Cairn McCormack

I’m not at all convinced that adding my voice to the din of internet traffic will benefit anyone—you or me. I’ve been pretty quiet for most of my life but I finally have something to say so I’ve written a book.

On Being A Statistic, is kind of, but not quite, a description of what it’s like to live in this country with chronic disease. It’s also about what it’s like to be really healthy, but at the same time not be healthy. A state shrinks call cognitive dissonance. The book is about me, a scientist, who thought being optimistic and managing my annoying symptoms while reaching for my goals was the best way to handle disease (some call this denial). My body, however, was quietly in the background sabotaging my goals.

Part memoir, yes, but the book is more reflection on how we, as a society, view chronic, unpredictable and often invisible disease that autoimmune disorders specialize in. Our present health care system is unprepared to diagnose, treat or manage autoimmune disorders which often present themselves as subtle symptoms that pile up over time. Many with chronic illness suffer for years or even decades before being taken seriously. This delay in treatment significantly and permanently alters a person’s quality of life. In addition to the lack of attention to these problems, our current political and social atmosphere seems to favor blaming people for developing long-term chronic illnesses. This blame has translated into a couple of movements. One is to limit or even exclude access to health care insurance for people with “pre-existing conditions” at a time when health care expenses have become hopelessly out of reach for the average American. Another is the tendency to think that positive thinking, yoga and kale will prevent or cure just about everything. So, the thinking goes, if you’re ill you’re not doing enough of these things. Give me a break!

And it’s not just access to affordable health care that is a problem for those living with chronic illness. In the corporate dog-eat-dog mentality that dominates most of our corporations, having a chronic illness means that climbing the corporate ladder WILL be affected. If not fired for disclosing a condition (like I was), the person with a chronic disease has to fake giving the proverbial 120% when operating on 50% reserves. Year after year…This gets really old, really fast.

I am not just a person with chronic health issues—there’s more to me than that. Writing is my art, my way of interacting with the world. My writing has always been the kind that explores some aspect of the intersection between humanity and the natural and spiritual world (see, about the author). My art is informed by the world around me, the body I inhabit and the struggles and triumphs I’m experiencing at any given time.