By PATTI NUNN
(Posted Aug. 4, 2000.)
Keith Snyder is an artist -- a writer and a composer of music. He's written and published three mystery novels, several music CDs and a short film. He composed the theme music for the 1999 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and the music featured on the latest national Tropicana commercials.
Snyder is a man who understands flow. In fact, one of his CDs is entitled "Flow of Soul".
Last fall, his creative flow was challenged by a trip to the emergency room when he experienced double vision and nausea that went beyond a normal bout with the flu. A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) soon followed.
Snyder generally has a can-do attitude toward life, albeit with the cynical bent that supports the idea that you'd better do it yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. After a lengthy and less than pleasant stay in the ER, he was admitted for testing.
"The CAT scan wasn't so awful," Snyder said, "and the MRI wasn't so fun, but it was better than the spinal tap, which was performed by someone who's never done needlepoint before."
Road less traveled
Much like the characters in his books, Snyder's life hasn't all been easy. In his work, he's taken the road less traveled and never opted for the easy way.
To help further the career of his wife, Kathleen Haaversen, an operatic vocalist, Snyder moved from Los Angeles to New York City not long before his latest book was published.
There, La Diva, as he affectionately calls his wife, experienced an increase in career opportunities, while Snyder was heralded as a "writer to watch...with an eye for locale and an ear for dialogue that snaps, crackles and pops" by D. L. Browne of "I Love a Mystery".
Snyder's latest book, "Trouble Comes Back", is aptly titled when you consider that the book made its public debut the same month 33-year-old Snyder was diagnosed with MS. Rave reviews from respected industry sources such as "Publisher's Weekly", "Booklist" and "The Library Journal" described him as a talented young artist with a promising future in the industry whose best was yet to come.
Most writers would be ecstatic with that kind of reception for their work, but Snyder was struggling with double vision, wearing an eye patch and hearing doctors' predictions for a much less favorable future. A man whose career relies largely on his ability to see and interpret, in words and music, the life taking place around him was suddenly facing the reality that he might soon be unable to see or to navigate the unfamiliar streets of New York.
Dust yourself off and pick yourself up
How did he react to that news?
"The only really emotional moment I had was brief; the first day I returned to the hospital for a steroid IV infusion, I found a men's room where I could sit in one of the stalls and weep for a little while," Snyder said.
After that episode, he dried his eyes and carried on with life as usual.
Eight months later, Snyder still has a positive attitude. Nobody's future is certain and not all predictions are correct.
"Any crisis can make you reevaluate," he maintained. "I had a few months of being determined to get lots of creative projects going, but it wasn't until I really calmed down that those projects got truly underway. I've recently sold my fourth novel, a song cycle I wrote will premier in NYC later this year and we're shooting another short film in two months."
Would he have accomplished those goals anyway? Probably.
Fellow writer and musician, Blake Arnold, has known Keith for years - since they were both in their early twenties. He's worked with him on the production of a short film entitled "One is for Gun" and performed with him in a Los Angeles-based group called Cosmic Debris.
"Keith has an optimism that is so deeply internalized that it doesn't seem like optimism until you watch how he lives. He doesn't talk about all the things he is going to do, he just does them. It's inspiring to know him," Arnold remarked about any changes in his friend since the time of Keith's diagnosis.
Indeed, Snyder shrugs off the idea that the diagnosis has changed his outlook in any significant degree.
"The future is uncertain, but that was true before the diagnosis. Sooner than I'd like, I may be unable to walk, prevent myself from urinating, sit still without spasms or have sex normally. Until then, I have things to do," Snyder commented
MS is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system. It involves the demyelination or wearing away of the myelin that covers and insulates nerves, much as the covering of an electrical wire that ensures smooth transmission of current. In simplest terms, MS disrupts the flow.
Symptoms of MS vary depending upon which areas of the nervous system are affected. The most common include vision problems, balance and coordination difficulties, weakness and fatigue, spasticity, altered sensation and muscle pain. The disease afflicts nearly 300,000 Americans and although treatment eases symptoms, it does little to alter the course of the disease.
Snyder is right -- no one can predict the future with certainty, with or without disease. For those afflicted with MS, the degree and speed of the disease progression varies immensely. With medical researchers actively seeking new treatments and cures, Snyder's advice is to live life to the fullest one day at a time. After all tomorrow is another day.
Patti Nunn is a freelance writer for AccessLife.com in Palmer, Texas. You can reach her at Rebelssong@aol.com.
Keith Snyder's Web Site is at http://www.woollymammoth.com/keith/