of black holes & brain damage

black holeThe National Multiple Sclerosis Society has published my latest piece, “Black Holes” on its MS Connection blog.

The essay was inspired by the historic image taken of a black hole in April. Here’s an excerpt:

It looked like a glow-in-the-dark doughnut.

When the first image of a black hole 55 light-years away from Earth was made public by astronomers this spring, it was heralded across the globe. Astronomers, the New York Times reported, had “captured an image of the unobservable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.” The writer described the image as “a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity.”

The very idea of “a one-way portal to eternity” is terrifying in an end-of-the-world, Game of Thrones kind of way.

The very idea of a black hole becomes intimately and individually terrifying when you learn that you are carrying one around inside your brain. This is a real possibility for those with MS.

Read the full piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

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it’s not a mr. smith goes to washington world: a nation’s core values under attack, from within

Claude Rains and James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) .jpgI’ve been feeling frustrated and routinely aghast at the antics of the current leader of the United States, and his proxies who control the U.S. Senate. It was the president’s recent, unrelenting attacks on the deceased war hero, U.S. Senator John McCain, that prompted me to pull out the laptop and write.

I used to be an optimist, a Frank-Capra-Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington kind of optimist. I believed, whole cloth, all those values of freedom, democracy, and statesmanship would endure, no matter who sat in the Oval Office.

I was wrong.

Here’s an excerpt of the piece I published on Medium:

Right now, I am grieving for the United States.

For thoughtful statesmanship and diplomacy, which are no longer important to our commander-in-chief.

For common decency in the public square, which is largely absent and is rapidly disappearing altogether, everywhere.

For the common values of kindness that parents teach their children, as our nation’s leaders have been role-modeling cruelty and avarice.

For the importance of acting in an ethical manner, even when it goes against one’s personal interests.

For the respect our leaders used to show for the virtues of freedom and democracy, especially as our president embraces dictators and tyrants, and considers laws beneath him.

Read the full post here.

Image credit: Wikipedia, promotional still from the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , published in National Board of Review Magazine. (Columbia Pictures – National Board of Review Magazine for November 1939, Volume XIV, Number 8, page 14, Dominio público.)

 

 

an issue of chronic illness & transparency

A new post I’ve written for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s blog, MS Connection, explores the issue of how open someone should be when they have an invisible illness.

Do you tell everybody about your illness, immediately? Do you incrementally parcel out the info about what’s happening to you on an as-needed basis? Or do you only tell people when your symptoms force you to become public?

These are questions with which I still wrestle.

An excerpt:

Do I walk over and explain to the dude in the garage—the one who’s been giving me the stink eye ever since I pulled into a disabled parking spot—that, while I appear to be healthy, I actually have MS?
 
Do I tell my students what’s going on when I’m pressing my icy drink against my neck to cool me off while I’m teaching inside an overheated classroom, fretting about whether my MS heat sensitivity will flare up?

I face these situations quite frequently, wondering whether I should explain my MS to people so they will understand my actions and reactions, or if I should just keep quiet.
 
Four years into my MS odyssey, I haven’t yet found the sweet spot.

Read the rest of the post here.

Image credit from MS Connection.

new post: when ms messes with your sense of taste

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society published my recent post, “A Loss of Taste,” about my vanishing ability to taste foods, as comfort food that I once enjoyed now give me nothing but disappointment.

Here’s an excerpt:

Somewhere along the way, my ability to savor certain foods has waned. Actually, it’s done more than waned. In some cases, it has warped into a bizarro situation where items I’ve long loved now suddenly taste of bitter disappointment.
 
What food now tastes terrible to me? My beloved morning coffee (with the exception of peppermint-flavored java), several red wines I used to adore, some marinara sauces, toasted everything bagels, and even the heartiest of sandwiches, unless they’re slathered with this spicy chipotle mayo I found.
 
Over the past two years, my ability to taste these favorites has gradually diminished. More recently, it significantly ebbed to the point where several food and drink items no longer taste familiar. The caramel-flavored coffee I bought the other week? It was outright disgusting in my mouth.
 
Is MS the culprit? My taste thief?

