I wanted to highlight some of the cool reviews Sick has received thus far!

Somnambulist (http://somnambulistzine.blogspot.com/2009/10/zine-review-sick.html)

"I have read and re-read "Sick- A compilation zine on physical illness" and each time I do, I get new things out of it..... I highly recommend this zine for those struggling with physical illness and for anyone who has a friend or loved one who is sick.... There is a bunch of other really great stuff in the zine. Several pieces deal with how to treat yourself when you're sick, others address how to be a good friend to someone with an illness. So please if you have even a marginal interest in the topic, if you know someone who is sick, or if you yourself are sick, buy this zine!!"


"Everyone needs to get their hands on this zine immediately. This compilation of nineteen people’s experiences with physical illness confronts issues of support and care within radical and DIY communities, as well as issues of silencing and secrecy, as productive dialogue about illness rarely has a space to exist amidst raucous punk shows and frenzied activist organizing. This zine is immensely important not only for those who experience physical illness, but also for those who have never had to deal with such issues, as the contributors provide powerful insight into the ways in which those with illnesses cope within our communities, as well as, tangible ways of supporting people, and advice for navigating the health care system. The writings reflect on an extensive range of physical illnesses, from kidney disease and degenerative disc disease, to Crohn’s and Lyme disease, and they also point to the monumental variety of emotions, from isolation to hopelessness, that people are forced to deal with. Sick provides a space for the voices that have been silenced in our communities to emerge, and it is an invaluable resource for those who experience physical illness and their allies."



I just wanted to call attention to the various distros/distributors who are supporting and carrying Sick. These include some of my favorite zine and book carriers (all the distributors are listed to the right). Some of these have written original and really warm descriptions for the zine. I've copied the description Ciara wrote for her awesome distro, Learning to Leave a Paper Trail, below:

"ben compiled this amazing perfect-bound compzine all about, as you may have guessed while reading the sub-title, physical illness. after being diagnosed with cancer, ben felt alienated by a lot of the mainstream resources available for people dealing with a serious illness. while a lot of books out there are helpful to people, he had a difficult time finding something that spoke to him & his political ideals, which helped shape his approach to his diagnosis. in this vacuum, he decided to create his own resource. this compilation covers a wide spectrum of illnesses (chrohn's disease, kidney failure, chronic migraines, & more), & the contributers approach the topic of illness from a lot of different perspectives. a few contributers are survivors who lost loved ones to chronic illnesses, writing about what they learned about support from their experiences. ben writes a really helpful synopsis of what to do & expect as a patient grappling with a new diagnosis. a lot of folks write about the isolation they felt from friends & community after they found out they were sick. others write about the struggle of being physically different from their peers--unable to eat the same foods, unable to physically exert themselves the same way. this is a very text-heavy but compulsively readable offering, sprinkled with illustrations by fly & old-fashioned anatomical drawings. crucial reading."


Follow up piece

Below is a really powerful piece that Lauren Denitzio - who wrote "Radical Heart Support" in Sick - read at the recent reading at Bluestockings in August. Since there had been so many developments in Lauren's life since she wrote her piece for the zine, she wrote this update for the reading. Thanks Lauren for allowing the piece to be shared on the blog!

I was born with Marfan Syndrome which is a a connective tissue disorder. It caused severe scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, when I was a kid. I spent most of my childhood in a back brace, until I had it surgically corrected when I was eleven. I had to have a metal rod fused to a few vertebrae in my lower spine to hold my back in place. Since then, the only major medical issue has been a heart condition which put me at high risk for an aneurysm. It never caused many obvious symptoms and really just meant that I had to see a cardiologist every six months to make sure I was doing ok. There are other conditions associated with Marfan's that I'm also at risk for, but so far I've only been impacted by these two.

