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By Bob Burchette
Sunday, Jun. 1, 2008 3:00 am
Anna Sharon Logan was abused mentally and bruised physically as a child by her parents despite having Friedreich's Ataxia, a slow-moving disease that damages the nervous system, resulting in symptoms ranging from gait disturbance and speech problems to heart disease.
Even confined to a wheelchair today, Sharon -- as she prefers to be called -- is getting the last laugh after many years of abuse.
But it isn't a cruel laugh, not one of revenge on her deceased parents. Her book, "View From An Apple Tree: A Memoir of Courage" mixes a haunting seriousness with an almost whimsical humor about growing up in the household of Harvey and Ruth Logan. Despite the humor, the experience wasn't pleasant.
There is a smile on her face as she sits in her mobile home in Greensboro and tells funny things about herself, even things that have happened since she left her parents' shadow and set up her own home.
Her book was released April 28 by Alabaster Book Publishing in Kernersville. Sharon tells all. No family skeletons are kept in the closet. Her parents' infidelities, their casting blame on their handicapped daughter for their sorry state in life and the dysfunctional families from which each parent came -- the source for their own dysfunction. "They came from such a bad life. Each was expecting something different in their marriage than what (the families) they had come from," Logan said.
"I don't believe my parents ever recovered from the day I was first diagnosed with a handicap. They spent the rest of their lives blaming doctors, themselves and each other for what they perceived to be a life gone wrong," she wrote. "They never saw any quality in me," she said in an interview.
Others see a champion in Logan, who earned a double major in English and history at UNCG although it took her 10 years rolling to class in a wheelchair. "I used my wheelchair because the floors were slick over there," she said. Sharon, now 61, was in and out of the chair for many years, getting by with a cane, a walking stick or crutches. Since 2000 she has been confined to a wheelchair.
Dixie Land, also a writer and one of the owners of Alabaster Publishing, sees Logan's accomplishments as "phenomenal." Land isn't simply promoting a book. Surely, anyone with these types of health issues who has spent years putting together vignettes of her life, which friends eventually encouraged her to bring together in a book, is to be admired, Land said.
"Sharon told me writing the book took seven years. Recently typing on the computer has become much more difficult for her; it now takes her as much as an hour to type one paragraph," Land said.
"For years I wrote about my life and kept the stories in a drawer. Aside from their value as a way of putting my tears on paper, they seemed to hold no purpose," Logan writes on the back cover of her book. "However, after my friend and I discussed the theory that our choices equal lessons to be learned, I went back to some of the papers, and realized how strong those moments were in my growth. I saw my life growing in a series of stages; some stages bombarding me in rapid succession while others took decades, but always coming to a full circle in the development of who I am."
Logan's keen memory and word skills are evident in the several short stories and poems she sold to publications before her health deteriorated to what she describes as "a one finger typist."
The book has excellent detail of family history and events, and Logan credits this to her parents having told her "bits and pieces all my life (and) I overheard some of it."
"She has an incredibly good memory," said friend June Wilson-Reid, also an author and prominent in Triad writing circles.
One of Logan's fondest memories of her troubled childhood is where she draws the title of her book. "I was 9 when I first met my apple tree," she writes. "As the tree went through its yearly cycles and grew, I grew too. During those years, try as hard as I could, I was never able to climb it in order to perch among its branches.
"Then one day, life changed for both of us," she writes.
Despite her unhealthy legs, she eventually found a way to scale the apple tree. "I climbed my tree, and pulled myself up into its branches, until I was cradled in its cross limbs like a child nestled in a loving parent's arms. And like a child being comforted, a remarkable calmness ensued. There I dreamed and hoped for a day when life didn't hurt so much."
Logan's humor and sharp mind make her a delight to be around, despite the disease confining her to a wheelchair. And that chair doesn't prevent her from one of the important things in her life: planting a garden and also planting flowers. She sits on the ground and digs in the dirt.
The variety of flowers she plants always includes marigolds. Marigolds have always been her favorite -- they're pretty to look at and good at surviving different soils. They're tough, like Logan.
She also is insightful, and her writing shows a keenness for observing and describing her world.
