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Blood 8D

888W a (very basic) zine celebrating disability in STEM fields

organized by katie walsh







Pure Math (Kenan Ince)


Stephanie Berg


Interview with Cameron Calcluth


Yes, Migraines are a Disability (Laura Martin) ...9 Staring through a Window (Cam P)


Interview with Roy Alexander


A Note from the Organizer (Katie Walsh)






My first bout of migraines came about when I was in fourth grade. Nearly every Monday, right before my afterschool choir rehearsal, I would get a painful migraine, throw up in a trash can, and wait for my one of my parents to come pick me up. At the time, no one had realized that these were serious migraines, ones that would require some sort of medication to help alleviate them. It’s pretty likely that I was actually just getting a terrible case of the Mondays and stressing myself out to the point that a migraine was triggered. Stress continued as a trigger for me throughout middle school and high school. Often on the first day of class of a new year, I would get a migraine, go to the nurse’s office, and lay crying in the dark until someone could pick me up to take me home. Sharp throbs behind my left eye and head splitting pain meant that I wasn’t able to do anything besides sleep or move to a new area to get to sleep. My migraines would prevent me from attending swim practice, finishing the school day, and even stop me from eating dinner with the rest of my family if they occurred in the evening. Throughout this time, I tried out a variety of treatments to address my migraines. For a bit, I would listen to Enya (mature tastes for an eleven-year-old, I know) to attempt to relax, and although it didn’t really help with the pain, it was nice to daydream of being whisked away to paradise by the ethereal deity, Enya. To this day, my mom suggests Enya to people when they have headaches of some sort. My time in middle school was marked by bad dye jobs and peppermint. Along with incessant gum chewing that has led to the demise of my jaw, I had found a peppermint oil aromatherapy roller at Bath and Body Works that promised to help with headaches. Whenever I felt even the slightest inkling of a headache, I would slather my temples and neck in peppermint oil in the hopes that it would save me from experiencing another migraine. Sadly, this treatment


did little to relieve prevent migraines or ease pain; it mostly made me reek of peppermint and left me with shiny temples from the oils. The two successful alternative treatments that helped to ease pain and prevent migraines have been semi-regular chiropractic adjustments and heating pads. When I do have the time and money to do so, having my neck aggressively cracked by my hometown chiropractor helps to prevent any neck aches from developing into migraines. Although it is disputed as an effective treatment for many people, I have found it helpful, but it could totally be the placebo effect working its magic on me. Heating pads (primarily microwavable ones) tend to be the most effective non-medication treatment in easing migraine pain. In addition to softening the hard, sharp pains that can come from migraines, heating pads act as a makeshift sleeping mask that blocks out light that worsen the pain. When I’m out of reach of my heating pads or don’t have the strength to get out of bed, I often find any sort of object that will sit on top of my head (pillows work well) and block out any light coming in through my closed blinds. Upon meeting my freshman roommate in college, I remember telling her of this and adding, “I promise I’m not suffocating myself.” Since then, I’ve amassed a very small collection of heating pads (including NASCAR-themed covered rice pads and a seal shaped plushy) and almost always have an extra pillow nearby to cover my face with. Although these alternative treatments and various over the counter medications have helped at times, my migraines have progressed and worsened. In extreme cases, I’ve had to miss entire days of work and class because I’m not able to eat or drink (including water) due to the pain and nausea brought on by a migraine. A migraine last year rendered me bedbound for about twelve hours in which even the sensation of swallowing water made me want to retch onto the floor. I ended up waking up at 5:30 am the next day feeling so much better that I wanted to dance


