Picks and Pans Review: Legwork: An Inspiring Journey Through a Chronic Illness

updated 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Ellen Burstein MacFarlane with Patricia Burstein

Ellen Burstein MacFarlane depended on legwork to do her job as a crusading consumer advocate for WCPX-TV in Orlando. Then, at 41, she was told that she had multiple sclerosis and began losing the use of her legs. Today MacFarlane is triplegic—only her right arm is functional—and she needs around-the-clock care. A terrifying downward spiral for anyone, this decline especially devastated MacFarlane, who had battled depression for years before finding fulfillment as a TV reporter.

Yet her story is not a downer. For a year, she falls into the clutches of a doctor who promises a miracle cure—the kind of charlatan she used to unmask for a living. In spite of that costly debacle, she develops a new awareness of her family's love for her and pride at not giving in to the disease.

Legwork is not for everyone. An autobiography (written with her twin, Patricia, a former PEOPLE reporter), it reflects the character of a woman at times self-involved, irascible and extremely blunt. When MacFarlane lost her hair after undergoing experimental chemotherapy for MS, she wanted to go on-camera bald—but was prevailed upon to don a scarf. MacFarlane's willingness to present herself uncensored is one more courageous act in a life that has called for it in triplicate. (Scribner's, $22)

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