What Is in a Year: What Is Chronic? - Part 1

I can hardly believe April is approaching and in a week I'll be 39 years young. I feel like 2018 has sped passed me in some cosmic blur and I'm doing my best to pick myself up and dust myself off.

No exaggeration, I've cried every single day and night of 2018.

My health has spiraled out of control with chronic symptoms not directly related to my genetic muscle wasting disorder, GNE-Myopathy. Last year when my symptoms became too big to ignore, I began an aggressive search for why and have seen at least a dozen different specialists.

Symptoms like debilitating chronic nerve pain, chronic itching, and chronic pain have become new friends of mine, but not the good kind.

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This piece was inspired by a simple moment of tying my hair into a ponytail. 

My hair has been short for the last few years but recently I have been growing it out. My shoulders, arms, hands and fingers are significantly weaker than they were a year ago. This makes tasks like washing hair, blow drying and doing something as simple as tying a ponytail much more difficult.

Last month I tied my hair for the first time in years and it frustratingly took five minutes to achieve. The whole time I thought, "This has never been hard in the past. Not this, too". 

In this simple moment it is, yet again, glaringly obvious of what has left and what is leaving. It is the moments that make up a story.

As a child I remember bunching my hair, wrapping a rubber band around and looping it through effortlessly. Prior to learning, someone else had to do this for me. Usually my mother.

As a teen and as a young adult never did I give this act a second thought. It was effortless. It took a second to accomplish. 

Playing Art Catch-Up

Hello?  Is anyone still out there?  I highly doubt it.  What am I averaging, a couple posts a year now?

 I'm hardly followable.  I get it. I barely blog now.  I know, terrible. I'm not sure why.

I guess I go in swings where sometimes I want to write or draw it out and other times I get myself into distractions and focus on living and enjoying life rather than dispensing my emotions or running, errrr, rolling to publicly catalogue it.  

During those times, I barely let anyone know what I am doing.  It's kind of like me not wanting to share everything about myself.  I suppose, I want some pieces to hold that I only know about.  I need that, too. I can't be mentally in HIBM 24/7, even though there is no real way to take a break from it, distractions or not.

If I'm asked about my HIBM I certainly don't mind talking about it. In fact, I'm glad if they do. I'm glad if they feel brave enough, or even better, unphased with asking me what is obviously on their mind. But if no one asks then I normally don't want to bother people and I spare them the details. With that, I guess I haven't been in the blogging or drawing mood. I go in waves.  

Drawing allows me to shed what I'm feeling without burdening others.  

There is a sense of calmness and working through the journey of emotions when I journal them through drawings and I need to be better at making time for them.  If I do keep progressing, which will most definitely happen if treatment doesn't draw nearer, I too would be interested in seeing the timeline of progression and moods through art. But I'm still hoping I won't see that day.

The thing is, I only share my drawings and my life because I want to motivate results and action.   I don't want to be just an "inspiration" because most inspirations are momentary and then forgotten about.

What am I supposed to do with that?  

It's not tangible. It's not something I can apply to the here and now, so I have very little reaction to "you're an inspiration".  True inspiration motivates action.  I guess I want action. I want passerbys to get involved.

I share my art for this reason and not to be watched from the sidelines as I deteriorate, hearing the words, "your art is so inspiring or you're so inspiring".  It's not right for me to feel this way but sometimes I get upset about this and I become discouraged and sometimes stop drawing or blogging.  When I feel like it doesn't matter, I withdraw. It's like a dagger to my heart. I open myself up not to be noticed but to perpetuate action.  

I find myself thinking that I don't want to hear how sorry everyone is ten years down the road when I'm already deteriorated, especially when something could have been done to prevent me from getting that far. I guess, I'm not interested in seeing sad faces ten years down the road when something could have been done.

These thoughts are unfair but honest.  I know things don't work out like this, it's no ones fault or duty, and patience is needed but time is always weighing on my weakening shoulders. Literally.  

With that, I realize I haven't posted art on here in a whileIn fact, I have only completed a couple new drawings in the past 6 months. I need to get better.  I have, however, been in four art shows that I never blogged about on here. For now I'll upload some of my newer drawings but you can always view them on my Facebook page

I'll get back to drawing this summer.