for joy. Hunger drove me to the closest McDonald’s drive-thru to order something calorfic and greasy, to make up for the lost calories of the day before. I remember biting into my sausage and egg muffin thinking it was the best thing I had every put in my mouth, which, let’s be honest, a breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s is mediocre on a good day. It was this migraine that helped me to realize that I needed help. I went to my primary doctor at the time and asked if there was anything that could I do to help with my migraines. She was very accommodating and helped me to find a prescription that is an effective treatment for most of my migraines. The minute I start to feel neck or head pain come on, I take a dose of my medication and lay down for a few hours. Now, instead of being bedbound for hours on end hoping to sleep off whatever pain I’m in, I’m usually able to experience pain relief within an hour and return to whatever I was working on within three hours of taking the medication. It’s given me back more control over my life. I’m lucky enough to have a disability that most people are aware of, even if they don’t suffer from them or realize that migraines are considered a disability. During stressful times of life, I only have a handful of migraines a month, well below the standard for chronic migraine sufferers. Some months I’ve even been able to be migraine free. Being a full-time graduate student now, I know migraines due to stress are likely to become more frequent and worse without proper selfcare. This means I’ll have to be diligent as ever to make sure my jaw and neck aren’t too stiff before heading into lab, keeping ibuprofen in whatever bag or backpack I happen to have with me, informing my instructors and PI about migraines, and diligently drinking water to ensure no dehydration migraines can possibly arise. I must recognize my limits and take my medication instead of “toughing out” another flareup.


I don’t want the pity of others to help me through this time; in all truth, sympathy is the last thing I want from anyone when I have a migraine. Instead, I want the understanding that although I may be unable to function fully when under a migraine, I’m still able to do what I must once I recover. Some days I may miss a lecture or not be able to look at an electronic screen for more than fifteen minutes, but the next day I will be back stronger than before and ready to finish out what I had started.

















I spend a lot of my time writing about disability in STEM. If you follow me on Twitter (and if you’ve found your way to this zine, it’s likely you do!), you might even think it’s almost all I ever talk about. Despite this—or maybe, because of it—I struggled for some time thinking about what I wanted to contribute to this project. It’s most important to me to lift up and support other’s stories—that’s why you’ve found me here, at the end—but I also felt strongly about writing a piece of my own. I think the best use of my space here is a sort of acknowledgements— a thanks to the people, both in this zine and out of it, who made this happen. Let’s start, briefly, with a little introduction (though, perhaps, a little late, being at the end of this thing…). Hi! My name is Katie and I’m a biology major/chemistry minor undergrad at Lesley University in Massachusetts. I’m a teaching and research assistant and a huge swath of my work focuses on chemistry education. I’m also easy to find on twitter, especially #ChemTwitter, which is where I’ve met a number of my very best friends, including Steph Berg, who is featured in this zine (thanks, Steph!). I’m also chronically ill. I use mobility aids and have disability accommodations and go to more doctors’ appointments than I can possibly count. It’s this last piece—the chronically ill part, not specifically the doctors!—that led me to starting this zine. A huge point of discussion I see all the time in the disability community is when and to what extent it is safe to reveal yourself as disabled. Many, many people, including those with whom I’ve chatted about this zine, have faced consequences for letting their advisors, bosses, and potential schools/workplaces know that they struggle. That they are human. This is one of the reasons people stepped down from or avoided the zine. I completely understand this, and it is my sincere hope that this zine, in some small way, contributes to easing this type of burden. These are not the only people who struggled in contributing, however. This project also honors the many folks who were unable to submit due to flare-ups, hospitalizations, and other illnessrelated issues. We see you. We love you. May the new year be easier on you. This zine would not be what it was if it were not for the numerous folks, both in and out of the disability community, who stepped up and supported it. I am forever grateful to the allies and friends who retweeted and DMed and encouraged their friends to touch base with me. This is only a small fraction of the many, many folks, even on Twitter, who are disabled and/or chronically ill in STEM, but it is so much larger of a fraction than I could’ve made happen on my own. I hope this project, as small as it is, does some good. If you are in any way inspired by this zine or any of the contributors, I encourage you to do something about it. Support your fellow scientists and friends. All my thanks, Katie Walsh

Attack 14

Profile for Katherine Walsh

#Disabled In STEM zine  

A small, basic zine focusing on disabled scientists.

#Disabled In STEM zine  

A small, basic zine focusing on disabled scientists.

Profile for k.hwalsh

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