I've had Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, my entire life and knew the risks associated with it, which included heart surgery. I wrote my contribution for Sick when my cardiologist presented me with the possibility of having to have open heart surgery, and I was trying to process that as someone who felt generally healthy, who wasn't particularly physically limited, in comparison to some of the other contributors. Six months after writing my contribution for the zine, this past June 30th, I had surgery to correct an ever weakening aorta (the main blood vessel and largest valve in your heart) which was threatening to tear. They'd be replacing my aorta with a synthetic material and leaving the actual valve in tact. This procedure was to avoid what could be a fatal emergency should my aorta be allowed to further stretch out and tear.

Aside from riding my bike a bit slower and not playing contact sports, I'd never notice anything was wrong. I've always made sure that I have health insurance and as much of a pain as that is, it's something I should be doing with or without a pre-existing condition. I had learned to work around my illness and take care of myself, but had never really needed help or support in a significant way. When my health decided to take a turn for the worse, it took every ounce of effort I had to figure out how I was going to get through it. I was told I'd be in the hospital for five or six days and be in recovery for four to six weeks before I felt back to my old self again. That doesn't seem so severe, but there's no way to tell someone open heart surgery isn't going to be that bad. Since then I've learned a lot about asking for help and different means of support.

The day I saw my surgeon and confirmed that I'd be having surgery, everything really did change. It was like I was in a car on a normal day, feeling fine, but able to see the accident that was about to happen, all the physical injuries that I was about to incur, and being unable to stop it. Every second of every day for a month. It was a very difficult time, but I tried to make the best of it. I had a lot of good days where I could put it out of my mind, and a lot days where I just couldn't. Facing the pain and fatigue and physical changes that were about to happen was incredibly depressing. I've realized that the emotional trauma of being a 25 year old in a cardiac ward full of patients two generations my senior, barely having the energy to stand up or walk, may have been worse than any physical pain I encountered. And now, after the fact, when I'm physically almost back to where I was before, I don't want to let those bad days affect the good ones I have now. But it doesn't always work that way.

As much as I'd like to go out and see my friends and have fun, there are still a lot of days when being around a large group of people makes me really uncomfortable. Trying to answer the question "how've you been?" in a way that's fair can be difficult because odds are I'm probably thinking "you have NO IDEA." But, if someone I consider a friend asks how I've been or what I've been doing, I find a way to tell them that I had surgery to correct my heart condition. That it sucked...a lot...but I'm going to be fine and they shouldn't worry. I could just as easily say that I was out of commission for a while, but depending on the situation, I don't think that's really being a friend. I want people to include me in their lives as well, and they're not going to do that if I don't do the same.

That's not to say that everyone with an illness should feel comfortable being open about their situation, but being afraid to tell friends what we need and what's been going on, is taking away the opportunity for mutual support and understanding. When someone close to me took the time to say that I didn't have to be strong all the time, that it was ok to be upset and to need help, it meant the world to me. Being reassured of that by the people I wanted to be there for me was very important in the time leading up to surgery.

I consider myself very lucky that most of my close friends, and even some I wasn't so close with, stepped up and wanted to make sure I was ok. They made a schedule to make sure that someone would be with me 24 hours a day for the first week or so after I came home. Not knowing how I'd be feeling or what I would need, it was a huge weight off my shoulders to know that whatever the case may be, people would be there with me. Friends took on the responsibility of letting people know when I was out of surgery, my progress in recovery and when I wanted to have people around visiting. Someone drove me to doctor appointments, picked up medicine, ran errands for me. Others went out and bought movies for me to watch, made me food, sent me books and mixtapes and cards. For most of these things, I never even had to ask.

These people saw me in the hospital, with more tubes coming out of me than I'd like to think about, in the worst physical condition I've ever been in as an adult. They have seen exactly what I've been through and have yet to let me down. I'd like to think that these signs of support are exactly what's supposed to happen. Not everyone is that lucky, and I'm incredibly thankful to have the support network that I do. They anticipated my needs to a surprising extent and realized that even the smallest gesture, even just a text message to ask how I'm feeling, is helpful in it's own way.

