Book brings awareness to disease

Local man tells story of daughter who died of anorexia

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— Dee Hubbard is ready to shake up a medical profession that could not stop his daughter from dying of anorexia.

His daughter, Jennifer, died in 1989 as a 25-year-old, 45-pound woman.

She and her family battled her illness for more than a decade.

"As I worked on this book, I wondered if it would still be timely since almost 15 years have passed and there would be so many medical advances," Hubbard said. "But there really haven't been many advances. The statistics are contradictory and elusive and there doesn't seem to be a cure."

Hubbard read an article recently published in U.S. News and World Report about anorexia. The headline on the cover read "Promising Treatments."

He read through the entire six-page article and found only one mention of treatments -- the use of Prozac as a behavior modifier.

"That's nothing new," he said. "The article was very revealing. It seems that the journalist went out looking for 'promising treatments' and didn't find them. They just didn't change the headline.

"I want to jog activists and professionals in this field and stimulate research."

Hubbard's book, "Slim to None: A Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment," is one-quarter the narration of a father and three-quarters the edited journal of a daughter battling her weight and losing her life.

The dedication of his book reads, "For all who know the pain of a child lost. For those with anorexia-damaged minds and bodies -- for those who strive to repair them. May your searches be successful."

Anorexia is impossible for sufferers to hide, Hubbard said. They lose weight rapidly as they refuse to eat and slowly starve themselves toward death.

"Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa (an eating disorder marked by purging what is eaten) and related illnesses are confusing and complex. There are many theories regarding their cause, among them early trauma, low self-esteem, sexual abuse, body-image distortion, impact of the media ... Researchers increasingly claim that these illnesses have a genetic component and are biologically driven," Christopher Athas, vice president of National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, wrote in the foreword.

Hubbard's frustration stems from the fact that his daughter's illness was discovered immediately after it began. She was 13, almost 14, when she and her mother started dieting for the 40 days of Lent.

Lent ended, but Jennifer's diet did not.

She ate apples and lettuce and drank Diet Coke. She dropped weight and started feeling tired and depressed -- a feeling that followed her for the rest of her short life.

Anorexia is a disease of choice, and throughout the book you can feel the people around Jennifer lose sympathy and patience as they watch her "kill herself in plain sight."

Jennifer felt it, too.

Her medical bills topped $1 million as she was passed from doctor to doctor, psychologist to psychologist.

"Jenny's physical growth stopped at slightly over 5 feet," her father wrote. "During most of her illness she weighed less than 80 pounds. Social Security declared her disabled two years before she died. She completed but one year of college, held no job longer than four months, never sustained a romantic relationship, became virtually estranged from her siblings and, after age 19, developed few friendships outside a hospital environment."

In the end, after Jennifer and doctors finally gave up, the family gathered in her bedroom at the nursing home.

"Her kidneys had failed and they did last rites," Hubbard said. "I was trying to do some kind of will for her and she asked me to read her journal and tell her story so that it would not happen to anyone else."

Hubbard is an aspiring fiction writer and retired accountant who moved to Steamboat 10 years ago. He started skiing at 60 and climbing at 65. At 70, "Slim to None" is his first published work. It is a chance to put a painful chapter of his life in the past.

The book is a fast, but emotionally difficult, read. Hubbard changed all names to protect doctors and family members. Jennifer and Dee Hubbard are named Jennifer and Gordon Hendricks in the book.

According to a news release for "Slim to None," 20 percent of college-age women are anorexic or bulimic by the end of their freshman year.

The Internet hosts many "pro anorexia" Web sites for girls who, as one site says, suffer from the disease "but do not choose to recover at this time."

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