Andrew Marshall was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) – a rare, inherited disease that affects the nervous system and inhibits movement – when he was a teen. More than a decade after his diagnosis, Andrew shares his journey with FA, life and relationships in his memoir Dissecting Wobbles.
While Andrew’s memoir is in many ways similar to the stories shared by other people with disabilities, discussing the challenges of coming to terms with the disability and learning to control his assistive device, Dissecting Wobbles sets itself apart through Andrew’s wonderful ability to be completely honest – with himself and the reader.
He is not scared to share some intimate details. One striking passage reads: “I only got a little pee on my leg and none on my clothes or wheelchair. A small victory, but they all count.”
Nor is Andrew afraid to point to his own flaws. He shares his struggles with procrastination, his sense of wasting his time, and his alcohol and drug use.
Dissecting Wobbles is, however, much more than just a reckoning with mortality and the challenges facing people with disabilities, particularly FA. It is a coming-of-age story of a teen who has to learn to negotiate a world in which he is considered by many others as different.
Andrew writes: “When I close my eyes, I don’t feel abnormal. I feel like I’ve always felt. Normal. But then I open them, the eyes – and … splat.”
While much of Andrew’s story is a sober recounting of his wrestles with the darkness in life, he also puts a lovely twist of humour in his stories. During his primary school years, he was in a class for children who struggled.
Of this he writes: “Who was it who thought up a class for kids who need help, put it slap-bang in the middle of a mainstream school, then named it ‘aid class’? They should be shot.”
He was also once mistaken as an able-bodied person misusing an accessible parking bay. The tale ends quite humorously, with Andrew adding in brackets: “If you, reader, are one of them, I hope a thousand fleas infest your crotch.”
From a chance meeting with Oscar Pistorius (before his fame and fall) to a near arrest for buying drugs, Dissecting Wobbles will leave you both amused and moved by the tragedies that hide in the small nooks of life (you might never be able to kiss that person who you dream of).
It is a story about life that everyone can relate to, with some useful and important information about a very rare disease. Dissecting Wobbles should be the next book you buy (or at least on your Christmas list). It is available at Exclusive Books, Loot.co.za, Amazon or via the Dissecting Wobbles website.
Visit the Dissecting Wobbles website to read excerpts from the book and learn more about Andrew Marshall.