Sunday, July 30, 2017


An able-bodied friend and I recently discussed the swirl of issues surrounding transgender people, spurred by the President’s sudden tweeted edict banning transgender volunteers from serving in the military. My friend expressed mixed thoughts on these matters, most of them based on the fact he just couldn’t identify with a person feeling they were somehow born into a body of the wrong sex. I replied that I too couldn’t entirely relate to the emotional state and cultural pain experienced by transgender folks, but my feelings should have no bearing on issues of fairness and equality. If all people are indeed created equal, any person's standing as an equal should not rely on my ability to fully grasp the intricacies of their circumstances.

As those thoughts turned into words and left my lips, the realization hit that in many respects I can identify with at least some of the feelings I expect transgender people experience. I’m in no way equating my own situation with theirs, but thanks to Creeping Paralysis the inner me is now almost entirely divorced from the body in which it exists. I’m not transgender, but I am transabled.

My concept of “me” is still that of the wiry six-footer that I used to be, the mannish boy who reveled in meandering strolls through the city, long-distance swims, a vibrant social life, and a full tapestry of sensual and tactile delights. The self I hold dear bears no relation to the embodiment of decrepitude that confronts me whenever I glance down and take a gander at the frame that sits in my wheelchair. The image staring back at me when I muster up the courage to roll up to a full-length mirror and take a peek is a complete stranger, at least from the neck down. With its bloated belly and ravaged limbs, that thing in the chair is most emphatically not the me that dwells inside of it. The old me lives on, cocooned in my heart and soul, trapped within a penitentiary of increasingly useless flesh and bone.

Though I try my best to quiet the frenzied feelings engendered by this gaping disconnect between body and spirit, at times there is simply no denying the emotional tempest raging within. Confusion, anguish, sadness, a gnawing yearning for what used to be – negative energies all, especially when directed inward. And though I try my best to silence or at least contain them, these destructive emotions seek out seams and points of weakness through which to burst, like grasping fingers of flame blasting through an apartment building window, threatening a conflagration that will take down the entire edifice. Thus far my attempts at emotional alchemy, seeking to turn negative energy into positive, have helped neutralize the threat, but the potential for self-immolation always lurks within.

As a transabled person, I often find myself an alien on my own planet, a victim of a variety of discriminations. Outside the cozy confines of my home, there are bathrooms I can’t use, restaurants and shops that apparently don’t want me as a customer, and passersby to whom I appear to be invisible. Indeed, maybe even something worse than invisible, a threat, a reminder of the ephemeral nature of their own sense of normalcy, a not-so-subtle hint that the supposedly solid foundations of their lives are in fact made of nothing more than gossamer.

The New Testament warns us to judge not, lest ye be judged. As members of a society increasingly riven by social and political divides – largely manufactured by would be puppet masters who seek to gain wealth and power by exploiting the very fissures they have created – it should be contingent upon every individual to live those words as a matter of personal and national survival. It’s far past time to reject outright the prefabricated outrage bombarding us and not fall prey to manipulators who have nobody’s good at heart but their own. We are all in this together, black or white, gay or straight, abled or transabled. If we allow the cracks in our society to further widen, we may all too soon find out what lies at the bottom of the abyss.

To my fellow transabled people I can only offer the same advice that I try to follow myself; make every effort to channel the despair and outrage you feel over being trapped in an increasingly unrecognizable body into some sort of positive force. As the great Johnny Lydon stated, anger is an energy. For your sake and the sake of your transabled brethren, make every effort to direct that energy outward, to vent it in some sort of constructive way if only to not let it combust within you. Cry out against a multiple sclerosis status quo that has made treating but not curing somehow acceptable, confront a medical industry that obscenely sees us first not as patients but as consumers, and offer comfort and understanding to those similarly afflicted.

To the transgender community, I tender my support, as somebody who is now experiencing the turmoil of being transabled. Although we may not live in the same house, I believe we might reside in the same neighborhood. I didn’t choose my circumstances and neither did you. Stay strong.

