Friday, May 15, 2020

Case Study #81 - Courtney Preparing the Panda Warmer

"Courtney Preparing the Panda Warmer" 30" x 24" Oil on Canvas.
Courtney Willoughby is a Registered Nurse living with Neurofibromatosis Type-1 (NF1). She was diagnosed after developing shingles at the age of 3. She is the first in her family to live with this condition.

At the age of 13, Courtney was diagnosed with a hypothalamic-pituitary brain tumor. She was also diagnosed with scoliosis, hypopituitarism, growth hormone deficiency, a skeletal rib deformity, chronic headaches and tumors were found in her abdomen, pelvis, arms, legs and ear. Courtney found all of these diagnoses incredibly overwhelming, and feared judgment and ostracization from her peers at school. This caused her to keep her condition a secret, as she feared her peers would reject her once they found out she was “different”. This fear caused Courtney to develop anxiety and depression, which ultimately led her to develop a severe eating disorder. Her mental health spiraled out of control, as she continued to hide her struggles from her peers.

Prep Sketch
Courtney did not reach out for help until her last year of high school, when she had the opportunity to meet Reggie Bibbs at an NF conference in Calgary, Alberta. This was a life changing experience, as she saw that it was possible to thrive with NF, and that there was an incredible community of people there to support her. After she told her friends and peers about her struggles, she was able to raise close to $15,000 for NF research and dedicated her funds to the Friedman Research Lab in British Columbia. She also helped develop a not for profit organization called The Alberta Tumour Foundation.

In 2016, Courtney graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BScN), and currently works in labor and delivery helping bring new life into this world. Courtney was inspired to become a nurse after one of the nurses she worked closely with in her neurosurgery clinic recognized that she was struggling with an eating disorder and urged her to get the help she needed. Up until that time, Courtney’s eating disorder had not been addressed by medical professionals, and having this nurse recognize her struggles was like lifting an enormous weight off her shoulders. Courtney was determined to become a nurse after this experience so she could make an impact on patients like this nurse had made on her.

Today Courtney is relatively healthy. She is “weight restored” from her eating disorder. She has had 3 different surgeries to remove tumors, and is on several medications to control her hormone imbalances. The biggest issue she faces is controlling the pain resulting from her chronic headaches. She is getting married in September 2020, and is living life to the fullest. Her current hobbies include hiking, kayaking and anything that gets her outside in the mountains. She urges anyone living with NF to reach out to the wonderfully supportive NF community! It truly saved her life.

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