Saturday, November 21, 2020

Case Study #90 - Jason Stripping Copper Wire


Prep Sketch

Jason Britt Thompson was born with NF. He currently lives in Jackson, Tennessee. His doctors said he would not live to see 14 years, but he proved them wrong. Jason is the only one in his family to have NF. Jason has two older brothers who do not have NF. He traced his ancestry back to 3 sets of great grand parents on both sides, but found no trace of it which led him to believe that his is due to a spontaneous gene mutation. 

Jason's NF has been hard for him as his left eye has no socket and it pulses with his brain. Jason's right eye has a skin fold that he was born with encompassing a large NF tumor. The doctors put in balloons under the skin to stretch it out so the skin on his right sight side.

Jason was put in a body cast at 6 years old for a leg tumor. A few years later when he was 9 years old he had metal rods put in his spine. As an adult in 2010, Jason went to see if sinus surgery would help as he was having problems with his eye tumors. The optic glioma (eye tumor) is causing him to start to lose his vision.

After high school, Jason worked at McDonald's and eventually became a manager. It took awhile for his disability to get approved, but after 6 years and several courts, it finally happened. Jason finds dating to be difficult and he certainly does not want to have his own children believing that passing NF onto children would make their lives very problematic. He is very open to dating someone who already has kids or even adopting together if that special woman ever wanted to do that. Currently, Jason strips wire for copper or takes apart ac units for copper coils and sell them for extra money. Jason also loves to fish and garden.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Case Study #89 - Aaron Visiting Tibet

"Aaron Visiting Tibet" Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24"

Aaron Anderson was born in Michigan in 1981. He was a chubby little blonde who never met a ball he didn’t want. He excelled in gross motor skills and language development. The diagnosis of NF1 at age three was a shock. If a friend hadn’t shown his mother her own daughter’s cafe-au-lait spots, the family would never have guessed that anything was amiss. 

Apart from some fine motor delays and a moderate degree of ADD, Aaron’s NF had only minor impact on his early school years. His thoughts would get ahead of his slow handwriting, which made for messy assignments. Although he learned easily, his notebooks were a chaotic mess. He left a trail of possessions wherever he went. He studied in 20-minute bursts and always with TV or music (hiphop) going. At night the hum of a fan helped him sleep. On the plus side, his quick wit, diplomacy and generous nature made him everyone’s friend.  Besides his love for balls, ball sports and music, he continued to add new interests.

After junior year he entered a two-year international baccalaureate program in New Mexico. The program, designed to promote world peace, had only 200 students - 50 Americans and 150 from dozens of other countries. There he developed an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and added friends from around the world. Next was the University of Michigan, where his ADD caught up with him. Having chosen grades over sleep, he was heading toward a crash.  Enter Concerta, the salvation of his college career.  By cosmic good fortune Michigan regularly hosted a summer Tibet program.  This painting is from a photo taken on the first of three Tibet trips. In those same years his music passion shifted to a genre known as Northern Soul produced in nearby Detroit. He would scour Detroit junk shops, “digging” for obscure 45s from the 60s and 70s. 

In 2006 Aaron was accepted into a PhD program in California to study child development. It only took a year to realize he wasn’t enjoying life as he had in Ann Arbor. Grad school didn’t have room for his wide-ranging interests. He planned to finish the two-year Master’s degree and recalculate his future.  Everything changed in March 2008; he stopped going to class, answering emails, texts, phone calls or knocks on his door. It took three months of this reclusive behavior to get him admitted to the psych ward of the university’s hospital. Within two days came the answer - a tumor deep in his brain, malignant and inoperable. Six months of treatment brought him back to his fun-loving self.  At  nearly 28 years old, he moved home to Michigan to live his best life, not as an academic, but as a DJ and record dealer. He died in Buddhist peace at age 30, leaving a trail of friends around the world.

The story continues past Aaron’s death in Sept. 2011. With the help of his neuro-oncologist at Michigan and NF researcher, David Gutmann in St. Louis, Aaron was able to donate his body to the Univ. of Michigan and his brain to Dr. Gutmann’s Washington University lab. Within seven years the speed and accuracy of genome analysis increased so significantly that the progression of the brain tumor, a glioblastoma, could be tracked through its many genetic changes.  A brief paper about the tumor appeared in the journal Neurology in late 2019. The family cheered. Take a bow, Aaron!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Case Study #88 - Patricia Relaying for Life

"Patricia Relaying for Life"
Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24". 2020.

