Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Autumn: research & lumberjacks & novel reprinted

Watching the 2003 film Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran the other night, I was reminded of my time in France at L'Université de Caen, in the scene where the son feeds his father cat food and passes it off as pâté. My flatmate and I used to buy jars of pâté, from Carrefour that looked and tasted like cat food. I still remember the red and white chequered lids. I came across my carte de séjour the other day, which gave me a pang, more than just the nostalgia of finding student items from the '80s, it was when my life changed forever. In this student ID photo, I'd already picked up the Coxsackie B4 virus (while still at home in Scotland) and was having bizarre, frightening symptoms, with no clue, of course, of what lay ahead. In the photo, I'm wearing a purple and red and white lumberjack shirt - my then boyfriend's. Lumberjack shirts were fashionable then. 

The lumberjack theme is resonant:

In interesting new research from Professor Montoya's team at Stanford, they've found specific brain anomalies in ME patients:

The analysis yielded three noteworthy results, the researchers said. First, an MRI showed that overall white-matter content of CFS patients’ brains, compared with that of healthy subjects’ brains, was reduced. The term “white matter” largely denotes the long, cablelike nerve tracts carrying signals among broadly dispersed concentrations of “gray matter.” The latter areas specialize in processing information, and the former in conveying the information from one part of the brain to another. That finding wasn’t entirely unexpected, Zeineh said. CFS is thought to involve chronic inflammation, quite possibly as a protracted immunological response to an as-yet unspecified viral infection. Inflammation, meanwhile, is known to take a particular toll on white matter.

In the reporting of these findings, one news outlet accompanied its article with a photo of a tired looking lumberjack. It's hard to overstate how fucking irresponsible this is, though we are used to articles about ME with stock photos of fatigued women decoratively slumped over laptops, or sitting on beautiful white sofas looking a wee bit peaky. And as for the illness being 'real', well, the wise/informed among us have known that for decades. But when you get idiots in the medical community renaming a serious neuroimmune illness as 'chronic fatigue syndrome' - as happened in the late eighties/nineties - and reframing the illness to suit their own agenda - you probably can't expect the media to be anything other than sloppy.


I used to count the years after I got ill in 1982, I stopped some time in the late nineties. But, still, when autumn comes, I know deep down that another year has passed. The State of Me has, happily, just been reprinted. The cat food scene is in there, of course.


Martin McCallion said...

Hey, congrats on the reprint.

Lumberjack shirts keep coming back into fashion. They're fairly trendy now -- or at least checked shirts, especially among hipsters. I just bought a new one myself, and as I'm sure you'd expect, I like to keep very on-trend.


nmj said...

Hey, Martin, Thanks, it's a small (re)print run, but still great news. And I am delighted that lumberjack shirts are back in!