Sunday, July 2, 2017

Case Study #45 - Angela Writing Her Blog

"Angela Writing Her Blog" 2017. Oil on Canvas. 30" x 24"
Angela Velasquez inherited Neurofibromatiosis type 1 from her mother, she was diagnosed at birth. She had her first surgery at eight days old to relieve pressure from her right eye caused by congenital glaucoma which was attributed by NF. By the time Angela was 18 years old she had had a total of 17 surgeries. When Angela was 12 years old she had a surgery to remove her right eye because she had gone blind but the eye continued to affect her overall health; shortly after that surgery she was fitted with a prosthetic. The majority of the surgeries that Angela had were reconstructive, the right side of Angela’s skull did not fuse together, which left her with a golf size hole by her temple. This was very dangerous because it potentially left her brain exposed. During her last surgery the surgeon used both a titanium plate and hard plastic mesh to correct the damaged bone and protect her brain. Angela has not had surgery since 2005, but recently spoke to a surgeon to remove fibromas that were bothersome and to do further reconstructive surgery on the right side of her face and skull.

prep sketch
Many would think that a childhood filled with doctor’s appointments, needles, tests and surgeries would be difficult, but for Angela, that was the easy part because she understood from a very young age how important and necessary all of this was. The worst part of her childhood was the bullying of her classmates. Angela felt like an outcast for much of her childhood and adolescents because her classmates were very cruel, calling her names and simply ignoring her presence. Middle and high school were especially difficult because the jokes and shunning became more cruel and frequent. Angela would more often than not get home from school to the arms of her brothers and parents and cry. Thankfully, Angela has always had an amazing support system: two loving parents and two older brothers that can at times be over protective. Despite being harshly bullied by classmates, Angela met and made incredible friends in school that helped her heal and deal with ignorant and mean classmates.

In July of 2012, Angela began writing a blog, “Life with Neurofibromatosis.” She writes about her childhood and how bullying had played a role in her depression even years after graduating high school. She writes about surgeries, scars and how she uses her hair has a protective ‘’shield”. Angela even shared her suicidal thoughts and close attempt. But she also writes about positive and amazingly beautiful aspects of her life, like graduating college, being in love and finding work in her field of study. In December of 2013, Angela graduated college with a Bachelors in psychology and a minor in sociology. Shortly after in March of 2014, she began working for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, a nonprofit. She began working as an Intervention Specialist, answering crisis calls, including speaking with individuals that were having suicidal thoughts. In April of 2017, Angela was promoted into Supervisor of that very same department.

Angela wants others with NF to know that they are not just someone with NF, they are an incredible human being with a great purpose. That is a big reason why she writes and shares her story because she does not want others to think that all they have to offer this world if NF. Angela’s determination has given her the strength to not give up and keep pushing forward. She participates every year in the Cupid’s Undie Run to help spread awareness and is not afraid to educate a stranger about NF and why her face looks the way it does.