Photo: Anne Lawrence, My dog Bradley in Oklahoma, 2005

It was a long hot summer. The kind of summer that never ends. I just needed to make it to Fall. I’d been looking for a job ever since my museum job had ended in April. Even though I was getting interviews, I didn’t seem to be landing anywhere — I was floundering. The offers I had weren’t for full-time work, but piecemeal, a class here, another one there. Even combined, it wasn’t going to be a living wage. I felt like I was running out of options.

Every week I filed my report with the Texas Workforce Commission for my unemployment. My parents had snagged an emergency health insurance policy for me when COBRA ran out. When the first symptoms showed up, the numbness in my right arm, I blamed stress or heat. Maybe I was cycling too much? I went to my RN when it started on my left arm. When I felt it in my legs, she sent me straight to the ER. This, this decision changed my path.

They thought they knew what it was. I fit the profile. Scandinavian descent, 30-something female with unexplained numbness throughout arms and legs. There was one more test they needed in addition to the CT scan they ran. I needed an MRI to look for the plaques at the base of the brain stem. They were looking for MS. (Spoiler: I don’t have it, but I didn’t know that then.)

I knew multiple sclerosis from the point of view of a caregiver. I had worked as a nanny and helper for a colleague as she dealt with the effects of an unpredictable and failing body. I knew the frustration and helplessness it can bring. But that summer, as we were puzzling out my symptoms, I knew I needed to find a better option for the fall.

I took the job in Oklahoma for the insurance. I took the job in Oklahoma for the single purpose of getting an MRI, to prove or disprove the diagnosis. I took the job in Oklahoma two weeks before school started to teach five classes across art history and art appreciation. This was how my adventure on the Western Plains of Oklahoma started. Just me and my dog Bradley.

Writer, researcher, observer