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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

by arthritis [that] he was in agony most of the time," when the secretary
of navy expressed appreciation but declined to accept his offer. The
frailty appeared to deepen Perry's concern for other afflicted people,
and he discussed his pain and treatments with the usual detachment and
humor. He told several friends about "trying to have my back fixed,"
complicated by intolerance to cortisone due to "an ulcer the size of a
geranium able to eat a hole through the west wall of the Alamo in three
minutes flat." Perry confided: "I cannot see where I am much better ...
the X-rays show that I'm falling apart ... This God-damned disease is
after me ... [but] I think I'm better than it is."25
Predictably, Perry used his suffering to inform the public of medical
advances in a 1954 Post article, "My Fight Against Arthritis." Almost clini-
cally, he described an inability to reach the ignition key in his car from a
seated position and the struggle to get out of the automobile.
... by the middle of the summer of '53, I'd reached the point where a severe
outburst of bad weather would lay me out for a week--so badly, indeed, that for
two or three of those days the pain was too constant and acute to allow me even
to dictate from my bed.
His hometown doctor referred Perry to a specialist in New Haven,
Connecticut, near the Perrys' summer home at Guilford. A rigorous reg-
imen of therapy, diet, and X-rays offered hope, which plummeted with
subsequent examinations:
This, so far as I could figure out, was the biggest, most inextricable mess in
which I had ever found myself. My bones were not merely melting away but
seemed intent upon setting some kind of speed record. . . . Unless this process
were reversed quickly, I'd become a kind of human fillet, all meat and no bones.
At length his doctors devised a metal brace, which extended from his
hips to his neck. Perry concluded the article, laced with statistics on the
disease and the afflicted, with optimism not expressed to his confidants.26
Perry maintained an incredible productivity and spirit despite "days
when the disease was no longer a part of me. I was part of, and belonged
to, it." In 1953, when he undertook the torturous treatment, the writer
turned out nine stories, including a highly praised article on an African
American doctor, which his editor termed "a hell of a good job ... I hope
your health is definitely on the upgrade these days." The following year he
produced nine more, and in 1955 five others. The bent writer patiently
25 Written on envelope of Francis P. Matthews to Perry, Aug. 14, 195o, Letters Recip. U-V,
Perry Collection (1st quotation), Perry to Henderson and Holland, n d., Mis., "Nurses are Lucky
Girls!" [1951-1953] (2nd quotation); Perry to Bob [1952-1953] (3rd quotation)
26Perry, "My Fight Against Arthritis," Saturday EvenngPost, 226 (Apr 3, 1954), 36-37, 71-74,
1st quotation, 37, 2nd quotation, 73.


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed October 7, 2015.