Friday, October 12, 2018

Myths About Weight Training for Women

A Nashville, Tennessee, resident, Bianca Catherine Knight is a past community organizer for the Tennessee Disability Coalition who herself is legally blind, living with Leber’s hereditary optic neropathy (LHON). Through confidence and hard work, Bianca Catherine Knight has learned to thrive in spite of her diagnosis, and has enjoyed keeping active through regular workouts, which have included weight training.

Many women who begin an exercise routine often misunderstand the value of weight training, believing the following myths:

1. Weight training causes women to appear bulky. Arguably the most pervasive of all false myths about women and lifting weights is that the practice causes women to build too much muscle and leads to a large, bulky appearance. General weight training will not lead to the amount of muscle gain that most women imagine, as muscle gain of that magnitude requires a rigorous weight training schedule and diet plan.

2. Women should tone by using light weights and performing many repetitions. Using a very light set of dumbbells to complete a high number of repetitions is actually less likely to give a woman the toned appearance she wants, according to Fitness Magazine. Lean muscle mass is best created by using a heavier set of dumbbells and performing between 6 and 12 repetitions, depending on each woman’s goals.

3. Cardio has to be practiced before weight training for optimal weight loss. While cardio is an important part of weight loss and weight maintenance, a weight training regimen allows a woman to burn more baseline calories each day than cardio alone, even while her body is at rest.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

LHON - A Rare Disease of Blindness that Affects Young Persons

Bianca Catherine Knight has been a community organizer for persons who are disabled. Earning a JD from Belmont University in Tennessee, Bianca Catherine Knight was stricken with Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).

LHON causes vision loss in persons around 20 or 30 (more often males), usually leaving them legally blind. In LHON, the optic nerve atrophies. (The disease is named after its discoverer, German ophthalmologist Theodore Leber.)

The first sign is generally blurriness and cloudiness in the center of the visual field. The sharpness of vision and color perception significantly degrades over time, along with abilities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. An enlarging blind spot also appears.

Although the exact mechanism of action needs further research, LHON originates genetically in the DNA of the mitochondria. Mitochondria convert food energy into a form that feeds cells’ functions. 

LHON is inherited. It strikes both genders, but only females pass it on, even if they lack any symptoms. In a family where the gene problem is present, it is hard to tell which members will develop symptoms. Rarely, additional symptoms may develop, such as heart arrhythmias, tremors, movement disorders, and symptoms similar to muscular sclerosis. 

Diagnosis is challenging because many doctors lack familiarity with LHON. Good places to look for qualified specialists include advocacy groups, medical journal articles, and clinical trials. Other sources are university hospitals and other facilities that treat complex illnesses.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How About a Talking Coke Machine?

Sometimes it’s just the little things that make a huge difference between the sighted world and those of us with limited vision.  Take a Coca-Cola fountain dispenser for example.  Why on earth would it not occur to the folks at Coca-Cola that the interactive button-press selections on the “technologically advanced” dispensers that require a touch screen without any type of vocal audio will not work for people like me to make my choice of Diet Coke?  Hey, you guys at Coke, I cannot see to make a choice! I’m betting lots of people with visual maladies can’t either! I have Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. My optic nerves won’t transmit the images of your product choices from my eyes to my brain. Please, please make the machine talk!

I wrote to Coca-Cola to state my concern and in their stock reply they responded by calling me “mister”. I just don’t think they listen OR read.  Oh, well, guess I’ll have water.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King and My Sight Loss

Today, April 4, 2018, is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination (and near the10th anniversary of my sight loss) and I felt it rather appropriate for Dr. King’s words to speak regarding my struggle; hope for justice, public disability awareness, and tolerance; and desire for equal rights for those like me.  While there is more work to be done in fulfilling his dream of racial equality, what a beautiful thing it is that his rallying cries and words of hope can be adopted today and every day to seek justice for the disparaged everywhere.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

“The ultimate measure of a man [or a woman—my addition!] is not where he [she] stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he [she] stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“It all boils down to this:  that all life is interrelated.  We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

My thought?  Dr. King, all our destinies are made better by your 39 years on this earth.  Thank you.

#DrMartinLutherKing #blindness #LHON #LebersHereditaryOpticNeuropathy #disability

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Helen Keller and Spring

One of my uncles, who researches my dad’s family tree, recently told me of my kinship to Helen Keller.  Must say I was popping a few buttons over that knowledge!  Though stricken with both hearing and vision loss at nineteen months of age, she became one of the most inspirational women of the twentieth century through her lectures, books, and political activism. I can only hope my own vision loss yields a fraction of Helen Keller’s insight and ingenuity. And today, in the midst of March, on a gloriously warm sunshiny day that seems to melt away winter’s never-ending chill, I’m reminded of a quote by Helen Keller:

“I am thankful that in a troubled world no calamity can prevent the return of spring.”

I’m thankful, too, Helen, for spring and the promised beauty it always brings.

#HelenKeller #spring #LHON #lebershereditaryopticneuropathy

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

St. Valentine, the Blind Girl, and Me

I love Valentine’s Day.  Or more appropriately, I love St. Valentine’s Day and it warms my heart that the legend of the martyred Christian Valentinus, killed under the rule of Rome’s Claudius, tells of his relationship with the daughter of a Roman jailer.  The young girl was blind and was brought to Valentinus to be educated and to pray for her sight restoration.  Ointment was applied to her eyes on each visit along with prayerful supplication to God.  Weeks went by, but her sight was not restored.

