her memories intact. In the tradition of My Stroke of Insight and Brain on Fire, this powerful memoir recounts her ordeal and explains its unforgettable lessons about the brain and mind. At the height of her career, Barbara Lipska—a leading expert on the neuroscience of mental illness—was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to her brain. Within months, her frontal lobe, the seat of cognition, began shutting down. She exhibited dementia- and schizophrenia-like symptoms that terrified her family and coworkers. But miraculously, the immunotherapy her doctors prescribed worked, and Lipska returned to normal. With one difference: she remembered her brush with madness with exquisite clarity. Lipska draws on her extraordinary experience to explain how mental illness, brain injury, and age can distort our behavior, personality, cognition, and memory. She tells what it is like to experience these changes firsthand. And she reveals what parts of us remain, even when so much else is gone.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This brisk yet harrowing memoir explores neurodegenerative disease in heart-wrenching, first-person detail. As a director at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Barbara Lipska has dedicated her career to examining brains up-close, scrutinizing their folds and crevices. But her scientific expertise couldn't help her process what was happening inside her own head after she was diagnosed with multiple brain tumors. Lipska’s chronicle of her struggles is forthright and approachable, with moving descriptions of the frustration and fear she felt as her brain's circuits misfired.
In a terrifying moment one morning in January 2015, neuroscientist Lipska lost sight of her right-hand while she was eating breakfast. As she reveals in this fast-paced memoir, her symptoms eventually lead her doctors to discover that a melanoma had spread to her brain. Although she studied brain disorders for a living, she was afraid to look at the first MRIs of her own brain, admitting that her brain was a "mortal danger" to her. Following surgery to remove the small malignant tumor that caused vision loss, Lipska, hopeful she could return to normal life, began an intensely active physical regimen of cycling and running. Within a few weeks, however, she experienced dementia- and schizophrenia-like symptoms, exhibiting aggressive behavior, caused by what she would learn were lesions in her brain. Lipska shares excruciating details of the drug therapies and other treatments she underwent, such as radiation and taking immunotherapy drugs. She recognizes that she will never be the same and that she must deal with brain scans and other tests the rest of her life, but she revels in the pleasures of living every day with her family. Her exhilarating memoir reveals the frustrations of slow recovery, and that even with the best medical care there are no guarantees for good health.
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The Neuroscientist who lost her mind
Amazing story of the challenges of brain cancer. This was very information packed and the spectrum of behavior challenges due to pressures in the brain, swelling and medications was depicted in a very real way. Her family is amazing and I read the book twice and was impressed by the will to live and persevere. Many times I had to put the book down and take a break because the situation was very intense and I felt like I was living the reality. Wow.