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

are we in pottersville?

screenshot 2018-12-24 13.13.53Although It’s a Wonderful Life is powerfully associated with the Christmas season, to me, it’s about much more than wishes on Christmas Eve.

The classic film is about a little guy with a conscience and a strong sense of civic duty who is trying to succeed and help out fellow citizens in a world that is run by guys who lie and cheat and boast and hoard their ill-gotten-gains at the expense of others. It’s got an evergreen kind of message.

It’s in that vein that I wrote this piece of political satire on Medium, “The Chamber of Commerce Welcomes You to Pottersville.”

In the piece, the Pottersville of It’s a Wonderful Life, has emerged from the black-and-white film into America, circa now. Pottersville is America “made great again” by a Trump-Potter character. Scenes from the film, as well as quotes and policies from our current president, are melded together to create a vision of a modern day Pottersville hellscape, one I hope shall not come to pass.

I have no idea who our modern day George Bailey (or Baileys) will turn out to be, but I think we’re all waiting for the Baileys of the world to stand up and serve as bulwarks to fend off contemporary forms of Mr. Potter.

Here’s an excerpt:

Welcome to Pottersville, our newly-rejuvenated hamlet made great again by our super-smart leader, Mr. Potter!

Here, we banish things like locally-owned emporiums which turn no profits, so-called “friendly” watering holes where not nearly enough shots of booze are sold to boost our tax base, and mom-and-pop building-and-loan operations which recklessly approve mortgages for losers like cab drivers. Such fiscal impropriety there used to be in our old Bedford Falls businesses. Sad!

However, since the ascension of our illustrious stable genius leader, Mr. Potter, we are celebrating traditional values again, ones where we put Pottersvillians first, where we keep what we have piled up in our bank vaults and don’t, as the communist Bailey family used to say, “spread the wealth.” 

You can read the full piece here.

after you’re diagnosed with an illness: you suddenly notice it everywhere

iStock-961375112Way back in the late 1990s, when my husband and I were in fertility treatments, it seemed as though pregnant women were everywhere. In stores. On city streets. On TV and in movies. In my friend groups. At family gatherings.

When I was so craving a child — and failing to conceive one — seeing so many gestating women felt like grains of salt in an open wound. I distinctly remember trying to escape all things maternal on Mother’s Day 1997 when the angst of my infertility felt especially potent. I opted to watch NBA games. Certainly I could seek refuge from babies and all things maternal there. Wrong. Pre-recorded segments of athletes thanking their moms for all their support over the years were featured during breaks. Until I eventually became pregnant with twins, reminders of my infertility seemed painfully omnipresent.

I was reminded of those days after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014 and suddenly started paying close attention to every reference to the disease, whereas in the past, they’d whisk past me like the wind. The MS references I saw in pop culture in those early months after my diagnosis, were almost always dire and sent urgent pangs of fear about my future through my heart.

The National MS Society recently published my piece, “Fever Fatale” about this subject on its MS Connection. Here’s an excerpt:

“A fever could be life threatening.”
 
That single line from an old episode of “The West Wing” prompted me to immediately Google whether, in fact, a fever is fatal to someone with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, something with which I was diagnosed in the summer of 2014. Fresh from learning I had MS, this mere suggestion plunged me into a panic. A search of “fever and multiple sclerosis” yielded over 590,000 results.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

what’s it like to have an mri when you’re claustrophobic?

My new piece at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection blog tackles the topic of what it’s like for a someone (that would be me) to have an MRI when you’re claustrophobic, particularly when your head has to be enclosed by this lovely little thing called a “face cage.”

An excerpt of the piece:

“… [A] technician beckons me into the large room where the behemoth machine resides.

This is when the fun starts. And when I say ‘fun,’ I mean the opposite of fun. I really mean ‘terror.’ I mean a trapped-inside-something-and-can’t-get-out terror. It’s at this point when, after placing my head between two hard pieces of plastic, the technician clicks a hard plastic cage over my face and into those twin pillars. There is a relatively narrow rectangular opening above my face, but there’s no avoiding the fact that I am confined. The face cage is about two inches away from the tip of my nose. Its mere presence makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m being punished. Locked up.

Did I mention that I’m claustrophobic?”

Read the full post here.