She did everything “right.” Before completing the picture-perfect life she had always envisioned with the addition of a new puppy to her young family of four, author, and soon-to-be divorced mom, Tracey Berkowitz, did her homework. But what she ended up learning was a powerful life lesson no amount of research could have ever prepared her for.
In her debut book, Not My Buddy, Berkowitz invites readers to join her on a whodunit medical mystery, sharing her five-year journey of self-discovery as she fights her way back to health after contracting Giardia, a parasite commonly responsible for causing waterborne illness, from her golden retriever, Buddy, for whom the book is titled.
Berkowitz, who writes in a style so endearing that readers will feel as though they are one of her inner circle, candidly shares the intimate and escalating struggles she and her family encounter in the face of her rapidly declining health.
As we envision Berkowitz’s steadfast attempts to balance life as a wife, mother, part-time preschool teacher, and caretaker of a rambunctious new puppy while trying for more than a year to systematically uncover the cause of her illness, readers will find themselves wondering how they, too, would function if similarly confronted with such a personal crisis.
Any parent listening to Berkowitz describe the anger and disappointment her young twin daughters experience as they watch their once physically fit mother (Berkowitz trained for and ran a half marathon right before bringing Buddy home) no longer be able to perform such simple tasks as serving meals or playing tag with them in the backyard, will identify with Berkowitz’s own feelings of frustration as she tirelessly, and unsuccessfully, searches for relief from her acute physical symptoms for years beyond diagnosis.
Readers will question, much as they do whether the chicken comes before the egg or vice versa, whether the palpable tension present in Berkowitz’s marriage predates her illness or her illness is responsible for creating that tension. Detailing her feelings of detachment in the wake of mounting financial pressure resulting from repeated tests, complicated treatments, and endless visits to medical professionals as well as to practitioners versed in alternative and holistic regimens, Berkowitz writes:
“Our connection was gone. Even though we were a good team for twelve years, had each other’s backs, prioritized the same values and enjoyed our time together, I could no longer deny who we had become as a couple. It was as if we spoke a different language and lived on separate continents. Every time he touched me, I cringed and moved away, assuming any change of heart was obvious to him. Of course I missed the old us—the light-hearted conversations, the passion and the desire to be wanted, but that felt like eons ago. It seemed Jeff was most concerned with our finances and lack of sex life. I was suffocating and stayed quiet too long.”
Thankfully, Berkowitz doesn’t stay quiet about her own deteriorating condition. Amidst countless accounts of medical dialogues and lengthy descriptions of grueling protocols that somehow never sound boring, Berkowitz magically weaves in her relatable tale of a lifelong struggle with body image that, all too familiarly, manifests itself as an obsession with exercise and weight loss.
It is during her unrelenting quest for a cure that Berkowitz ironically, or perhaps in a lucky twist of fate, finally comes to appreciate the role her own behavior is playing in her recovery and how much of a toll her so-called healthy lifestyle has already taken on her physical and emotional well-being. Readers are left not only rooting for Berkowitz but taking note of her newfound perspective and the practical changes she implements as well.
Berkowitz brings unexpected life and heart to an illness that is far more deserving of the limited awareness it presently garners. The attention Berkowitz gives throughout her five-year ordeal to her constant medical care, the needs of her family, and the dog she continues to love unconditionally is a testament to the unfaltering strength of the human spirit. Berkowitz’s take-charge mentality when it comes to being her own advocate, both as a patient and in her family life, is nothing short of inspiring and Not My Buddy is sure to positively impact the lives of all who read it, as it did my own.
How have body image issues impacted your life?