Katherine Hickey

As a teen, ET affected her ability to play the flute in music class and pour liquids into test tubes in chemistry. “There was rarely a time when my tremors went unnoticed,” she says. Parent-teacher conferences always seemed to contain the sentence, “Well, she definitely does not use her tremors as an excuse to get out of doing work; she does try.”

She writes about ET with a poet’s instinct. “At times I wish ET had the visibility and clarity of a tumor. I could point to a [computed tomography] CAT scan and declare, ‘There it is. ET is that little gray spot in the corner.’” Hickey says. “Like a ghost, it lurks. And like a ghost, you can’t shake it off. No garlic or burning sage to keep this spirit at bay.”

With medication, she can moderate her ET symptoms. “That tiny little pill sedated the ghost and threw him out the front door. Unsurprisingly, it sometimes awakens and comes scratching at the door again,” Hickey says. “It doesn’t hover; however, I imagine ET will be a part of my life. Thankfully, instead of stealing the dance floor, it sits quickly in a corner.”

While ET is certainly not the companion a 22-year-old hopes to have, it has been a source of resilience and perseverance for Katherine Hickey.