While there were a few people who disappointed me in terms of support, they were really the exception. It disappointed me to read a number of accounts in Sick where people didn't feel supported by their communities. Especially in radical or punk scenes, where I have generally felt very supported in that regard. I'm sure it's a different situation for those who have more obvious or long term symptoms and physical limitations. I'm thankful that the period of time where I was severely physically limited was only a month or so, and not years, or permanent. But I'd like to think that going through a health crisis has taught both myself and those close to me the ways to support others in the future, and for longer periods of time than my specific situation. It helped bring into practice certain expectations of our community that are usually only talked about.

Also, I don't want to discredit the role that my parents and other family members had in supporting me through a very difficult time, which is still ongoing. They've played an integral part in it, but as family members, they were more prepared to do so. Receiving support from so many people who were in no way obligated to take care of me was amazing and is something I'm almost glad to have gone through. It tests the promises we make to each other to be there and being able to see those in reality and feel that has sometimes seemed like a blessing. The network of people that supported me is now something that I'm a part of for them as well, and I couldn't be more proud.


Bluestockings Reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 7PM @ Bluestockings Books, 172 Allen Street in New York City (www.bluestockings.com)
Release Party & Reading with several contributors from Sick!

collects peoples' experiences with physical illness to help establish a collective voice of those impacted by illness within left/DIY communities. The zine is a resource for those who are living with illness as well as those who have not directly experienced illness themselves. Join several contributors for a reading from Sick as well as a discussion on experiences related to illness and the importance of creating networks of support within our communities.


Release Events for SICK:

July 22, 6-8pm @ Last Words Books, 211 4th Ave., Olympia, WA

The Importance of Support

Benjamin Holtzman (Sick: A Compilation Zine on Physical Illness), Kristyn Leach (Stonewall Youth, Olympia) Kevin Van Meter (Team Colors)

This workshop will explore the importance of creating networks and communities based in support, and expanding such practices in zine, counter-cultural and activist communities. Benjamin Holtzman, editor of the recent zine collection “Sick: A Compilation Zine on Physical Illness” (Microcosm, 2009) will read from and describe his zine on creating support and physical illness; writer and researcher Kevin Van Meter of the Team Colors Collective will discuss the new “care zine insurgency” and the potential of these to further systems of support; and organizer Kristyn Leach of Stonewall Youth (queer youth organization in Olympia, WA) will discuss creating direct services, engaging in direct action and building networks of support.

July 23, 7pm @ Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak St. Portland, OR (www.​​​readingfrenzy.​​​com)
Release Party & Reading with several contributors from Sick!

July 24-26 (Friday-Sunday) Tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium

July 26, 11:00am-12:30pm (Sunday) at the Portland Zine Symposium

The Importance of Support
This workshop will explore the importance of creating networks and communities based in support, and expanding such practices in zine, counter-cultural and activist communities. Benjamin Holtzman (Sick: A Compilation Zine on Physical Illness), Kevin Van Meter (Team Colors Collective), and Kristyn Leach (Stonewall Youth) will explore how zines, radical movements, and neighboring communities can respond to personal crises and how they help provide care. Moving beyond politics as a set of issues and positions, let’s consider what communities can do to address issues such as physical illness and, mental illness, intimate violence, trauma and grief, and other experiences and realities.

Tuesday, August 11, 7PM @ Bluestockings Books,
172 Allen Street in New York City (www.bluestockings.com)
Release Party & Reading with several contributors from Sick!


Sick is out now!

Sick collects peoples' experiences with illness to help establish a collective voice of those impacted within radical/left/DIY communities. The zine is meant to be a resource for those who are living with illness as well as those who have not directly experienced it themselves. Contributors discuss personal experiences as well as topics such as receiving support, providing support, and being an informed patient. These writings are meant to increase understandings of illness and further discussion as well as action towards building communities of care.