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champions of courage class - kinda long

updated sat 21 feb 04


Susan Giddings on fri 20 feb 04


I wanted to let you all know of a program I am undertaking.

Back in January 2001 I was diagnosed with MS. A diagnosis like this shakes
you up, but it really isn't so bad. Not at all the end of the world. Not
like years ago. They have made great strides in various drug therapies that
have been proven to be extremely effective is slowing and even halting the
progress of the disease. I went on one these therapies and have been on it
ever since. Aside from fatigue and occasional stumbling, I really lead a
very normal life, not much different than I did prior to the diagnosis.

There are many support groups available for people with MS. Many avenues
that can be pursued to help. The pharmaceutical company (Berlex) that makes
the drug I am taking (Betaseron) has and supports an extensive program to
help people with MS. One aspect of this is their "Champions of Courage"
Program. As part of this program they fund grants that can be used to help
you accomplish a goal. See:

Well, I applied for a grant with them and was awarded one. The purpose was
to teach a pottery class to people with MS. The reason I thought this was
important is that I think throwing pottery is magic. When I sit at a wheel I
sometimes just get into a "fugue" state and what I make seems sometimes to
take on a life of its own. It also seems that, for that time, nothing in the
world could be more important to me than that hunk of clay. The sense of
accomplishment in just making things can be quite satisfying. I know I am so
very thankful for the skill that allows me to do this. Of course I applaud
the incredible feats of people who have a disease like MS and can ride a
bike cross country or some other physically demanding undertaking, but for
so many of us, there is not the desire or inclination to even try to do
something like that. But pottery can let you tune into some magic place
inside you. Gives you the ability and know how to make something where there
was nothing. I know it helps me get over the rough spots. In my opinion, I
think it can really help others get through the bad days. And it is so "in
reach" and "do-able" for just about everyone

The people deciding on the grant funding apparently agreed with me. I am so
very glad they did! I work out of a co-op and the group was good enough to
let me rent the facility to hold the class. So I just have to face buying
tools and clay for everyone, paying for my teaching partner and nurse.
Thankfully, I don't have to worry about wheels. I had hoped that the
National MS Society would help - and indeed they have. Just about anyone I
have asked, has offered to help and it has certainly been greatly
appreciated. I wish I could hold a class all the time and everwhere
thoughout the country, but unfortunately I didn't get enough money to make
that dream come true. I'm hoping that through publicity and advertising I
can drum up enough support to continue indefinitely, but we'll just have to

Anyway, thanks to Lee Love and his tips posted here, I have a Blogspot and a
photobucket site for keeping my journal for the class and posting pictures
as well. I will post the addresses when I have material out there. I am
hoping that by documenting the class and the accomplishments we make, we can
act as inspiration for others. I will probably get my own website for this
but until I do....

I just wanted you all to know that this is something I am working on (to the
exclusion of just about everything else). I'm really not asking for
anything. I may need some tips once class starts and you will be my first
avenue for help. But for now, things seem to be reasonably under control.

Sorry this was so long,
Susan Giddings

"There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are
others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot
into the sun." Pablo Picasso

Take off on a romantic weekend or a family adventure to these great U.S.