Thank you for your interest in the Apples For AS. The Art Apple A Day project was created by Jennifer Dye Visscher to help raise awareness of a disease she has called Ankylosing Spondylitis.
The apples are posted in blog format so you will see the last apple first. To start from Apple ONE please visit here. Each apple is posted with thoughts, ideas, and in a blog or diary format. If you are looking for specific information related to this project or about spondylitis you will find a search box in the top black bar for your convenience.
To stay up to date on the latest happenings with Jenna, please stop by her current website JenniferVisscher.com
All my best, and thank you for learning a bit about my apples and their significance!
I can’t believe it. Only one apple left after tonight. It’s been a crazy few days and to be honest – I’m feeling exhausted. Between the event preparations of this last month, the travel and jet lag, and the early morning today to get ready for being at KPIX at 7:00 am has been a bit much. When you have AS, you prepare and plan. How long can I do something, how long can I stand, sit, or walk. We think of contingencies and then prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But what happens is that sometimes we go to New York city and spend the day in the hotel room.
I expected this would be the schedule but I hoped for boundless and endless energy! Oh well – I know I’ll make it through the Apple-A-Thon. Resting today was just a little bit of added insurance. My family and friends will be with me – holding me up and cheering me on. I love you all so much for doing this with me, for taking your time and your energies and sharing them with me, for my dreams. I love you all so very much.
Day 364 was created in acrylics and graphite.
***For any of you who haven’t seen the interview yet – here’s the link! Make sure to take a look at the great article the station did for us below the video!
***When we got to the station – two things happened that I thought I’d share. First, the producer said “wow, we wish you could paint an apple while you talk” – can you imagine! I’d love to paint an apple on t.v. but no one would have heard a word I said about AS. Maybe if I’ve got 10 minutes on a show and not 2! How bout next time??? Second thing was that they said all of my apples were too small (I thought we’d gone over that!) and did I have something bigger? Quick call to my Dad back at the hotel and he jumped in a cab and brought over the Apple-A-Thon Poster which ended up being perfect – and Dad got to see the inner workings of the t.v. station too! All in all, it all worked out and it was a great experience. Hopefully a little bit of knowledge and awareness about AS was spread today!
***Here’s a photo of me resting with my niece Parker and nephew Beckett. Parker picked out this beautiful magnet for me today – it’s an apple and I adore it!
***My thoughts today with my friend Amanda and her daughter Alexandra.
I for one will celebrating and thinking about the glorious apple.
They have come to mean so much to me and hopefully to you all as well. Maybe I had apples on the brain all those months ago because it is simply the time of the year for the apple harvests. Perhaps it was that the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was so meaningful at the time but for sure the idea sparked in me for a reason.
What do you think Johnny Appleseed would think of blue spondylitis apples? I have a feeling he’d approve!
Day 361 was created with a few separate images of an old Johnny Appleseed $.05 postage stamp pieced together to make into a square instead of a rectangle as the original stamp was created. Ink and watercolors to give it a bit of paint and color!
*** My Mom asked me to add a note to today’s post that she plans on responding to every comment that you all made on her guest blog post from Day 350 – My Mom’s Perspective. She was so touched by your comments that she wanted to have the time to respond thoughtfully to each of you. I will post here once she’s done in the next week or so. In the mean time she’s says she’s looking forward to the Apple-A-Thon!
My mom has been with me everyday and at every step through each apple. She has cheered each high and she’s felt my lows probably more than I have. When she told me she was writing about her impressions of the last 10 years I felt a huge sense of relief. I cried when I read her account. The memories are very difficult to relive but I am so glad she found the strength to remember and share.
Jenna’s AS Journey – Her Mom’s Perspective
“Jenna hasn’t talked much about her AS story. I’d like to share my version. I know all of you recognize the common, hurtful threads.
In 2000 the calls from Jen in California were becoming more desperate. Something was very wrong.
Doctors were being of no help and Jen was becoming less and less able to function. In early June Doug was scheduled to be away for a week and when Jenna and I spoke there was terror in her voice at the prospect of being alone for that time. The behavior was such a radical change from Jen’s norm that I flew to California to be with her. During this year she had already experienced two violent viral attacks of the flu and a horrible reaction to nose surgery to correct a deviated septum. Were these triggers?
Now the fatigue had set in.
Then the pain came.
She was working part time and while I was there she had me drive her all over the Bay area to her work locations – since she was sixteen she always drove. This omen loomed large.
Every moment Jen wasn’t working, she was resting in bed, resting while beading jewelry on the couch to divert herself from the pain and fatigue, or sleeping. Oh, and she was eating. Her body craved more and more nourishment. I had a period when I suffered with Pallindromic Rheumatism during which I thought that if I could just eat enough, energy would return and I’d be stronger. The very difficult pain I experienced during that time also allowed me to better understand what Jenna would go through in the coming years.
