Medically speaking, science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa and author of “The Last Best Cure: My Quest to Awaken the Healing Parts of My Brain and Get Back My Body, My Joy, and My Life” was an accident waiting to happen. Suffering from autoimmune disorders for over a decade (detailed in her first book “The Autoimmune Epidemic”), one day she found herself lying on the floor to recover from climbing the stairs, laundry basket stuffed with clothes by her side. Bouts with Guillain–Barré syndrome, a condition similar to multiple sclerosis, thyroiditis, nerve damage, clotting disorder, low red and white blood cell counts, bowel problems, slipped discs, fevers … and a pacemaker … such was the reality this writer, wife, and mother of teens was living with — and she realized it was stealing her joy.
Her doctor, Anastasia Rowland-Seymour, a clinician and assistant professor of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins, asked the question that led to the creation of Nakazawa’s second book. “Did anything happen in your childhood that could have contributed to all this?” I won’t be a spoiler and answer it: in the book she discusses “adverse childhood experiences” and how trauma in childhood can change a person’s brain chemistry bringing on chronic illness later in life. Nakazawa has a knack for writing about science in a personal, clear, and exciting way: she is the Nancy Drew of science writers, and I mean that in a good way.
Taking up on Rowland-Seymour’s advice that “Your brain may be your last best cure,” Nakazawa becomes the subject of her book. She sets out to investigate and test for a year four mind-body strategies: mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture.
As Nakazawa told me in an enjoyable conversation, this was not a self-imposed term of seclusion in some ashram, but rather a journey that anybody can take while living their daily lives, where the learning of tools employing the powers of the mind and body can influence the workings of the nervous systems to allow us to gain a way back to well-being even in the midst of the harsh realities of “reality.”
Understanding the science behind the discoveries that Nakazawa makes is one thing. You will learn how much we can do with our minds to really affect the systems of the body, especially when physical illness is already in progress and how captivating a mindset of joy and well-being help reverse or at least stop the progression of symptoms, pain, and disease. But to experience the ups and downs of her personal journey in such a compelling, heartfelt, and earnest recounting is enormously satisfying on so many levels.
We laugh, we cry, but more importantly we learn and share in the joy that Nakazawa experiences with her improved physical, emotional, and spiritual being. We are enormously fortunate that Nakazawa embarked on this quest, and that she has so skillfully shared her story with us.