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Life through Cat Eye

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More stories from Bree Carey

Cafe Meow
February 28, 2018


Adrienne Novy, a senior at Hamline, is now a published author of the small chapbook titled Trisomy 22. On Feb. 18, 2018, Novy self-published her memoir in the form of a poetry book, giving insight into the life of a young person dealing with a genetic disorder.

The Cat Eye Syndrome International Association, as quoted in the book, defines it as “a condition involving a partial trisomy or tetrasomy of part of chromosome 22.” Due to the genetic abnormality, symptoms include, but are not limited to: deformed irises, heart defects and bodily malformations  affecting almost every organ.

This book is not a story about how terrible the illness can be.

“These are really just my experiences and how I felt about it growing up,” Novy said “It was just that this was something I wanted to talk about. And I think if one person learns about it is worth it.”

Novy expanded on some of her poems, explaining her story of living with Cat Eye Syndrome. All through elementary and middle school she would miss at least one full week of school and get violently ill.

“My intestines were tangled around my stomach,” Novy explained. During those times she would have to go to the hospital to get rehydrated with IV fluids.

At age six Novy had surgery on her eyes, followed by another surgery at age eight to untangle her organs. Now, she shares, she still has to go to the doctor regularly, but can’t remember the last time she needed to go to the hospital.

However, this disease took a further toll than just physical discomfort. As told in the second poem in the collection, “Lucky Fin,” Novy has a malformed shoulder, which caused her to feel left out of other activities her friends would do.

“Sports are such a big thing in elementary school,” Novy said. “I grew up with a brother who did swimming and at every meet people would be cheering him on and they kept telling me ‘you would be so good at swimming if you didn’t have a malformed shoulder.’”

These kinds of debilitating thoughts are the ones that hurt her the most, more than when her friends would pull her malformed arm above her head to see if it really couldn’t go that far.

“I remember coming home from school one day and wrote down a list of things that I couldn’t do because of cat eye syndrome and my shoulder,” Novy shared. “My dad found me and took a red marker and crossed off the list and had me write a list of things I could do.”

It was through this support that Novy found acceptance with her body and her disorder. She particularly credits supermodel Caitin Stickels, who wrote a short blurb for Trisomy 22, for showing Novy how to love her body.

“If [if] we have learned anything from history, we know how art saves us from insanity, so i made art to save myself.” Stickels wrote. “Now [now] to see this book, another example of overcoming this ordeal, and feel more grateful that i’ve been creating.”

Stickles has a more severe case of Cat Eye Syndrome, but this did not stop her from stepping in front of the camera.

“Caitin Stickels was the first person I ever knew of who had Cat Eye Syndrome in their 20s. Knowing someone is also going through this makes it easier,” Novy said.

By writing Trisomy 22, Novy wished to share her experiences of her childhood, so that others could find words that resonated with them as well.

“A lot of artists say to write the book you wish you had when you were younger,” Novy explained, “and I think that this book is that for me.”

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Life through Cat Eye