Since my visit to California
I’ve seen her lie on a chaise lounge in the kitchen with me, because she didn’t have the strength to sit up and we needed each other’s company. We were scared.
I’ve heard a doctor ask about her relationship with her husband.
I’ve seen her taped up by the physical therapist.
I’ve seen her attach electrodes to her muscles.
I’ve seen her get shots to deaden the nerves in her hips.
I heard in disbelief that she drove three hours to pick up a rescue dog – Ella became her all day companion and comfort – a reason to get out of bed.
I’ve seen her get ultrasounds.
I’ve taken her to acupuncture.
I’ve listened to her tranquil music and smelled the aroma therapy.
I’ve watched her buy vitamins in bulk and herbs.
I’ve watched her inject herself in the stomach.
I’ve seen her cringe when one of her brothers hugged her too hard.
I’ve seen her in agony unable to speak and barely able to move.
I’ve seen her wear running suits for two years because anything else hurt too much on her body.
I’ve seen her be humiliated by pharmacists when purchasing prescription pain medication.
I’ve seen her get test after test and search longer and harder for an explanation than anyone I’ve known.
I’ve heard her sobbing in pain.
I’ve seen her back and loins covered in angry, red rashes as we tried to find a new place for the pain patch.
I’ve watched her gain weight.
I’ve watched her lose too much weight.
I’ve seen the pouch under her chin which I know means bad times are coming.
I’ve seen her struggle to remain visiting with the family to watch her young nephews play when the pain is breaking through – now she can paint with Parker and carry Beckett (that was crazy, Jen, but you did it).
I’ve watched her struggle to take care of Doug, her husband.
I watched Doug care give and support and support and support. It’s a tough, tough job. Thank you so much, Doug. XOXO
I’ve watched their distress at not being able to have a child together.
I’ve watched her be “up” for her Dad so he wouldn’t hurt so much at her pain.
I’ve seen her go to primary care physicians, ER rooms, the Medical Center at Stanford, physical therapists, pain management physicians, nerve specialists, rheumatologists (she has a wonderful one now).
I’ve watched when the family pushed her in a wheelchair around an amusement park because walking wasn’t an option – nor was going on rides. She was there to participate with us.
I’ve heard her suffering on the phone in the midst of a bad reaction to a new drug.
I’ve heard her describe having her coccyx adjusted.
I’ve watched the hurt when friends who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand or cope faded away.
I’ve seen her wear her neck brace at her brother’s wedding – thin as a rail – and then watched her lose another fifteen pounds from a negative response to Arava.
I’ve seen her flinch when we went over a bump in the car – she sits in the back so she won’t have to turn her head to talk to us – still.
I heard her desperation when she didn’t test positive for the HLA-B27 gene. She called from the parking lot outside the rheumatologist’s.
I’ve seen her eyes when they were red and inflamed angry and dry from uveitis.
I’ve seen the depression when hope seemed far away.
I’ve seen the skin peeling away from her fingers from psoriatic arthritis (the last link that confirmed her diagnosis).
I know she’s tried NSAID’s, Muscle Relaxants, DMARDs, TNF’s self-injectables, Opiates and other pain killers (pill & patches) , Steroids, Ant-depressants, Anti- convulsants, and the list goes on.
I watched her put on a red hat Doug gave her one time for Christmas and smile courageously at him although hurting all over.
I’ve seen her disappear behind her eyes.
I’ve seen her disappear behind her eyes.
I heard her joy when Remicade was approved for use for patients with AS and start the therapy. I watched her slowly return from the pain and drug fog and laugh more again and start to paint again.
I heard her long struggle to free herself from the narcotics which allowed her to live at all, the drugs which dulled some of the pain; it took her six months and she did it alone, but together with Doug, and the advice of a pain management physician, who didn’t believe she did it outside a hospital.
I watched her struggle to find a job (she eventually got three) after years of not working, when financial times were very tough and holding on to health insurance was a necessity of continued hope.
I watched when holding the job was all she could do. Other parts of life had to wait.
I boggled in amazement when I received the first email saying she was going to paint an original apple every day for a YEAR to raise awareness of AS! What???
I’ve seen her paint an apple a day and write a blog to go with them.
I saw the overwhelming fatigue and, yes, the telltale pouch under her chin after AS Awareness month. In March she was working on three projects for AS awareness – usually fourteen hours a day.
I’ve read so many stories just like Jen’s. Each has their own difficult version of effort, pain, depression, survival, hope and awareness. I’ve shared their emotional distress from my computer.
I’ve read and appreciated many inspirational blogs from AS’ers and people with other chronic diseases, also dedicated to raising awareness and helping others.
