All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for February 2004

A sunny disposition in face of illness

For Tyngsboro woman, 'Hope' springs eternal,1413,105~4761~1947456,00.html

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Dennis Shaughnessey
Lowell Sun

It's a project she wishes she never had to do, but Tyngsboro resident Kathleen Gordon has found solace, clarity and a measure of hope in the 3-D art piece she calls "Hope."

"I initially named her Hope in a mocking way," says Gordon, 42, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. "But she has become my friend and has helped me deal with the disease."

The idea for the piece came to her about two years ago, when doctors prescribed a medicine that had to be administered every day. Before that, Gordon was on medicine that didn't have to be taken daily but negatively affected her liver.

"I remember the exact day because I had waited so long to go on a medicine that would not compromise other parts of my body," she says.

It didn't take her long to decide upon a subject. Every nook and cranny of her two-bedroom apartment is filled with suns of all shapes, sizes and textures. There are sun throw rugs, sun pillows and even a sun clock. She's especially enamored by the logo that appears on the masthead of her daily newspaper.

"The sun has always been a prominent part of my life, artistically," she says. "After the illness came on, I couldn't do the type of art I was used to. I still have that need to create, so I started branching out to 3-D artwork."

The artwork is an ornate depiction of a sun, made entirely of syringe covers, empty vials, used needles and other items that Gordon uses for her daily injections, which she administers herself. Although there are periods when she is physically unable to work on the project, she can make significant progress on her good days. But it takes a great deal of time, patience and stamina.

Each piece is painstakingly handpainted and glued onto a 42-inch-by-42-inch piece of glass surrounded by a metal frame. Eight long rays are separated by eight smaller rays and are adorned by a visual tapestry of vials, vial covers and other accoutrements that have become part of Gordon's life since she was diagnosed.

The face is painted on the glass, and the brightness of her eyes is accentuated by syringe needles. Gordon lives with her 23-year-old daughter, Amy, upon whom she relies for support. Another daughter, Alicia, lives in Portsmouth, N.H., and visits her every week.

Gordon is reluctant to speak at length about the disease but admits that she was in denial for years.

"I didn't realize the importance of early aggressive treatment," she says. "When I finally accepted it and let it in, it was very scary. There's not a lot of good news about MS research."

When multiple sclerosis strikes, the myelin sheath that surrounds and insulates nerve fibers is gradually destroyed, leading to a range of neurological symptoms, such as numbness and visual disturbances. MS is an unpredictable condition.

Gordon first sensed something was wrong when she developed an uncontrollable twitching in her eye. The disease has taken its toll, and there are days, sometimes weeks, when she is literally immobile. She often requires the use of a cane to get around. But she maintains a sense of humor and a rapid-fire wit that is both engaging and disarming.

When it is complete, Gordon is hoping that "Hope" can be hung where other MS patients can be inspired and encouraged.

"Maybe the newspaper would consider changing its logo," she joked. "There's always 'Hope.'"

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