A smiling giantess of a woman fills the self-portrait. Her form is too large for the picture, and consequently her colorful wings and part of one antenna are cut off by the confines of the frame. Abundant bright colors and meticulous patterning give the artwork a buoyant, joyful feel similar to a church stained glass. In the far distance, past an impossibly aquamarine sea, stands a solitary mountain flanked by swirling clouds, its tip stretching up to just touch the top edge of the frame.

At the bottom right corner of the image are two figures: one, a bearded man who stands looking up at the flying woman; two, a young child--apparently a boy--with his hands behind his head, splayed out on a blanket and looking up. A long cord runs from the center of the flying woman’s neck down to the right hand of the man below.


"Breathtaking Metamorphosis", a self-portrait by Erin Brady Worsham, takes as its subject Worsham’s debilitating disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. On the site displaying this self-portrait, she writes that "following my diagnosis, I staunchly declared that I would not live on a machine." Her resolution to forfeit life changed the very day after her diagnosis, however, when Worsham discovered that she had become pregnant with a son. Three years later, in 1997, Worsham lost the ability to breathe naturally and became dependant on a respirator. Weeks of painful treatment and the installment of a small inflatable collar around Worsham’s trachea allowed her to breathe on her own once more, albeit with the aid of a ventilator.

"Breathtaking Metamorphosis," as implied in the title, focuses on Worsham’s change from a sick woman wanting to die to a revived individual with the capacity and desire to breathe and conquer her disease. Insight into Worsham’s apparently positive outlook on her disability can be gleaned from the cheerful colors, the intense patterning, her rosy cheeks, her cute antennae, and her beautiful new wings. Indications of ALS are relegated to rather minor details; namely, the thin tracheal cord running from Worsham’s neck to her husband’s hand below, and the limpness of her body and limbs as they hang beneath her smiling face.

The cord, which functions in the picture as Worsham’s tether to earth, is in both the literal and metaphorical hands of her husband, Curry. He holds her string as she flies like a kite, soaring as Curry and her son gaze upwards at her. The mountain in the far distant background is illuminated by this passage of Worsham’s own words: "For three years I had climbed the mountain of ALS. My muscles weakened from the exertion and eventually gave out. The longer and higher I climbed, the thinner the air became, until I reached the summit on that Thanksgiving Day and couldn’t breathe at all. The next day I fell gently to sleep under the anesthesia and awoke on the other side of the mountain."

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