Thursday, September 22, 2016

Case Study #34 - Kevin Leading the Charge

Prep sketch
Kevin Allison is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and for as long as he can remember, he has had NF. For some living with NF is a curse or a punishment, but Kevin doesn't necessarily see it in that way. It's more of a blessing in disguise. Kevin feels like he can't really complain since he has a mild case of it and feels very fortunate. He has café au lait spots, neurofibromas under his skin, and a stable optic nerve tumor. He used to suffer from weekly migraines.

If it wasn't for having NF, Kevin wouldn't have had some of the life experiences he has thoroughly enjoyed. He attended an NF camp twice where he made a ton of friends. During that time he saw the Grand Canyon and white water rafted down the Colorado which ranks as one of his favorite life experiences. Kevin will be participating in his 4th Cupid's Undie Run. Besides being a ton of fun, he gets to join 1200 other people whom he considers family who also want to find a cure for NF. They do this by running through the streets of Pittsburgh in the freezing cold in February in their underwear. The main reason for the run is bringing awareness to NF. There is no cure but this is certainly a way to stand out. It definitely puts a smile on his face to see everyone come together for such a great cause. The best part of last year was being able to carry one of the Cupid's Undie Run flags at the beginning of the race. It was definitely a great feeling and an honor.

In Kevin's words, "It's an amazing feeling to have the love and support of friends and family. I believe I have become the person I am today because of NF. I have many experiences I wouldn't trade for anything and have met many people along this journey I can call family. I aspire to bring awareness to many and continue to raise funds with the hope that one day a cure will be found".

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Case Study #33 - Anne Running the Boston Marathon

"Anne Running the Boston Marathon" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas
Anne Shigley Noble has defied the odds most of her 29 years. Diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type II (NF2) in Atlanta at 7, she had her first surgery in LA at 9, when a tumor paralyzed one side of her face. Against the odds, she came out grinning though deaf in the right ear. Battling NF2, she became a high school runner and swimmer, and dreamed of someday running the Boston Marathon.  She had more surgeries her senior year, in Boston for spinal cord tumors which came out without damage, and in LA for an auditory nerve tumor that deafened the left ear too. She finished high school and started college in Tennessee, with help of a captionist, and ran college cross country. In her freshman year she ran her first marathon with classmates cheering her on, then took medical leave to get her Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI). 

prep sketch
Anne transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology / National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT / NTID). She had summers in DC for sign language classes at Gallaudet, then NC, CO and PA for YMCA and camp jobs. At RIT, she met Steve, and they married after graduation. She continued running marathons, and with Steve added triathlons. She started a master in early childhood special education but after their wedding, Steve had an offer in NH. Now they are in their second house, in rural Meridan, NH, with a grand view of mountains. Steve is a telecom engineer at Dartmouth College, while Anne is a paraprofessional in early childhood special education. Just before turning 29, Anne fulfilled her dream of running the Boston Marathon - in the mobility impaired division – and raising over $5,000 for NF research with the Children's Tumor Foundation. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Case Study #32 - Darin Providing Technical Support

Darin Providing Technical Support. 30" x 24" Oil on canvas
Darin Donahue lives in southeast Michigan and works as a freelance broadcast technician. He does a lot of work for the local PBS station along with working a lot of sporting events for various sports networks. His favorite being the Lions / Bears rivalry game. When Darin was born, he had a number of  café-au-lait-spots. His mother always said they were "the doctors thumb prints,” but he wasn’t officially diagnosed with NF1 until he was about 13. No one else in his family had it, so it was caused by a spontaneous mutation, as half of the NF cases are caused by that.

prep sketch
School was a constant struggle for Darin. Having dyslexia made math and reading problematic and something he avoided at all cost. He struggles with diminished concentration and a very poor memory, and has balance issues.  It wasn’t until about twelve years ago that he noticed his skin tumors increasing but waited a few years to seek out an NF specialist to have them checked out. Truthfully, he really didn’t think much about it as he was leading a relatively normal life, until his oldest brother inquired into why did he have all the skin issues and tumors. His brother is about eight years older than Darin but had no idea that his youngest brother had NF or even what having NF meant. Even though Darin was seeing a top specialist in the area, his brother was convinced he wasn't doing enough to learn about it. At that point, Darin became actively involved with the NF community, and started going to NF sponsored events, seminars, focus groups and NF walks. In 2015 & 2016 Darin participated in the Cupids Undie Run in Detroit raising $600 and has already signed up to run again in 2017.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Case Study #31 - Emily Tossing a Water Balloon

Emily Tossing a Water Balloon. 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas.
Emily Pfeiffer was diagnosed with NF when she was three years old. At the age of nine learning difficulties prompted an MRI which revealed a brain tumor. The tumor was not responsible for her learning difficulties but it did require surgery and radiation therapy.  She did relatively well until the brain tumor returned in her early twenties. The tumor was successfully removed but she went on to develop tumors deep within both the right and left sides of her neck. She endured multiple surgeries and life threatening complications throughout her twenties and thirties.

Prep Sketch for Emily Tossing a Water Balloon
Her unbelievable positive attitude and resilience despite her NF has been a source of inspiration for her family. Emily has walked in three half marathons and the Cupid Undie’s Run to increase public awareness and fundraise for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. She currently volunteers at Tabitha Health Care in Lincoln, Nebraska. Spending time with the elderly is a joy for her and the residents she interacts with. In April of 2016 she received an award at Tabitha’s annual volunteer recognition event. The award honored her for making and keeping her commitments to her volunteer work.

