Controversy and Community

I attended a symposium on ALS research today. As a result, my brain’s kinda full. Full of information, full of renewed energy to be a part of the solution, full of the obligatory introspection.

Oh, introspection. The knee-jerk “how does this all affect me” reaction to Serious Things.

So I apologize if this point is disjointed. My brain is random today and I’d really like to write up a full thing about the symposium and everything involved with it, I know that I probably won’t be arsed to do it. So instead, I’ma just barftype what’s on my mind. You’re warned. Two things come to mind, though, two main ideas that went through my brain repeatedly as I listened to three very, very smart people talk about advocacy, research, and a promising drug therapy, in their turns.

One? Thank god for science. Jeebus Christmastime flapjacks. The third speaker, specially, spoke about laboratory mice and their contributions, and the second spoke about stem cell therapy involving foetal spinal stem cells. Both highly controversial. Live animals, dead babies. Dead *potential* babies, I suppose, depending on your beliefs and politics. I don’t care to get into that. What I DO care about is how fucking USEFUL these research methods are, how sometimes really horrible things produce really amazing and life changing things, and how every day those decisions must be reevaluated. “Sacrifices must be made” is such simplistic bullshit, but I can not fathom how we’d get on without some of the amazing research and therapies and information that comes out of doing things not everyone agrees with.

I firmly believe that even the most staunch OMG DED BABIZ U MURDRER SINETISTS BASTURDS protester, if diagnosed with fast progressing ALS and told “there is promising research that may lead to a halt or reversal in your symptoms” will probably suddenly think that well, okay, maybe just ONE dead baby. That would be okay. One dozen babies in my spine to keep me walking and alive suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, I mean…Just as “NO YOU MUST LIVE WITH WHAT GOD GAVE TO YOU” might think differently about assisted dying. Until you are personally affected, until the decision could conceivably have some import to you personally, your opinion doesn’t carry much weight. You really, really don’t know, CAN’T know, what you really believe until it’s challenged and you face some really fucked up choices. While you’re safe from the consequences of that decision, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for people who ARE affected. I’m looking at you, old white guys making reproductive rights decisions for women. And you, PETA person. If your kid had cancer, and I told you that 2000 mice have to die in order to give your kid a chance to live? I bet you’d be suddenly less enamored of mousey rights. Maybe skip the hypotheticals and ask people who actually DEAL with the consequence.

*stepping off the soap box*

Oh, idea one point five – saint preserve us from everyone who has “read an article”. Especially off of the internet. You guys pipe down, too. The three panelists do this for a living. They’ve probably read that article. There’s a reason it’s not called out in the slides.

Point two, and the main one, is amazement at the sense of community with ALS peeps. I have met, and kept in touch with, and care about, people I’d never in my life have met otherwise. I’m antisocial (despite what Danielle says (or at least highly socially avoidant)) and it was a bit weird to come to the symposium today and know some of the people there. Simply because we’ve been similarly touched by a disease. Nothing else in common. Just..yeah, I have this disease too, ain’t it shit? Diagnosis comes with an education, and ALS particularly comes with a community. People I see so infrequently, and yet we have something that connects us on a level that no one else could possibly share.

I learned today that a disease is considered “rare” if less than 200,000 Americans have it. The number thrown around for ALS is usually 30,000, but I also learned today that the ALS registry puts it at more like 12,000. That’s really not many. My employer has 17,000 employees in my area, for example. All Americans with ALS are outnumbered by people working in one metro area for one company. So when you find someone else in your area that even remotely understands, you take note of that person and make an effort to keep them around. There’s nothing like being able to share on a deep and intuitive level what you’re going through. Because even though other people might understand on a theoretical level, it’s a completely different thing to find someone that you can just make eye contact with and say, “Fucking ALS.” and they say “yeah.” and …yeah, to their very SOUL they know exactly what you mean. Because fucking ALS. And because you know how shitty it is, you feel similarly compelled to help someone else in the same position to make their situation suck less. So you stick together, and exchange ideas, and cry for each other, and celebrate the triumphs of perfect strangers with whom you only share one horrible, horrible affliction.

So I guess I have a better understanding of why Harry Potter/Supernatural crossover porn forums exist.

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