"Working with the theory that some parts of my life were planned in order for me to expand my worth," she writes, "I have come to understand how my achievements are not made in spite of the privations I lived through, but because of them."
Contact Bob Burchette at bburchette@...
(From Anna Sharon Logan’s book, “View From An Apple Tree”)
Ataxia progresses slowly and is a neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s disease is one form of ataxia, and is usually passed down from generation to generation, though there is other underlying causes of the disease.
However, unlike Parkinson’s and other ataxias, Friedreich ataxia is one of the rarest forms of ataxia and is an inherited disease where both parents must carry the deformed gene FRDA1.
Friedreich causes progressive damage to the spinal cord and the nerves that control muscle movement in the arms and legs. If the nervous system doesn’t communicate with the rest of the body, it causes muscles to deteriorate from lack of use. Friedreich ataxia produces symptoms of muscle weakness, tremors, poor vision, hearing degeneration, shortness of breath, chest pains, speech problems, scoliosis and heart disease (the most common cause of death).
The first symptom is usually difficulty in walking, causing foot deformities such as clubfoot, hammertoes, flexion and foot inversion. While it can affect a person any time between infancy and adulthood, it is rare for the disease to show up in young children.
There are a few things that can be done to help the symptoms—surgery, braces and physical therapy, but there is no cure. Generally, within 15 to 20 years after the appearance of the first symptoms, a person is confined to a wheelchair, and in later stages of the disease, becomes completely incapacitated. Most people die in early adulthood, though those with less severe symptoms (as in my case) live much longer.
After more than 45-five plus years past my original diagnosis, I am still going strong and defying the known odds.
Want to read
"View From An Apple Tree: A Memoir of Courage," a book by Anna Sharon Logan, is available from the author at logan1714@... or from Alabaster Book Publishing, Kernersville, pblshralabaster@.... It may also be ordered from Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks.
Meet the author
Who: Anna Sharon Logan, author of "View From An Apple Tree: A Memoir of Courage"
When: 2-4 p.m. June 28
Where: Barnes & Noble, Friendly Shopping Center Greensboro
If you feel like reading an unputdownable novel while collaborating with a just and solidary cause, "The Legacy of Marie Schlau" is your book! 100% of all funds raised will be dedicated to medical research to find a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia, a neurodegenerative disease that affects mostly young people, shortening their life expectancy and confining them to a wheelchair.
The life of Marie Schlau, a German Jewish girl born in 1833 hides great unsolved mysteries: accidents, disappearances, enigmas, unknown diagnoses, disturbing murders, love, tenderness, greed, lies, death ... alternatively a different story unfolds every time and takes us closer to the present. Thus, there are two parallel stories unravelling, each in a different age and place, which surprisingly converge in a revelatory chapter.
Paperback and Kindle versions for "The legacy of Marie Schlau" available for sale at Amazon now!
Currently, BabelFAmily is financing two promising research projects aimed at finding a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia. Whenever you make a donation to us or purchase a copy of "The legacy of Marie Schlau", this is where all funds raised will be devoted to:
1) Gene Therapy for Friedreich's Ataxia research project:
The project is the result of an initiative of Spanish people affected by this rare disease who are grouped in GENEFA in collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Ataxias and the BabelFAmily. The Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), one of the main patients’ associations in the United States now joins the endeavour.
2) Frataxin delivery research project:
The associations of patients and families Babel Family and the Asociación Granadina de la Ataxia de Friedreich (ASOGAF) channel 80,000 euros of their donations (50% from each organisation) into a new 18-month project at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona). The project specifically aims to complete a step necessary in order to move towards a future frataxin replacement therapy for the brain, where the reduction of this protein causes the most damage in patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia.
The study is headed by Ernest Giralt, head of the Peptides and Proteins Lab, who has many years of experience and is a recognised expert in peptide chemistry and new systems of through which to delivery drugs to the brain, such as peptide shuttles—molecules that have the capacity to carry the drug across the barrier that surrounds and protects the brain. Since the lab started its relation with these patients’ associations in 2013*, it has been developing another two projects into Friedrich’s Ataxia.