A woman gravely affected by the consequences of a chronic condition, especially the pain and grief brought along on a day-to-day basis, Catherine is a blood mother of three semi-capable children and the general caretaker for the family. When asked if anyone properly bothers with assisting with her constantly pained status, she simply responded with "no," and nothing further. It was a short answer, but a strangely powerful one to hear, especially coming from someone relatives heavily rely on. But, what is the corruption overtaking this barely able-bodied mother?
Hidradenitis Suppurativa, or simply known as “Acne Inversa," is one of the many chronic illnesses affecting an unfortunate sum within our world. A person included within that mentioned sum is the interviewee, Catherine Ferrell. Though, before delving deeper into symptoms and how it may affect her and anyone else that possesses the disease, more general information is required. Despite being a study from ten years ago, this national census still holds up: Even in just the United States, according to a 2008 study, approximately 45 percent of the population possesses a chronic condition of some sort. That’s just Americans alone; the percentage equals a whopping 133 million Americans in total, or even more so with these years gone past (fightchronicdisease.org). That is nearly half of the population. According to another study that was much more recent-conducted in 2012-about half of all adults (including those located in other countries), which is approximately 117 million people, all possessed one or more chronic health condition. One in four, however, had two or more chronic conditions (“Chronic Disease Overview”).
So, what is a chronic illness/condition? If the term hasn’t spoken for itself, a chronic illness is an illness that will last for quite a while. To be classified as such, aforementioned sickness must persist for three months or more, sometimes even indefinitely. A known effect among chronic conditions are their inclusion of often crippling or debilitating symptoms, ones that cannot be normally removed utilizing the curative natures of vaccines and medicines and cannot just suddenly “vanish” like everyday illnesses. The first two are not impossible, though, just rare in the case of preventing chronic illness. However, there are so medicines that can be used to somewhat combat negative factors, mostly by reducing these agonizing aspects.
Now having all that in mind, take a glance back at Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Having a gander at the symptoms for this condition, here is a direct quote of symptoms provided by Mayoclinic.org, “Hidradenitis suppurativa commonly occurs around hair follicles with many oil and sweat glands, such as in the armpits, groin and anal area. It may also occur where skin rubs together, such as the inner thighs, under the breasts and between the buttocks. Hidradenitis suppurativa can affect one spot or multiple areas of the body.” Of course that is not all. Here is a list of specific signs once again provided by Mayo Clinic:
Blackheads. Small pitted areas of skin containing blackheads — often appearing in pairs or a "double-barreled" pattern — are a common feature.
Red, tender bumps. These bumps often enlarge, break open and drain pus. The drainage may have an odor. Itching and burning may accompany the bumps. They usually appear in areas where skin rubs against skin.
Painful, pea-sized lumps. These hard lumps, which develop under the skin, may persist for years, enlarge and become inflamed.
Tunnels. Over time, tracts connecting the lumps may form under the skin. These wounds heal very slowly, if at all, and can leak pus.
There is much more regarding further signs, treatments, etc., but that should be plenty of insight for now. Some may wonder, “Well, how do you live with chronic disease and the agony it brings,” or “Can you do anything at all to get by?” Simply put: yes, you can. According to other people and their stories, as well as professionals that revolve around the fields of chronic condition, there are a multitude of things you can commit to, or factors that can reduce the strain of it all.
Like stated, there are the physical methods of coping that can be borrowed from the author of an intriguing article, Elliot Kukla, who also withstands his own practically crippling state. Consider these two excerpts from aforementioned article, the first below:
“Like many people, I had once measured my worth by my capacity to produce things and experiences: to be productive at work, share responsibilities at home, ‘show up’ equally in my friendships and rack up achievements. Being sick has been a long, slow detox from capitalist culture and its mandate that we never rest. Slowly, I found a deeper value in relationship beyond reciprocity: an unconditional love and care based in justice, and a belief that all humans deserve relationship, regardless of whether we can offer anything measurable back. In these discoveries, I’ve been led by other sick and disabled people, whose value had always been apparent to me. Amid the brilliant diversity of power wheelchairs, service dogs, canes and ice packs, it’s easy to see that we matter just as we are.”
And the second being Kukla's ending, with these final words of his recovery, “Eventually, my body did change. I am now able to stay awake longer, and my pain has receded to a dull throb. I can leave the house more; I can visit my clients and mentor my hospice volunteers, for which I am grateful. But I don’t see myself as cured, nor do I imagine a cure will come. This is merely another chapter in the life of my body. If I’m lucky enough to get old, my body will change again. Because of my illnesses and family history, I’m more likely to develop dementia. As I age, my body and mind will surely become more disabled. I will lose cognitive and sensory capacities. My skin and muscles will sag and disintegrate. I will depend more and more on other people. I will not be able to control my bowels or my surroundings as tightly. I will lose teeth, hair and precious memories. This is not a tragedy. This is what it means to be human” (Kukla).
As anyone can see, even without the introductory context of the article, Kukla coped with his illness. Kukla was previously someone who rejected offers of aid or consistent relations with others that were not his spouse, just seeing himself as the average human that is only there to produce whatever needed within his work space and home space. Once that meaning was lost, Kukla began spiraling towards a dead end he would not be able to escape. However, it was from that dead end that meaning was found. Meanings of new introspection and a respect for human function. Kukla was not cured by any means; the symptoms just became almost nothing to him once he realized he has a will. After all, he is human.
More physical treatments exist too. Take yoga instructor Karen Gagnier for example. Gagnier is a cancer survivor who-just like Kukla-was ready to give it all up once her diagnosis was given. But she too found meaning-meaning in a restorative exercise that should would share with others enduring the same as her: yoga.
“‘To me, it was the single most important thing I did for myself throughout the procedures,’ Gagnier says. Yoga helped her relax and make better decisions, as well as regain her energy after chemotherapy and movement after surgery. After only two sessions of physical therapy, she replaced the mundane 10-reps this, 10-reps that exercises with corresponding yoga poses to regain mobility. She still remembers the satisfaction she felt when she made her first upward-facing dog pose after treatment. Now, she can do cartwheels” (“Moving to Recovery”).
Though not as emotionally introspective as Kukla's mechanism, Gagnier’s yoga is still of the utmost importance when it comes to chronic conditions. Many give up on most physical activities altogether, believing that whatever aching or discomfort they now have makes it impossible to do anything, especially physical exertions that may assist in alleviating what ails them. Gagnier knows better. She knows that she must exert herself despite the hurt she feels because there is better comfort to be found.
Kukla and Gagnier both found something they could hook onto. But, what about Catherine Ferrell? During the interview she made no mentions of finding things to settle into to ease her pain; instead she gave almost dry tips for others that may be suffering like her. If Catherine can’t even follow the terms she made up for others in that situation, how does she hope to escape her own agony?
Or, does Catherine have any remaining hope to do that at all?