“Infinite Sky at the Edge” by Casey Chalem Anderson 48 x 36 inches oil/canvas

I felt cornered like an animal captured in a trap. I couldn’t move my hand normally. My left hand, my painting hand, felt like a paw with no dexterity whatsoever. Everything I clung to about who I think I am what I am doing in the world and how I spend my days appeared to be over. This time, all was different. All I could do was step aside and surrender.

It hurt physically and emotionally. My hand throbbed worn out and useless, I had to eat with my opposite hand (forget chopsticks)……my painting career over just like that,  I joked to myself that my inventory of paintings would be worth more. I felt enormously sad. I had to figure out who I was if not the painter. My concept of myself as an artist was so tightly held that without it I felt empty.

I kept asking myself, what are my options if this door is closed? 

I could try to paint with my right hand and do abstracts where fine-tuned brushwork isn’t critical. I could sit back and wait and see what I’m moved to do. I couldn’t text or cut food very well, which was a constant reminder that something was wrong with me. Running my hand under warm water and a hand massage with CBD from my boyfriend felt good.

I made an appointment with my primary to start the process. He didn’t know much and sent me to a hand specialist, a surgeon. Don’t go to a doctor at the end of the day.  Not only was I dismissed quickly with a prescription for PT after being told I had Dupetrins, a hereditary disease. And just like that… was a reality. I went directly to Carvel and treated myself to a soft swirled ice cream cone. Licking my wounds like an animal.

I came home to look up the disease. Always a bad idea, but I had to know. I talked with a few friends, including my son. Everyone said, “second opinion”

I went to the NYU Langone website and quickly made an appointment with a gray-haired hand surgeon. I judged him by his photo,I figured he’d seen it all. I traveled to the city during a heat advisory, and guess what?

Yes, I have this disease, but he said, “I have nothing to worry about” The surgeon asked me,  “How old are you?” I told him, and he said if you were 27, I would tell you to be more concerned. But…. since you are already in your 7th decade, the likelihood of this being debilitating is very low. He said, “You’re fine.” I said, “I love you.” And just like that my old life came back into view.

I’ve been taking it easy, I rest my hand and I’m gradually getting back to my painting but gingerly. I’m going slower, not the 85 miles an hour I was caught up in. Returning with just a few strokes to the canvas, I’m filled with authentic joy. I’m savoring it in a way I couldn’t before. I pushed too hard and now I must keep reminding myself I’m not just what I do and what I produce. 

The painting above was completed after this ordeal

Until next time,

Casey  Sag Harbor Studio

For FIne Art Prints of my paintings click here:

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