While growing up in Jackson, TN, Patricia and her family had never heard of NF. Their doctor told the family it was just fatty tumors. When Patricia's brother was a teen, she was in her early 20s. He started having some serious issues and was sent to a neurologist and that was when the family learned exactly what they had. Patricia had a fairly normal childhood. Looking back now she can see some issues that were probably because of the NF. She and her siblings inherited NF from her mother. Patricia's sister and two brothers also had NF. Her mother as well as her sister and one of her brothers died from NF related cancer. 

Prep Sketch 
Patricia had breast cancer and had a mastectomy 6 weeks before her daughter, Amber died from her NF related brain cancer. Amber was only 24 when she passed away. Her son Justin has NF too. Her son's case is relatively mild. When Amber was little, Patricia and her husband were not planning on having anymore children because Amber's NF was severe. Amber was born with a brain tumor, optic glioma, and a mass in her neck. Amber had the brain tumor removed at 1 year. The Lord surprised and blessed them with Justin. Patricia is so thankful for both of her children.

Patricia attended Tennessee Vocational Technical earning her LPN in 1974. She retired from nursing in 2015 the same year she celebrated 10 years as a cancer survivor by participating in the Relay for Life walk.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Case Study #87 - Kathy Climbing to the Base Camp of Mt. Everest

"Kathy Climbing to Mt. Everest's Base Camp" Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24" 2020.

Kathy Diane Wennihan was was born in 1960 in Fairfax, MO. After receiving her high school diploma from Oak Park Academy in Nevada, IA in 1978, Kathy attended Union College in Lincoln, NE. Kathy resided in Des Moines with her two most recent rescue cats, Eli and Delilah. Kathy enjoyed a long career as a Patient Care Technician with Mercy Hospitals in Des Moines where she was fortunate to have met and bonded with many kind and supportive friends.

Kathy had NF1 which manifested itself in many different ways throughout her life
Prep Sketch
. Kathy was active with the Children's Tumor Foundation and attended the CTF NF patient forum in Austin, TX in 2016 to learn more about how to get relief from the nerve pain through clinical trials although there was not one that she qualified for at the time. Kathy also took great pride in her association with Above + Beyond Cancer, a charitable organization with the mission to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer, to create a healthier world, and through that association she transformed from relatively inactive into an accomplished athletic adventurer.

Never a runner, Kathy completed a marathon while suffering through cancer treatments. She ventured with Above + Beyond to Everest Base Camp and was part of the Above + Beyond Cancer Team for Dam to Dam and the Des Moines marathon. She also participated in many indoor cycling classes.

Kathy was a tireless volunteer and was chosen for the Above + Beyond Cancer Award in 2018. Kathy has become a pillar of the amazing impact Above + Beyond Cancer can have on cancer survivors. Kathy passed away in 2019 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Case Study #86 - Lars Responding to Messages

"Lars Responding to Messages" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas.

Lars Roeyen (1997-2014) 

Lars lived in the city of Genk within the region of Limburg, Belgium. He was born with a predisposition disorder. When he was 2 years old we noticed that his fine motor skills showed some defects. An MRI showed something but it was not clear and was not looked into further by the attending pediatrician. Kinetic therapy was recommended. Then suddenly at the age of 16 he got a bump on his head that the doctor thought was a fat bump. Lars was disturbed by this bump and he was bullied with it at school. A cardiovascular surgeon removed his bump under local anesthesia and saw that it was attached to the nerves. She immediately made the link at NF and a new MRI showed that he had one tumor in the brain stem, one on and a larger older one outside. In total he had 19 tumors spread on the spiral cord and face. He walked into hospital for an urgent brain operation and came out with paralyzed hands and legs.TV and Facebook were his only outlet and even with this he needed help. Despite all this he remained optimistic with an indescribable humor. On  November 1, 2014 he said goodbye to us with a very scared heart about what was to come. 
Prep Sketch

NF changed the lives of his family forever. He wanted to be famous for 1 day and he succeeded. He was invited on Q-Music which is a famous Belgian radio station. While the family was there the big boss saw him and asked to follow Lars for the rest of the day to make a newsflash. The man onthe radio station broadcasted to the people listening to write Lars cards while he was in the hospital. He got about 4,000 cards in the rehabilitation clinic and also at home. There were even people who sent the family some money for a drive with the special cab. (This was very expensive! Lars never left home for the rest of his days after it.) Lars got letters from all over the world including the queen and king of Belgium as well as their army. His sister, who is three years older, was his mainstay, nurse and best friend as well as his dog Pepa who rode everywhere on the rock chair. Lars was a NF2 warrior.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Case Study #85 - Tommy Showing the Way

"Tommy Showing the Way" Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24"

Thomas A. Dobbin aka the Mandalorian (1980 - 2012)

