no.04

A black line drawing on a white background. The lines resemble lightning or synapses reaching up and down, all branching off from one central point. The lines form a crescent-like shape arching around the typed words “it’s like the pain where your foot falls asleep, but it’s constant." The lines have been replicated and laid back upon each other but slightly offset to create the appearance of movement and intensity.

neuropathy
graphite & digital composite
2020

I was at this jail for four or five months when I first got throat cancer about five years ago, and they did nothing. My tonsils were so swollen that I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t eat, I could hardly drink. But medical refused to remove my tonsils. They told me it was just an infection and kept giving me different antibiotics. I told them I thought it was cancer because my mom passed away from cancer. They said, “You’re not a doctor, how could you know you have cancer?” Well, I knew I’d never felt that sick before in my life. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I had no energy and I couldn’t do anything. It took everything I had to get to medical. No one ever checked on me about my mental health. I can’t remember now, but at the time, I probably wished someone would.

I finally received treatment upstate after I was transferred and they did a biopsy. My tonsils were taken out and they did four aggressive chemotherapies and radiation. I had heard things about how bad chemo was but it wasn’t that bad. I felt better once they started treatment. I’ve been in remission about a year and half, but I need to get tested to make sure I’m still in remission. I’ve been back at this jail for five months and I keep telling them I need to get tested but they haven’t done it.

A black line drawing of a prescription medication bottle lying on a white background.The bottle is open with small oblong pills spilling out and the lid beside it. The sticker on the bottle wraps around with a bar code showing and a typed quote where the prescription information would traditionally be. The text reads” When I came to jail, I got my pain medication every day for about a week. Then they didn’t give it to me for five months."

medication
graphite & digital composite
2020

Since I got cancer, I’ve been getting migraines at least once a week. I always wake up with a headache, but by lunchtime it’s usually not so bad. I also have neuropathy and get pain in my feet, hands, arms, and legs. It’s like the pain when your foot falls asleep, but it’s constant. If I sit or lie down too much, it’s worse. By mid-morning, my feet are throbbing, but that’s the best it gets. I don’t think about it as much when I’m moving around. There’s not enough space to move around in my cell so I just walk back and forth. I work in the kitchen from 12 to 8pm to get out of my cell and help keep my mind off the pain.  


I’m on single-cell status now because of my cancer and weak immune system - the jail has been doing this since COVID. I got the kitchen job after another kitchen worker tested positive for COVID. The Beast is the machine for washing dishes but it didn’t actually work; trays came out still dirty and they weren’t disinfected. I wash the pots and pans now and don’t come up until 8 or 8:30 at night. Also, the COVID quarantine isn’t strictly followed here. I was in quarantine for two weeks when I got here but it wasn’t really like quarantine. I had a cellmate.

A black line drawing of a cell block on a white background. There are two floors of numbered doors with small windows lining two walls which meet at a corner and extend to either side of the frame. The lines have been replicated and laid back upon each other at a slight offset to highlight the intensity of the situation. Above the drawing are the typed words “I talked to an independent psych for about 30 minutes. He was down to earth and seemed helpful, not like the psych people at the jail.” Below the drawing it says “I requested they come by but the sessions are done in the center of the pod where anyone can hear. They talked to me for maybe five minutes."

therapy
graphite & digital composite
2020

When I came to jail, I got my pain medication every day for about a week. Then they didn’t give it to me for five months, and only just started giving it to me again the other day. I was a little miserable without it pain-wise. A guy I work with noticed I was miserable. I thought it was because I was inside, but maybe it was the pain too. I was cranky and moody, and I'm not usually like that. I have a good sense of humor; I like making jokes and laughing. It takes a few days for the pain medication to kick in, but it’s helping me get back to that a little. 

 

When I was a teenager, I was missing a lot of school and had anger issues. My mom didn’t know what to do with me, so she sent me to therapy. I didn’t find it helpful and just blew it off. But I’d give it a shot now. I don’t have anger issues anymore, but I have lately since I’ve been here. I wrote to psych and put in sick calls about it and told them I was feeling angry. I talked to an independent psych for about 30 minutes. He was down to earth and seemed helpful, not like the psych people at the jail. I requested they come by, but the sessions are done in the center of the pod where anyone can hear. They talked to me for maybe five minutes, if that. I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything. The outside psych put me on medication, but I don’t remember the name. I’ve noticed a difference. I wasn’t sleeping before, but I’m sleeping better now. He also told me to meditate. Someone who’s angry won’t think about doing that. I haven’t tried it, though; I don’t think it would be the key for me. At least during rec I can get on the phone and watch TV. I especially like The Walking Dead on AMC. Even though I’m supposed to get an hour of rec every day, last week I went to see the doctor and by the time I got back, I was already signed out for rec so I only got ten minutes.

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Aurora Berger is a physically and visually disabled artist, working primarily in photographic mediums. She creates works that investigate the concepts of normalcy, disability, agency, visual acuity, and interpretation. Her works are about inhabiting spaces, perceiving surroundings, and above all, the process of survival. She holds an MFA from Claremont Graduate University, as well as a BFA and BA in Art Education from Prescott College.

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