Worth All the Regrets | My Third and Sickest Burn

 

Burning Man saved my life when I desperately needed a reason to keep living with chronic disease and disability. I owe it for reminding me what it means to be a whole human.

I return each year to the event in Black Rock City, a city that rises from the dust and becomes Home to around 80,000 temporary neighbors for 8+ days each summer.

Yet I risk a lot by simply showing up because of my Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).

My medications severely dehydrate me, I’m at greater risk of sunburn and heat stroke, and symptoms can flare without warning especially if I push too hard. I don’t know what it’s like to not have pain; inflamed lungs make breathing difficult even without inhaling fistfuls of dust; debilitating fatigue can suddenly overwhelm me; and my body is weaker every year, making it difficult to explore without a chaperone lest I become unable to make it back to camp.

In a city where survival is part of living, my decision to be there is radically dangerous and bold.

The reality that every Burn could be my last as my body deteriorates is an unsettling feeling. I don’t want to stop going to Burning Man, but I also fear the inflated odds that I could have a health emergency in the middle of a desert with no access to cell reception or internet.

And during my third Burn, those odds almost won. Three times. Continue reading Worth All the Regrets | My Third and Sickest Burn

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How a Pair of Heels Gave Me a Reason to Live with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Shortly after I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) I decided to buy a pair of heels. I could count on one finger the number of times I’d successfully worn heels in the past: to that dance in college after a knee surgery, using my crutches to help me balance.

I grew up in rural North Carolina and heels did not help me climb trees, catch blue crabs, or sail a boat. I didn’t have a use for them. I didn’t know how to wear something that wasn’t running shoes or soccer cleats. I would only try on heels to make my friends laugh while I stumbled around like Jar Jar Binks.

It seems counter-intuitive that I would purchase a pair of heels right after being diagnosed with a disease that causes extreme joint pain, inflammation, and spinal damage. I should be preserving my body and my joints as much as possible, right?

But when I was diagnosed with AS something clicked inside me, and it wasn’t a desire to follow the Yellow Brick Road back home to Kansas. It was a sudden desire to experience everything life could offer before I couldn’t do it anymore. And that somehow meant learning how to walk in heels even if I was only able to use them for a year, 5 years, or 10 years. Even though it didn’t make any sense.

So I bought heels and kind of learned to walk in them.

And then I became a fashion model. I swear it wasn’t planned. During my first photo shoot the photographer had to teach me how to pose gracefully without falling over. Continue reading How a Pair of Heels Gave Me a Reason to Live with Ankylosing Spondylitis

My Search for Clean Air in a World Blowing Smoke | California on Fire

I don’t usually have an emotional attachment to the appliances in my home. In general I don’t think much about the refrigerator, toilet, or my kitchen table. Unless they break or smell bad. Then I have some emotions, but not good ones.

But I just got an air purifier and I’m definitely emotionally attached.

This isn’t a post about the air purifier though. I figured you’d want to know ahead of time that this is not a post hailing the low-intelligence robot performing air quality CPR in my living room. I’m sorry if you were here for that.

In all seriousness, wildfires and a medical crisis brought a community of people to this impoverished person’s nostrils. My people showed up and breathed life back into me. Literally.

Kind of. Continue reading My Search for Clean Air in a World Blowing Smoke | California on Fire

Ankylosing Spondylitis Eradicated? A Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Called GreenEva

February 17th, 2073.

Everything was eerily calm. Aside from a few fiery crashed planes and the last of the human-powered trains derailing, the world was quiet. Too quiet, except for hungry dogs with full bladders barking inside suddenly empty houses.

Traffic lights changed from yellow to red, red to green, then yellow to red again. Clock towers struck 9:00 AM and the Times Square marquee scrolled unchanging stock market shares. Swing sets swung and flags unfurled in the breeze.

This wasn’t the post-apocalypse sci-fi anyone had read as a teenager.

People had simply vanished. Poof.

The dark green fog, Green Evanescence, had taken every human with it.

Almost every human. Continue reading Ankylosing Spondylitis Eradicated? A Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Called GreenEva

Disabled Deputy On a Roll

I became a self-titled Episcopal Church Geek as soon as I learned the proper order in which to extinguish altar candles, when I was 7-ish. My early days as an acolyte are blamed on my desire to be just like my closest older brother, who is five years my senior. But, once in, I was so enamored with being part of how church functioned that I never thought of leaving.

I was hungry for more. 

It could seem cult-ish to say I’ve never questioned my faith, but in all honesty that’s the truth. Because the norm in my religious upbringing was that I was encouraged to ask tough questions of God, the Bible, the preacher, our beliefs, rituals, and more. The thing that allowed me to never question my personal faith was the fact that I had permission to question everything about it. The very freedom that I could so easily walk away meant that I had a reason to find out why it was important to stay. 

I was 16 or so when I thought I wanted to be a priest, but it would take another 15 years before I would find my true calling as an Episcopalian. I’m still figuring out the whole priest thing.

This post explores some of the ways I am beginning to bridge my “in real life” disability and chronic disease advocacy work with my passion for helping The Episcopal Church truly welcome everyone. Continue reading Disabled Deputy On a Roll

Medical Pinkwashing and the Gender Binary

Content advisory: this post discusses experiences and examples of medical spaces being uncomfortable/unsafe for people who identify as transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, or another related identity.


I made this a blog post after publishing it on my personal facebook page and several people commented that they had no idea these experiences existed. I realized it should reach a wider audience. I’ve posted it below without editing except to emphasize certain words and I’ve also added some links for further education.


I’m pretty sure you are aware of the pinkified, radically femme and feminized culture of breast health issues, breast cancer, and the typically-broadcast stereotype that only cisgender women experience them.

I’m pretty sure you all are also aware that all genders and body types can have breast medical issues despite the above-mentioned stereotype.

But I think many people aren’t aware of what it can feel like to be in a medical space intentionally geared towards women’s breast care if you are a nonbinary, genderqueer, or transgender (and other identities) person. Or a cisgender man.

Continue reading Medical Pinkwashing and the Gender Binary

In Support of Rent Control in Sacramento

I’m a severely low-income resident of Sacramento.

This might surprise you considering I’m pretty well-known for my advocacy related to healthcare, disability, and chronic diseases. You’ve seen me on the Sacramento TEDx stage, the Women’s March on Sacramento, in press conferences and on healthcare panels, in this upcoming documentary, and in numerous television interviews about national healthcare policies.

Someone so steeped in the public eye shouldn’t have a worry about housing, right?

Yet what I haven’t talked about publicly is my very fear of becoming homeless. I’ve reached out to local representatives about my fears only to be redirected or ignored completely. It’s time you know what it’s like for me facing barriers to safe, stable, affordable housing in Sacramento, California.

Mid-June 2018 I was officially granted permanent disability benefits, Continue reading In Support of Rent Control in Sacramento

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