Off the beaten path: Books that aim to help you

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 5 2013 4:15 p.m. MST

She wrote the book for herself mostly, Stefania Silvestri told me a few months ago when I interviewed her for a story on end-of-life issues. It started as her thesis at Emerson College, where it won the 2011 Dean's Award. Then she published it.

As a writer, Silvestri is a siren, drawing one close to be smashed upon a rock. That rock is Alzheimer's disease, which claimed the father she loved so much. Her father was a young man when dementia started stealing pieces of him. He was only 48 when diagnosed with the early onset form. The disease creates a journey at once personal — like snowflakes, no two are identical — and almost formulaic, with a mostly predictable downslide, the loss of senses and sensibilities, diminished dignity and ultimate death.

It's also a love story, told passionately. Silvestri and her mom and two sisters carry Giovanni Silvestri's ashes back to his hometown in Italy, the tale of two countries and lives woven skillfully.

She writes with passion, yearning, sorrow — and moments of resounding joy. The book gives one the sense that Alzheimer's doesn't have to feel like such a solitary trial.

"COULD IT BE B12?" by Sally M. Pacholok and Dr. Jeffrey J. Stuart, Quill Driver Books, $14.95.

The second edition of what's being billed as an "underground classic that has saved lives" is built around one premise in particular: People are suffering from a lack of a much-needed vitamin and some are being misdiagnosed, while others find their complaints dismissed. It's written by a doctor, Stuart, and a nurse, Pacholok.

This vitamin deficiency has diverse effects, they say, including symptoms that are similar in some cases to dementia, or multiple sclerosis, autism or depression, infertility or developmental delay. Frequents falls, mental illness, forgetfulness and more may in fact have a single underlying cause: not enough B12.

It's not just a matter of dealing with feeling bad, either. Failure to treat the deficiency has long-term results, including severe nerve damage, these experts warn.

This is a guide to how B12 works, how problems are diagnosed and what someone can do to see if that's the problem. Besides describing symptoms that can occur, it also provides information to share with physicians and breaks down the costs — of dealing with and of letting it go.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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