June 1, 2004
Marin Independent Journal
WHEN PHOTOGRAPHER Amelia Davis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few months before her 30th birthday, the first image that came to mind was a wheelchair with her in it.
Five years later, she is in remission. There is no wheelchair. "I'm doing very well," she says. "I started doing therapy right away to slow the progression of the disease. I feel very fortunate."
In her new book, "My Story: A Photographic Essay on Life with Multiple Sclerosis," Davis tells the stories of people and their caregivers who are living with MS, an auto-immune disease that affects 350,000 Americans. It's cause is not entirely known and there is no cure.
"People should see the reality of MS, and this is my way of getting them to look at it," she says. "I want them to see that everybody can contribute, even if they are in a wheelchair."
Davis features 32 people with MS, including two Marin residents, Barbie Bailard, 56, of San Rafael, and Judy Vaughan, 66, of Tiburon. Each piece includes photos by Davis and an essay written by her subjects.
Vaughan writes about her "unpredictable balance" and "awkward gait," her leg brace and "ugly shoes," but she feels good about learning to paint and taking tandem bike rides with her husband, Tom.
"There continue to be frustrations," she says, "but, overall, I think I have adapted well and am grateful for what I can do."
Bailard, who lives alone and gets around in a motorized wheelchair, has been buoyed by support from her menagerie of pets, her part-time caregiver and her network of friends, including her "firemen brothers" who have come to her home to help her from time to time. In gratitude, she began baking them bread using a machine, earning her the e-mail address "Barbie Bread."
"I rarely focus on my obvious situation, but rather count the blessings in my life, of which there are many," she writes.
Comedian Richard Pryor is pictured with his wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, at their home in Southern California. "I am the only photographer the Pryors have allowed to photograph Richard since his battle with MS has worsened and he has been confined to a wheelchair," Davis says. "I want to show what MS looks like and that people like Richard Pryor are still alive and fighting."
Writing on behalf of her husband, Jennifer Pryor says, "We have left the past behind and reclaimed the good and the love and the best of what we originally offered each other, before bad choices and cocaine intruded ... MS has in a strange way been a blessing. Perhaps it has kept Richard alive."
Davis is also the author of "The First Look," about women who have had
breast cancer surgery. "My Story: A Photographic Essay on Life with Multiple
Sclerosis" ($19.95, Demos Medical Publishing), is available at bookstores,
by calling 800-532-8663, or online at www.demosmedpub.com.
Copyright © 2004, Marin Independent Journal