Valentinus was arrested when word of his Christian interventions with the girl became known. The girl’s father, who was part of the Roman guard system, pleaded for leniency but to no avail.  On the evening before his execution, he penned a note to her, urging her to remain close to God and have faith that she would one day see and signed it “From Your Valentine”—the first Valentine of heartfelt love.  His death sentence was carried out the following day February 14, 269, the same day the girl’s sight was miraculously restored.

What a wonderful narrative. The way I see it, St. Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers.  It’s a day to underscore my belief that one day my sight that was taken by LHON will, indeed, be restored.  Not sure when, or how, or who will be the initiator of optic nerve restoration, but I have faith it will happen.  Thank you, St. Valentine, for your suffering and your example of love. You’re definitely  MY Valentine.

#LHON #LebersHereditaryOpticNeuropathy #StValentine #sightrestoration #faith

Monday, January 22, 2018

Jackson’s Eyes and Mine

In our family, we love dogs. At Mom’s house the two grandbabies are guarded by Jackson, her newest Sheltie, the fourth in a line of Shetland Sheepdogs, who finds it his duty to love and protect.

Collies and their kin, whether Rough Collies, Border Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, or Shetland Sheepdogs (nicknamed Shelties) are known for genetic eye problems.  Funny, so is our family.  The disease that struck my sight at 28 (Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy—LHON) destroys the optic nerves and affects the central vision.  Collie Eye Anomaly—CEA can cause detached retinas, optic nerve abnormalities, and loss of retinal cells.  The parallels between my eye disease and the genetic disease affecting Mom’s favorite dog breed is uncanny.

Years ago, Betty White held two Shetland Sheepdogs in a TV spot appealing for public donations for an animal charity and my mom fell in love with the breed.  That’s when Maggie, our first family dog, came into our lives.  She was a tri-colored beauty who lived from my 10th birthday until I was 20.

Following Maggie came Annie, sable colored like Lassie, and another tri-colored Sheltie, mostly black and smaller than the others:  Gus.  Annie and Gus were not from the same litter but proved inseparable pals for the ten years they kept Mom company.  All were such sweet, devoted, loving dogs that eventually succumbed to cancer of one sort or another—Gus being the last to go—until Jackson.

By the time Gus left Mom, most of my sight had left me.  Mom said she just knew the Sheltie with the genetically mutated eyes, one brown and one bright blue, was the next pup for her! And so Jackson with the different eyes, like mine are different, came to love and be loved by all of us. Mom said her daughter’s eyes and her doggie’s eyes both see right into her heart.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching us to love dogs and one another, regardless.

#LHON #LebersHereditaryOpticNeuropathy #ShetlandSheepdog #Sheltie #Collieeyeanomaly

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fighting for Josh

I wonder whatever became of Josh. He was brutally picked on by the other kids in school and it ripped my heart out. Not sure what made him so different, but he was, and I took it upon myself to be his defender.  Of course, I could see perfectly back then.  It was middle school and, to date, there was no manifestation of some weird, rare genetic disease to steal away my vision—at least not yet. That would certainly have made me different and an easy target, too.  I was picked on for other reasons and although I couldn’t adequately defend myself, I found that my role as an advocate for Josh made me inwardly feel powerful and strong and needed. He appreciated me and loved me as his dear friend when no one else would embrace him in friendship.

Looking back on that experience with Josh, I see the beginnings of my role as a proponent for those with disabilities.  I’ve found myself crusading for my own rights as someone with low vision as well as for persons with other disabilities.  As one of my law professors advised me:  “Be your own greatest advocate.”

Wherever you are, Josh, I’m still out here fighting for you—but for myself, now, too.

#advocacy  #disabilities  #lowvision  #lebershereditaryopticneuropathy #LHON #bullying

Sunday, January 7, 2018

ntroducing the West Highland White Terrier

A Nashville, Tennessee-based attorney focused on disability rights, Bianca Catherine Knight has represented clients in cases involving employment discrimination. In her free time, Bianca Catherine Knight enjoys reading, working out, and caring for her two dogs, a poodle-golden retriever mix and a West Highland white terrier

Commonly referred to as a Westie, the West Highland white terrier is a small Scottish breed that is curious, smart, and loyal. Like other terriers, the Westie was originally bred for hunting and ratting. Today, owners often channel the dog’s energy, toughness, and strong work ethic toward agility and obedience competitions. Westies also make excellent therapy dogs. 

As a pet, the Westie is very affectionate and perfect for families with children of all ages. The dog also is good with other canines and will adapt to living with cats. Although the breed can thrive in both rural and urban environments, Westies need to be kept indoors. Westies are particularly well-suited for apartment living as long as they get exercise and are trained at an early age not to bark at everything that catches their attention.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year’s Day Reflection of the Heart

New Year’s Day is one for pondering and I’m doing just that. Helen Keller said: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”  I’m not totally blind, I’m legally blind from Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.  In the beginning of my sight loss, I separated myself from things and people—especially those I love and who love me.  At that time, I had no vision for my future or even for the day in which I existed.  It took a while to work past all that. 2018 marks a decade since I lost my sight—10 years or 120 months or 520 weeks or 3,650 days that, in the beginning, I never thought I’d ever be able to face without perfect sight, driving my own car.

I really get what Helen Keller was saying.  I truly do.  2018 is going to be another GREAT year.  I can just see it!

#helenkeller  #blind  #lowvision  #LHON  #lebershereditaryopticneuropathy