I know the financial strain it has been.
I know where the disappointments are.
I’ve seen her keep her goal in front of her to try to reach out to those in the community and beyond, to talk about the positive, to dream her dreams and share them, and to send a helping, encouraging hand. All of which effort is magnified by chronic illness. I know she will go ahead forward after this year.
I’ve seen her grow in understanding, knowledge of the AS community and its struggles, empathy and friendship. She has made wonderful on line friends whom I, too, treasure and who give her courage every day by their responses to her efforts.
I know how overjoyed she was when her brothers said nothing would keep them from NYC to help celebrate her year long journey and asked her to stay strong through to the end.
I look forward to meeting some of you and your families in NYC and to all her supporters whom I won’t be able to meet, her father and I would like to say, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your gracious and moving support.”
I wish Jenna, AS sufferers, everyone who will participate, and the SAA the best finishing/fundraising event ever. Send an apple, paint an apple, bring an apple. We’ll take pictures and post them of the wonderful time we will have.
To all of you who are care givers or supporters of people with chronic illness, I know you understand this story and I wish you courage and patience and I send you a light to shine through your darkness, for the difficult days can indeed be dark for everyone (thank you, Melissa, for that lovely image).”
Susan & Jenna
Day 348 was created with one of my favorite photos of my mom and me. It sits on the counter in my bathroom – a place I can look at it all the time. I tried to paint this apple with every vibrant color of the rainbow. I think the photo captures our relationship. I love you Mom.
We all have the family stories we tell over and over again.
Usually they involve Murphy’s Law, a fit of hysterics, or childhood antics. I guess this story involves all three of those!
When I was around six we lived on a farm outside of Montpelier, Vermont. It was somewhat isolated up a hill off the main road and with only one other house nearby. My parents bought it knowing it would need some “work” and one of the projects was painting – isn’t it always.
I’m not sure why my Mom thought it would be all right to place a 7 and 4 year old in front of a can of paint and place brushes in their hands and just run inside for a moment to fetch something.
I swear that Jay Jay started it!
When my Mom came outside we were completely covered – I’ll never forget the sheer joy and giggles – so much more fun than painting the side of the house. We were ushered (that’s putting it in kind terms) inside stripped, bathed and sent to our rooms where we proceeded to sit in our individual door ways and continue the giggles. Mom still gets exasperated in the telling!
Day 271 was created in drop after drop of acrylic paint – some swirled together for effect.
I’ve learned so much about so much. What a crazy wonderful ride it has been so far and I love every day I can say I’m an artist, a blogger, and I want to tell the world about Autoimmune Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis. Some may ask why I decided to do “Art Apple A Day” – to spend a year of my life dedicated to this crusade and all I can say is that it was just what I had to do.
I deal with this disease but I feel fortunate. The medications help me and I no longer suffer like so many people with this disease do. But, I’ve been there.
I’ve. Been. There.
I’ve been in a place that no one should have to ever be, a place of constant and non-stop pain. I do not want people to have to live their lives this way. I am not immune to the fact that I could be back in that place. The medications can stop working, the options can run out, as they do for many or, I could never have been able to get them at all.
I live with this knowledge but as long as my pain is lessened and my disease is somewhat controlled I feel that I need to work to help people who are in “that place” – I feel a responsibility since I am one of the fortunate. And I feel guilt because I do not understand why I can get a medication that helps and others cannot.
Because of all these reasons – I do this.
Day 266 was created in liquid acrylics and watercolor.
I’ve given up before and I don’t like the feeling. You try to justify why you quit – you just changed your mind really – it wasn’t quitting.
Stopping for reasons beyond your control happens to everyone – myself included and there are reasons to make a life change. I did resign at my last job. Was that quitting or simply moving on to the next stage in my life? We weigh the pros and cons and make judgment calls but when personal commitments we make to ourselves are broken simply because it’s the easier path, well, that is another story. I want to promise myself that I will find my way through whatever I attempt to do be it physical or emotional and I will never, ever, give up.
Easier said than done but it’s something I want to strive for – it’s a way I want to be.
My apples are symbols. They represent my health and my life and hopefully for some they will come to represent a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis – they most certainly do for me. Every day I struggle to continue this journey – there are many reasons to stop. Uncertainty, insecurity, and simple fatigue. But I feel driven and my drive to create 365 days of apples is to prove something to myself and to stand tall for all AS’ers and show the world who we are! We overcome the most amazing adversity. We live with a disease that exists in obscurity and I will keep working and fighting to raise awareness. That’s my pledge to you!
Day 175 was created in mixed media collage. An old Webster’s Dictionary page with inspirational and coincidental words on the same page, a sheet of yellow legal paper with “I will not give up” written repeatedly, and some pastels to make it all pretty!