Tommy was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF) when he was just six months old. The telltale sign that led to this discovery was a cafĂ© au lait spot on Tommy's young body. Even at a young age, and with very little knowledge of NF, Tommy accepted the challenge that his life offered. Tommy’s NF slowed his progress down, but never stopped him, because “that was the way” (The Mandalorian). Tommy's head was slightly larger than most due to a dormant tumor in his head. When Tommy hit puberty, his NF kicked into high gear with visual lumps on some spots of his skin, as well as inside his chest cavity. As Tommy struggled with growth from boy to man, he also battled with his peers noticing 
Prep Sketch
that he was different in speed, education, and motor function skills but smiled it off, because “that was the way.” It was this same smile that won the hearts of so many that encountered Tommy and is the same reason why he had the backing of his High School Basketball team to make a basket but was unable to. During his senior year he found out that some of the tumors inside his chest were on his lungs, but that same year he made a basket during a game and had the whole crowed cheering and standing.

After high school, Tommy struggled with learning how to drive so he walked everywhere. This is right about the same time when his NF stared to provide Tommy with additional problems. Tommy had one of the tumors on his lung cause a bleed that resulted in the removal of part of his lung. In Tommy's prime he suffered the same bleed on the opposite side, but this time the result was it stopped without having to remove part of that lung. Despite his medical struggles, Tommy met the love of his life, Tiffany, and they were married. They were blessed with two children, a boy and a girl, who were fortunately not born with the same genetic disorder. Tommy knew he could collect money from the state for his medical issues but chose to work and provide for his family as a cart pusher all while walking to work each day, because “this was the way.”

In his 30’s Tommy NF progressed to a point where the tumors wrapped around the organ that so many loved, his heart. Tommy started to struggle more with work and daily tasks. In an effort to slow the growth of the tumor wrapping around his aorta, Tommy went to a Manhattan hospital to receive a drug to slow the growth. Unfortunately, the treatment was cut short as he lost his battle to NF two months later at the age of 32. Until the end, Tommy continued to work, be a great father to his kids, a doting husband, and a shining beacon to all that witnessed his drive and smile, because “this was the way.” Tommy loved to cook, the outdoors, his family, all walks of life and just that, LIFE. Tommy’s motivation to live life to the fullest is a reminder to all that met him, because “that is the way.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Case Study #84 - Laurie Sewing a Baby Bib

"Laurie Sewing a Baby Bib" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas. 2020.

When Laurie was born in 1973, the doctors noticed cafe au lait spots, one of which was wrapped around her torso. They also noticed small tumors on her left buttock, and one on her right leg. After a few months the doctors told her parents the news. Laurie had Neurofibromatosis type 1. The doctors knew very little and assumed her life was going to be short and painful. As she grew the signs of NF1 became more apparent, Laurie spent many nights sleeping with her parents begging for them to stop the pain. They wanted to but they couldn’t and the doctors didn’t know how. As Laurie grew her parents noticed that her legs were different lengths and she had developed a major limp. Once the doctors knew the difference in the length, Laurie had to have a lift built on the bottom of her right sho
Prep Sketch

When Laurie was eight she went to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD where she had the first of many surgeries including the debulking of a plexiform tumor in 1981. Laurie would continue to have many surgeries to debulk and remove tumors. Those tumors are and have returned, getting them out completely is never going to happen. As a school girl, learning was a challenge. Laurie struggled to make friends and would be bullied daily from classmates. She was constantly reminded of how stupid she was and when Laurie couldn’t pass a test it was a reminder. In physical education classmates would never want her on their team. During PE class the other classmates would end up throwing/kicking balls that would purposely hit her where the plexiform tumors were. Teachers never really seemed to care. 

Laurie hated school. She wanted out so badly. Laurie graduated high school and went on to earn two associate degrees, through a local community college. As an adult Laurie has had to continue to have surgeries, some of been pretty challenging to recover from, but she has learned to manage. Because the risk that the plexiform tumors may become cancerous, routine MRIs are normal, but now she is used to having them that she can easily sleep through them. Daily life is filled with chronic pain, some days it’s rough but getting up and facing the day is important. 

Laurie has spent 28 years in the classroom, the first five years she worked in a child care center as an aide for infants through 2 year olds. The second five years she was in charge of fifteen two year olds and 2 assistants. She loved those little children and found that age to be entertaining and challenging. The last eighteen years she has been an instructional kindergarten assistant which was her calling. These past eighteen years have been wonderful for her, despite being in severe pain all the time. Her job has been her happy place. Those kids have given her a purpose, a reason to actually want to get out of bed, and a reason and a purpose to keep up the fight.