Emily would be the first to tell you living with NF is very hard. She doesn’t seem to worry about what her future holds. Living every day to her fullest despite the physical and cognitive challenges continues to be her primary focus.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Case Study #30 - Derrick Living Rugby


  • "Derrick Living Rugby" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas
    Prep Sketch for "Derrick Living Rugby"
    Derrick Helton has seen and learned a lot from his condition with NF2. Coming from a small farm outside a village of 110 population called Tuscumbia MO, he did not know he had NF2 until he was 18 and decided to join the Marine Corps. During processing he failed the hearing test and when pursuing a waver to join the doctors found tumors on both acoustic nerves. At the same time a large tumor in the C3-4 regoin of his neck area spinal cord was found and severely pressing on his spinal cord. Obviously he did not get into the military as he had planned and could not work his trade of concrete construction anymore, but his life was about to change dramatically in another way. Just after being found emergency surgery was decided to prevent a serious injury at that level which could be life threatening. During surgery another tumor in lower spine combined with spinal swelling from neck surgery resulted in paralysis from about the rib cage down. The nerve in which the neck tumor was connected caused some upper body function decrease as well. After a long recovery and reflection the signs of NF2 had been present from very early age, but always misdiagnosed and never found. Now living as technically a quadraplegic and wheelchair bound, it was decided he needed to find a new path and way of life. He found the sport of wheelchair rugby as well as a college, The University of Arizona, which asked him to come play. It was the beginning of a new life and great adventure. Not long after he became good enough to represent Team USA and won many gold medals, world championships, and a bronze medal throughout his ten year run with the team all while traveling the world playing. In 2015 his career was cut short when once again NF2 showed its evil side and started causing seizures, a massive decrease in hearing and other issues. Now retired and trying to fight the new issues he has seen a dream of a new journey that involves community outreach as well as NF1 and NF2 awareness. Blessed with a given cup of lemonade from a lemon he feels its time to use what he has been through as a foundation to help others in bad situations pursue life to the fullest! Currently he lives in Tucson, Arizona with his amazing wife Krista, and their awesome daughter Leila who is 2 years old. Soon he will be having his first brain surgery to combat the siezures and also plans to have an ABI placed to help his poor hearing. He will continue planning his dreams and takes it one day at a time. It's time to become an advocate for NF, NF2 and all who suffer. It's also a time to use the gifts he has left to do so in new and creative ways. Follow Derrick on Twitter: @derrick_helton

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Case Study # 29 - Khanyi Swinging on the Porch


Khanyi Swinging on the Porch - oil on canvas. 30" x 24"
Growing up in South Africa where Neurofibromatosis is very rare, or just goes unnoticed, and having gone to an all girls’ school, where one’s physical appearance is under constant scrutiny was a challenge for Khanyi Shabalala.

Prep sketch
Khanyi was the first and the only carrier of NF in her family so it was a new experience for everyone involved. The first time her mother noticed birthmarks on her was when she was five year old. At first her mother found it a bit peculiar but not alarming. She noticed that they continued to develop and multiply until Khanyi had all these birthmarks suddenly developing all over her body and yet her twin sister did not. She didn’t know what was going on so the marks were put under the broad “birthmark” umbrella. Around that same time Khanyi developed absence seizures but she is still not sure if there might have been a correlation between that and her NF. At 12 years old Khanyi finally went to the dermatologist the “birth marks” were continually growing, continually changing and now they were accompanied by tumors. Those "birth marks" are called cafe au lait spots and are one of the main indicators for a possible Neurofibromatosis diagnosis.

Eleven years ago while Khanyi was studying Political Science at the University of Westville in South Africa she came to the realization that it was not her calling, not something she was destined to do for the rest of her, life so she packed her bags and moved to the United States. When she arrived she enrolled at Otis college, a school of art and design and worked as a freelance stylist. At Otis she met her future business partners Amaka and Jason. Together they turned their innate creativity and vision into something that was truly their own, something they could be proud of. That was how Khanyi became the Fashion Editor and one of the founding members of Afrostyle Magazine.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Case Study #26 - Maximilian Shopping in Thailand

"Maximilian Shopping in Thailand" 30" x 24" oil on canvas.
Maximilian Eugene Salvador Moran lives in Duffield, a small village in the countryside in Derbyshire in the United Kingdom. He found out that he had NF when he was 6 months old due to the large cafe au lait spots on his leg. At first he didn't know the full gravity of the situation or the effect it would have on his life but didn't let it stand in his way! As he grew up he had many problems fitting in with others and a having a 'normal' way of life. Even though he had NF he still tried to fit in with the other kids and do as they do. Including football clubs, chess clubs, singing and acting schools, piano etc.

NF affected him in some ways. Multiple areas which were always painful and have required surgeries, medication and regular scans to check on all tumors and check nothing was wrong internally! Also had to deal with bullies for most of my childhood and even today he still get the odd buffoon still trying to dampen his spirit. He had spinal surgery at 20 years old before travelling to Tenerife to do a summer season working in bars.
Prep sketch
Maximilian feels very fortunate to live where he does as he has the NHS which despite its faults is a great healthcare system for someone suffering with NF. They keep me checked up with regular GP appointments and he travels to London to see the specialists. Maximilian has also had a career spanning many fields: bricklaying, security guarding, landscape gardening, and now a fulfilling career in catering. Currently, Maximilian works as a chef and has worked in some of the nicest hotels in the areas in which he has lived. He has done a lot of travelling: backpacking in south east Asia and viewing the northern lights in Iceland. After his trip to Asia, he had to come back and have a tumor removed from his sciatic nerve. 
Maximilian is looking to the future, "I have ambition to open my own restaurant one day. I want to open a.little tea room and also provide an external catering service for weddings, birthdays and other personal events!