From Professional Patient To Young Adult Photographer
By Guest Blogger Caroline Bert
We were lucky enough to meet Caroline at our Achilles Walk and then at our Long Island walk. As a young adult with CRPS/RSD, Caroline did not want to just be the “sick” girl, she wanted to be known for her dreams and talent. See how she did that here.
My name is Caroline Bert and I am 23 years old. I was diagnosed with RSD when I was 12. It started with an injury on my left wrist and then spread over time.
In school I was known for being the girl that “always has a broken arm.” I was the girl who felt right at home when I was with my pain management team, but I felt like an outcast in my classrooms.
My doctors say I’m a “professional patient” as I go from specialist to specialist. I know all my nurses by name. I am terribly familiar with the routine of an RSD fighter. RSD effects everything I do. Even on my best days, it always makes its presence known.
RSD took me away from my first college because I was too far away from my doctors and pain team. I needed to be closer to home in order to get treatments when I needed to.
When I transferred to Long Island University CW Post, I did not want to be known as the girl that’s sick. I wanted to be a photographer.
In the final semester of my BFA I had the opportunity to take a class on experimental photography techniques. I always look forward to learning from my Professor Allison Rufrano. When I am in her class, I feel like a normal student. I feel like I belong there and like there’s nothing limiting me.
One of the assignments she gave was to make a self-portrait collage using objects to show who I am. This assignment was to be done using a scanner following a camera-less Photography lesson.
I knew this was a good time to raise awareness about what I, and many of us go through.
Most of my classmates at LIU did not know that I’ve been fighting this battle for so long. They saw me as an artist first, they took me in as part of their community. I was able to start a photo club on campus and this became like a second family. They didn’t even know that they’ve been helping me by treating me like everyone else.
My scanography was composed of my medicine, my braces, text messages from my friends, letters from my parents, metals from the walks, and symbols of hope that get me through my flare ups. Even when I am in too much pain to reply, the words of my friends and family are the driving force behind my eternal optimism. When we walk with RSDSA each year my family and friends come together as “Team Caroline”. I used our orange shirts as a background for some of these images. I am so fortunate to have the strongest support system in the world.
Art is the best medicine and even in the midst of the chaos there is always hope.
These self-portraits educate those around me. By telling my classmates my story, in a way that is honest but still positive, they learned what RSD is. They don’t think I always have a “broken arm”. They know I am stronger than the obstacles I face.
Rather than worrying about what I go through, I am so unbelievably grateful for how I get through it. RSD has made me a fighter but I have made myself an artist. I am a photographer and I am part of a community that cares about me. When the people I love are not around me, they are always checking in.