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Artist pushes through the fog
Thursday 10 March 2011
Artist pushes through the fog
Fairport, N.Y. —
Painting is not just a hobby for Fairport artist Patricia Hill. For her, it’s therapy.
Hill is one of many who suffer from fibromyagia syndrome — a disease characterized by chronic pain and fatigue. While her story is one of success, it’s taken years to find help with coping with the disease.
“When you’re faced with chronic pain, you just lose track of everything,” she said. “It’s like living in a fog.”
Hill’s daughter Adria Hendrickson says she remembers her mother having symptoms while she was a child. It would show in small ways, like when Hill mother wouldn’t go on amusement park rides or water skiing.
When Hendrickson and her sister Sarah entered her pre-teen and teenage years, the symptoms became more pronounced. After most social gatherings that required sitting, she would ask her daughters to rub her neck and shoulders. While her mother didn’t talk about her discomfort, Hendrickson said, body language made it clear that something was wrong.
Like many of the six million other patients suffering from FMS in the United States, Hill went through a series of misdiagnoses. For seven years she went back and forth between living in constant pain and struggling to concentrate with medications muddling her senses.
“I nearly gave up all hope for living any kind of a normal life,” she said.
Since being properly diagnosed in 1999 and starting on Savella, the appropriate medication, life has been different. In 2001, she picked up a paintbrush for the first time to surprise her husband with a Christmas gift — a painting that would be the first in her “Emerging Earth” series.
Over the next three years she became more comfortable getting back into art, and has continued to paint and build her strength through physical exercise. For the last seven years Hill has been juried into the selective Rochester Art Club, and her work has been displayed at the Vagabond Gallery in Canandaigua, the Memorial Art Gallery, and a solo show in the Catskill region.
Now she’s managing the art gallery at the cafe in Rubino’s in Rochester, where local artists have their work shown every month. One of her greatest joys is traveling to different cities and visiting art galleries and museums.
Her experience has shaped her outlook, not just as an artist appreciating the beauty of simple things, but facing the unknown with courage.
“I’ve learned that you’ve got to be a strong advocate for yourself, and to not dwell in misery,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of antidepressants,” she added. “It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person.”
Her advice to others suffering from FMS? Communicate clearly with your loved ones. If you or someone you know has symptoms, doubting their pain will only make it worse.
Just ask her daughter. Hendrickson, now 33, is a Nazareth College graduate who has been a physical therapist for nine years. Her mother’s struggle with FMS inspired her to write about it, and her master’s thesis was a research project on the effects of aquatic exercise on FMS. Through her research, she found that the disease often goes misdiagnosed because doctors suspect the pain is “all in your head.” This information lined up perfectly with her mother’s experience.
“It has been a lifelong duty of helping my mother live with this condition, and so more knowledge is (hopefully) healing power.”
The above originally appeared here.
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