6 July 2012

We are making good progress on our research project.  We’re managing to interview very interesting physicians and patients with regard to MUPS (medically unexplained physical symptoms) and, the project team itself is superb.  We have gathered together a group of engaged, enterprising and enthusiastic individuals — wow! notice all that alliteration!

Even though we are now in the summer months, we continue to work apace and plan to have all of our data gathered by the end of October.  A few of us will also be attending the BrainMatters3 conference in Ohio in October to share and discuss some of our preliminary findings.

If anyone is interested in being interviewed for this work on the “lived experience of MUPS” and/or the “professional/clinical view of MUPS”, please contact me at: catkins@ucalgary.ca.

I hope you are having a good summer . . . .  whatever state that you find yourself in . . .


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18 March 2012 – An Exciting New Research Project!!

I am undertaking an exciting new research project with  Dr Keith Brownell, (Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary); along with Dr. Jude Kornelsen and Dr. Robert Woollard, (Department of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia).

We are undertaking the following project:

Medical Ethics and Medically Unexplained Physical Symptoms – CIHR Ethics Catalyst Grant 2012-14. 

I hope you will click on the above link and explore what we are doing.  The project will be running from September 2011 – Aug 2013.  And if you’re really interested, you might even opt to participate.

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1 March 2011

I’m parked at a gate in Calgary International Airport, waiting for the lounge to clear and for my flight to Toronto.

Outside the sunny shines deceptively — it looks like a glorious day — but it is freeeeezing outside with a wind chill close to -30°C . . .

In the past week I’ve received 4 remarkable emails from readers of MII — and the week before that, another 2 . . . . It really strikes me that my own experience of imaginary illness touches upon many others’ experiences. I am beginning to think that I will write an article about the feedback that I’ve received from both health practitioners and, from patients and families.  Composing an essay will force me to re-examine what I have written in the book AND to confront other individuals’ revelations and insights.  I am convinced that these missives (sent through the virtual ether) contain lessons.

Writing and publishing in the age of the internet and email means that an author like me can receive comments with extraordinary speed.  I benefit from the fact that technology encourages an immediacy of response from readers that has never really been previously possible in the age of text.  (Facebook and Twitter are also key but, I have yet to really master them — an unfortunate result of my advancing middle age!)  Consequently, authors now write and publish in era in which conversations with their audiences are much more likely and possible.  Of course the book leads a separate existence — in high school this was made most evident when I was taught to write about a text as though it lives in the present even if its creator lived 3,000 years ago — but the book, through internet connections, now also can act as a more active liaison between people. Substantively, nothing changes within the pages of a tome (the phrases and themes remain) but the technology of blackberries, iphones, laptops, ipads, etc influences the substantive conversations emerging from texts. . . and so Marshall McLuhan’s premise that the’ medium is the message’ finds traction once more.

And for those of you who find this web site and these postings, please feel free to comment!

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3 month doldrum

It has been about three months since my book came out and I’ve learned an enormous amount about the publishing world and about public relations during this period.  I confess that I was remarkably naive and had no idea that I would receive such an voluminous (forgive the pun) and intense education.

Firstly, many people in “the business” tell me that I will likely lose money as an author. . . while I knew this to be true at an intellectual level, I hoped that it might not be true for me  . . .(of course it is still very early in the game. . .I do not know how things will turn out).  Although, a number of individuals who work in publishing presume that I will somehow convert this publication into a newly remunerative new position somewhere. . (this possibility had not occurred to me until it was actually mentioned to me . . the implication was, that even if the book “lost” me money, that I would ultimately benefit from it.)  I remain unconvinced however.  Frankly, I would simply prefer that the book found an appreciative (and remunerative) audience. . .which would then pay royalties and create demand for new printings . .but this is too simple . . . But, grasping my own naiveté doesn’t stop me from wishing for this facile dream to become ‘real.’

In some, I spent many, many years too ill to earn income, often too weak to do anything but fight to survive.  The glorious reprieve of good health allowed me to finally embark on a career as an academic for which I am very grateful.  But I cannot help wanting my memoir to turn an awful and deeply destructive experience into a beneficent and useful gift to others (and I hope ultimately for myself as well).

Moreover, what gives weight to my fantasy that My Imaginary Illness might be transformative, is the ongoing responses (in the form of emails and telephone calls) that I receive from readers.  It is an unanticipated pleasure to be brought into such interesting conversations with people from a wide variety of regions, professions and manners of living.  These dialogues create valuable synergies and opportunities for thought, conversation and collaboration — so perhaps those publishing types are right: I’m reaping incalculable riches from this journey already.

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Toronto Women’s bookstore

We had a really good turn out at the book launch on Saturday. . .

I was very happy to see lots of friends and family. . . . it’s sometimes difficult to speak to everyone as much as I would like . . . it is very important to me to  each person who comes to an event like a book launch ( especially on a snowy, cold winter’s afternoon).  .  . .  and so I found my self flitting from individual to individual, not stopping as long as I would have liked. . .

I now face the prospect of being snowed out  of my flight on Wednesday to NYC for my interview on Thursday for the Leonard Lopate Show. . . .a little bit worrying, having come all the way across the continent. . . . .let’s hope both the weather and the airline cooperates!

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

I am now in the midst of “getting the word out” about My Imaginary Illness. I’m doing lots of radio interviews and a few print and TV media as well.  (Current media technology is such a blessing given the -22c degrees and the snow outside!)

But what is more exciting is that I am beginning to get word back from readers!

I’ve had some very interesting emails and phone calls from readers.  The feedback is incredibly gratifying for a first time book author.  More importantly,  it seems that some of the things I experienced and analyze have resonance with other people.  While my story is my own, it is not unique. . . many patients encounter similar frustrations in their illness journeys. There are lots and lots of undiagnosed ailments lurking in our midst.  The essential question is whether what we should do with these un-categorized illnesses?  What is the most effective and most compassionate way to handle symptoms (and patients) we don’t understand or don’t make sense within typical disease paradigms?

Given the kind and enthusiastic responses that I’ve received so far, I hope that we all can make a difference in the way that we see medicine and the way in which we interact with its practitioners. . .I also hope that clinicians also find MII to be of benefit.  My aim is not to vilify but to engage . . . to encourage contemplation about the best clinical practices and to consider the influence of our liberal and technocratic culture on the way we conduct ourselves both as lay persons and as health care professionals.


Chloë G. K. Atkins

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19 October 2010

We’re having a glorious fall in the Canadian Rocky Mountains . . . sunny and warm with beautiful fall colours.  Great conditions for all and even better ones to be launching my first book.  (I say “first” in the hope that the still rough drafts of my other tomes someday actually make it to press as well!)

CBC Radio 1 interviewed me on 5 October 2010 on the human interest and current affairs show: The Current.

Here is the link to that (now archived) interview:


If this doesn’t work, the website for the archived show is:


I’m very grateful for the encouraging response I’ve received from this interview.  I’ve had over 100 inquiries or comments as a result.  I hope that these people eventually find their way to my book, My Imaginary Illness, and find it an accessible read!

An interview will also be appearing in Marie Claire‘s December 2010 issue.

I’m now heading back to the beautifully sunny day!

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