|"Marcus Branding a Keychain" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas|
After completing his undergraduate degree at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he moved to Washington DC, where he was introduced to Barbra Levin from NF Mid Atlantic in Baltimore Maryland (nonprofit organization providing information and support to people with neurofibromatosis (NF), their families and anyone interested in the disorder). Barbra introduced Marcus to many others with NF in the Baltimore/Washington DC area. After meeting others with NF for the first time he started to learn more about the effects of the disorder. He realized that the many issues he had in life and thoughts of something being wrong with him had an answer now. In 2009 his father, mother and sister joined Marcus to participate in a fundraiser event with the NF Mid Atlantic’s Survive the Harbor, in Baltimore Maryland. The event was amazing and provided Marcus's family an opportunity to be apart of his journey and the cause to bring awareness to end NF.
In 2010, Marcus started having weakness and numbness in his right leg, right arm, and loss of urine control (trouble/loss with bladder control) After having Xrays, MRIs and other test, it was found that problems could be relate to a Chiari Malformation, tumors on his spin or plexiform neurofibromas in his pelvis. From that moment to 2014 life became slightly more difficult. Marcus dealt with new issues of having trouble walking which led him to believe he would never run again. He also became less social, not attending public events for fear of being question if he was intoxicated, and anxiety when driving; he dealt with the hurt and pain in silence.
In the midst of this Marcus found his strength in God and seeing many others stand strong who have NF and other ailments but did not give up. Not being able to run, he began spin/cycle classes, lifting light weights, swimming, stretching and working on his balance in order to build up his strength. Breaking the shell of isolation and fear he started opening up about NF and the pain and struggles he went through and still encounter from time to time. Now the disorder that once kept him in hiding has become a great passion to share and inspire others. His life story speaks for itself; patience, perseverance, faith and determination.
For the first time in 4 years, Marcus was able to run. He entered the 2015 Cupid's Undie Run in Washington DC, wanting to once again bring awareness to NF. He’s now meeting many other NF friends through social media websites and attended his second NF forum in Arizona in 2015. After attending the forum Marcus plans on getting involved in the NF Endurance, local NF WALKS, the local Children Tumor Foundation, NF Mid Atlantic events and any way to spread the word on NF. He now plans to study nutrition and natural health to help find ways to help ease his pain from NF. Marcus says “Everyday I wake up, and decide to push through the pain knowing that things will become better. I believe in practicing mindfulness and gratitude to enjoy the moment, and take my mind off of issues I am facing. We all must work together as a family to bring awareness and an end to NF.” Marcus enjoys cooking has mastered a variety of dishes, swimming, volunteering at organization that are focus on helping others heal and grow, and learning more about nutrition and fitness. He also enjoys learning about cognitive behavioral therapy and soul care. Marcus believes that God is not finished with him, he has taken what was seen as negative and turned into positive and is expecting greater things ahead.