Friday, January 6, 2017

Case Study #36 - Yvonne Dancing Ballet

"Yvonne Dancing Ballet" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas
Yvonne Foong was born in the city of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia on June 5,1986. Her father was a landscaper, while her mother was a florist. I was born a healthy child except for an underdeveloped left eye. Three years later, her father suffered a brain hemorrhage. He woke up after 1 month in a coma and lived with his damaged brain for another 21 years. As Yvonne grew up, her father's mental capacity gradually and steadily declined. He tried his best to take care of her but he had poor emotional regulation ability and was very forgetful. Her mother was overwhelmed and collapsed. She also tried her best to raise Yvonne while having to care for her father. Yvonne went to school and grew up healthy. Her aunt protected her early childhood development by spending quality time with her and teaching her many things. She introduced Yvonne to: ballet, figure skating, art, music and just about anything she wanted to learn. Her mother, despite her own helplessness, also trained her to become independent using simple ways such as allowing her to go buy food in a mall by herself since she was a toddler.
Prep Sketch for Yvonne's painting

When Yvonne was 13 years old, her own health started declining. She lost her hearing within a year and started falling down for no reason when she was 14. Her mother at that time was facing a lot of challenges and emotional stress, so when Yvonne told her of her problems, she could not deal with it. This continued until she could barely walk at age 16 and was finally taken to the doctor whereupon countless tumors were found in my brain and along my spinal chord. She was diagnosed with NF2. Yvonne had her first 2 surgeries in Malaysia immediately to try saving what was left. The doctors there, could not remove the brain tumors completely and safely so, she needed to look for alternatives. Another patient she met online, introduced Yvonne to his surgeon, Dr. Rick A. Friedman in Los Angeles who volunteered to remove it for her for free. Since that surgery, Yvonne resolved to go back to him for my future surgeries to remove other tumors in the years that followed, but the hospital and the surgeons were not able to do her future surgeries for free. She could understand that as they also have other patients they need to help. Yvonne's life experience with her father's fate makes her determined to maintain her own quality of life no matter what it takes, for she has seen and knows what will happen if she deteriorates and become dependent. Yvonne decided to raise the funds needed for surgery by her own efforts. Someone helped her design a T-shirt and she sold it piece by piece, at a modest price of just RM30 a piece. When someone agrees to buy, it makes her feel very happy because she was earning the money with her own earnest efforts. She needed RM230,000.00 for surgery, back in 2006. Initially, people ignored her on the streets, but slowly more and more people supported and came forward to help her sell by consignment. Within 10 months, Yvonne managed to raise enough funds for surgery. This was back when there was no social media and no one has heard of her before.

Yvonne continued to raise funds this way for her future surgeries in the US. Fundraising got easier and easier and faster too. In the process, she also turned into a public speaker and inspiration. Many people with all kinds of life challenges also came to her for assistance throughout the years. She tries to help them physically and monetarily, including NF patients.

Yvonne realized that she needed a proper way to help people. So she decided to set up a foundation to help other patients with NF get life saving treatments in the US. Now they can have a chance to extend their lives and also empower themselves in the process. Just like what Yvonne did.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Case Study #34 - Kevin Leading the Charge

Kevin Leading the Charge. Oil on Canvas. 2017. 30" x 24"
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.

Prep sketch
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".