Celebration-Elizabeth Jameson
Created from MRA image of my brain.
My dear friend Elizabeth Jameson (click here), a disabled person who is far more comfortable with her imperfect body than I am with mine, recently gave the below Tedx talk. Her words and deeds perfectly illustrate the power of directing potentially negative energy outward, thereby forcing it into becoming something positive. Elizabeth’s MS journey found her turned into an accidental artist, transforming MRI images into thought-provoking pieces of fine art. My brain had the honor of being one of her subjects, and the prints she created out of my MRIs reveal that I have a couple of dancers jitterbugging away inside my skull. Thanks to Elizabeth, images of my brain have appeared on the covers of medical journals (click here) and textbooks (click here). Though MS has now rendered her quadriplegic, Elizabeth’s radiant spirit and message of everlasting hope come through loud and clear in this riveting and important talk. Enjoy…

(For those receiving this via email, you can view this video on the Wheelchair Kamikaze website – click here)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hunger Games: Back on the Chuck Wagon

I finished this month’s round of the Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) last Friday. This time around, in addition to the five-day prepackaged Prolon diet (click here), I added an extra two days of my own design. I once again found the five day FMD to be surprisingly easy to complete. As was the case last month, the third day on the diet was the hardest but even that wasn’t too terrible, just some hunger pangs and a few wistful thoughts of key lime pie. By the fourth day, though, any feelings of hunger had subsided, and days four and five were a breeze.

Since things went so well over the prescribed five days, I went ahead with my plans to push the boundaries and extend the length of the Fasting Mimicking Diet with an additional two days of even more draconian dieting. On day six I ate about 25 olives over the course of the day, and drank water and a glycerol based energy drink that’s supplied with the Prolon diet. Because Prolon’s glycerol concoction is mixed with water in amounts depending on the dieter’s weight, I had plenty left over from the previous five days to make up a few more batches for my extended version of the diet. One day’s worth of energy drink supplies about 100 calories, and 25 olives provides another 100, so on day six I consumed a total of roughly 200 calories.

On day seven I decided to go liquid only, and confined my intake to water and the energy drink. Even so, I felt absolutely no hunger, and the day was actually kind of anticlimactic. Don’t know what I was expecting, but after six days of extremely reduced caloric intake, adding a seventh during which I consumed only 100 calories presented no problems whatsoever. I wasn’t very active, but then again being stuck in a wheelchair doesn’t make for a very physically active lifestyle. Even if I were to drive my wheelchair 10 miles, the effort only requires a modicum of pressure from my left arm and hand. Not exactly a high calorie burning activity, thus the presence of the bowling ball I seem to be concealing under my shirt.

Speaking of which, over the course of the seven days I lost about 5 pounds, which is exactly what I lost during last month’s five day FMD. I expected to lose more weight given the extra two days of fasting, but for whatever reason my bowling ball seems loath to shrink. I may have to resort to hammer and chisel.

I broke my fast on day eight with a cheese omelette and a bagel and butter, thinking these items fairly easy to digest. Apparently, my body had other ideas, and about 20 minutes after finishing my meal I was hit with a giant wave of fatigue that forced me to bed, where I crashed for a solid four hours of deep, deep sleep. I suppose after seven days of hardly having to devote any energy at all to digestion, suddenly being confronted with an omelette and bagel gave my body quite the shock, and my “awake” circuit breakers were slammed off in order to muster up the oomph to deal with the introduction of some solid food. Dairy and wheat (gluten) might also have presented my body with some problems other foods wouldn't have, but I've never had a problem digesting either. In any event, lesson learned, I’ll break next month’s fast with a simple fruit salad.

As for any changes in my disease state, I think it’s still too early to tell. I did have blood tests taken after day five of this month’s FMD, so we’ll see if they show any discernible signs of changes in my body chemistry. At this point I plan on doing the diet for at least two more cycles, tinkering with the formula in consultation with my naturopath.

Oh, I did reach out to Prolon about discounting their diet kit for patients with chronic illnesses. I was told to send an email to the CEO, which I did but so far have received no response. I’ll try again in a week or so and keep everyone posted if I make any progress in this regard…