What the Heck Is HIBM, Anyways?


The textbook version of Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy (HIBM) looks like this:

HIBM are a heterogenous group of rare/orphan genetic disorders which have different symptoms and could be transmitted in an autosomal dominant or recessive fashion.

Generally, they are neuromuscular disorders, unlike MD which is skeletal muscle weakness, characterized by muscle weakness developing in young adults, causing progressive muscle wasting and weakness that can lead to very severe disability within 10 - 20 years. HIBM is also known as Distal Myopathy with Rimmed Vacuoles (DMRV), Quadriceps Sparing Myopathy (QSM), or GNE related muscle disease.

Now I could go into it further, talking about HIBM linked to chromosome 9, the defective gene regulating bifunctional enzyme GNE, that is the rate-limiting step in the biosynthesis of sialic acid and that Sialic acid modification of glycolipids and glycoproteins at the cell surface is crucial for their function in many biological processes BUT I'm guessing no one wants to read that or understands the "meaning" except for those in biomedical research.

The experience is so much different than the textbook image. In 2003, over the phone of all places, Mayo Clinic gave me my HIBM diagnosis. But my symptoms probably began in 1997/1998. Due to having 5 previous incorrect diagnosis', and a series of bad medical experiences which I will probably share later, I wasn't even sure if HIBM was the correct diagnosis. Clinically, though, I treated it as if it was, so at the very least I could seek next steps...if there were any.  I'm the  researcher type so naturally that's where I started. I remember sitting in a dimly lit college computer lab perusing online medical journals for information only to find the same bits of word clusters. I read the textbook definition, the prognosis, the symptoms and the black insubstantial words staring back at me; RARE, WHEELCHAIR, WEAKNESS, DEBILITATING, GENETIC, NO CURE, LIFELONG. I thought, "Well this can't be all of it. It doesn't make sense, there has to be more information...something". In actuality, it wasn't the information -- I just hadn't attached meaning to it yet. I was alone in my space - in that college lab feeling neither sad nor angry, but detached. I had been through a number of diagnosis' before, the poking and the prodding, the muscle biopsies, so to me this was just another diagnosis. I had a life to live and these words meant nothing to me, at least not as much as they do now.

In 2004 I remember visiting my physiatrist with this new diagnosis in hand thinking perhaps he would create some understanding out of all my research efforts. He evaluated me and asked me weird things like, "Can you be in a sitting position and rise without needing to hold onto anything?"

I thought, "What a silly question. Of course I can" and would demonstrate it for him in an almost cocky-like manner.  "Hmmm, I can do this all day, Doc. Keep it coming". 

Today, getting up and down from a seated position is difficult and slowly turning into non-existent. That moment in the physiatrist's office is suddenly clearer and more real than it was when it actually happened. As the years progress, so does my body and when I recognize those measurable moments of progression such as; climbing stairs becoming difficult to non-existent, to not being able to ascend curbs, to not always being able to roll over in bed by myself or having trouble with unscrewing a toothpaste cap, I grab from those insubstantial black words I read in that dimly lit library and I start to attach meaning to them - slowly, like adding photographs to a scrapbook.

de·bil·i·tat·ing (dĭ-bĭlˈĭ-tāˌtĭng) adj. Latin debilitatus, past participle of debilitare to weaken, from debilis weak

"Ahhh, yes. I know what that word means. Gosh darn it, I went to college and Webster tells me what YOU mean", but I so didn't. I so did not. 

People who know me would probably say I'm upbeat, full of ambition, positive, optimistic but the truth is it can't possibly always be that way all the time...for anyone. It's not as easy as it may seem and everything is not "ok" all the time. There are days when it is hard to gracefully swallow the reality. Throughout my posts I hope that my condition will become less of a name and more of an experience. It's not meant to drum up pity or sadness for I have no use for such things and that crap is counter-productive, but perhaps I can paint a picture for the strangers who may be reading this or other fellow patients. So, what is HIBM, anyways? It's a part of me but not all of me. It can't be explained in just one post or one definition and the definition isn't as important as the experience. I'll keep sharing - I hope you'll keep reading and let's see how this thing turns out. :)