Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude: A personal story

"I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have taken up drawing again.
I had been thinking about it for a long time, but always considered it
 impossible and beyond my abilities."
—Vincent van Gogh

In addition to being a milestone—my 100th post!—this is an especially personal post for me. I recently created this drawing for a Thanksgiving card that is sent out by The Parkinson's Institute, a renowned clinic and research center in my area. I feel a strong sense of gratitude for the wonderful people at the PI, because I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the spring of 2009.

There are a lot of reasons that I've chosen not to share this on my blog until now. First, I feel that my condition isn't really relevant to my artwork. I'm very fortunate that my symptoms have been mild so far, and have affected only my left side. Since I'm right-handed, my drawing has been unaffected for now. (By the way, it's purely random as to which side is more affected, so I know that I'm one lucky woman.) But more importantly, I simply want people to respond to my drawings for the drawings, not because they were drawn by someone with PD. (And I promise you, after this post I will be back to the serious business of drawing nuts and marshmallow Peeps.)

But lately, I feel the need to celebrate the fact that I'm still drawing away, Parkinson's and all, and I want to express my thankfulness for the Parkinson's community:

I'm thankful for the amazing doctors and researchers at the Institute, who may someday soon be instrumental in finding a cure for Parkinson's.

I'm thankful for two other blogging artists with Parkinson's (now that's an elite group). The first is Cindy DeLuz, a wonderful woman that I met at the Institute. She just exudes happiness when you talk to her, and you can see it in her artwork. The other is Amanda Bates, a friend that I met online. (Yes, I consider a number of my blogging buddies to be friends, even though we've never met...isn't technology wonderful?) Somehow, I happened upon Amanda's beautiful painting blog and her informative Parkinson's blog separately, and it was only later that I realized they were written by the same woman!

I'm thankful for my inspirational fellow Institute patients, including one that still entertains his friends with his lively banjo-playing, and another that plays golf three times a week!

I'm thankful for Michael J. Fox and the work he's done through his Foundation. In the first months after I was diagnosed, I had no idea as to how fast my symptoms would progress—it's different for everyone— which was pretty frightening. But, thanks to MJF, I saw a person close to my own age, that I could relate to. I kept telling myself that if he can still lead a full, generous, vibrant life, then I could too.

In his book, Always Looking Up, Michael J. Fox states, "For everything this disease has taken, something with greater value has been given—sometimes just a marker that points me in a new direction that I might not otherwise have traveled." That couldn't be truer than it is for me. Would I have taken the time to rediscover my passion for drawing, and would I have started my blog, had I not been faced with the fact that I didn't know if, or when, my manual dexterity would deteriorate?  So, while I stated above that Parkinson's disease isn't really relevant to the artwork itself, it may very well have been the marker that pointed me  "in a direction I might not otherwise have traveled." And for that, I am truly grateful.


  1. Dear Sarah, congratulations on your 100th post and I am thankful for you and your beautiful post today. Every time I see how people are connected in hope and courage to overcome serious obstacles I am inspired, touched and humbled. Creating and sharing your art is a gift of healing to you but for all of us as well. Happiness to you my dear, today and always :)

  2. I've been enjoying your art for some time now (especially the Peeps). In the summertime your vegetables looked exactly like the ones in my garden. What a neat gift to be able to draw! I hope to enjoy "Pencils and Paper" for a long time. Good luck to you --

  3. This is a beautiful drawing, and a wonderful idea. Congratulations on your 100th post! I've liked your drawings a lot through those posts. Maybe your drawing will help you stave off Parkinsons? But as masterfully as you draw, real art is in our minds, and if you have to switch mediums at some point to accomodate your abilities, I'm sure I will like what you create then too. I am wishing you the best, and so glad you found a place which gives you so much support. I really like the quote from Michael J. Fox. So true, and true for all of us, no matter what challenges we have to face. Wishing you the absolute best!

  4. Your painting is soooo good and so dramatic. Your post is inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  5. What a lovely post.

    I think I can categorically say that Parkinson's *did* lead me back to art, possibly sooner than I might otherwise have wandered back, and certainly with more urgency. There was the suggestion that artistic pursuits help to relieve the symptoms - and then there was a UK arts competition open only to people with Parkinson's (I thought I had a chance I haven't won it yet...). And there's the realisation that you haven't got as much time as you thought you had.

  6. Congratulations on your milestone blog post! I love the simplicity of your sketch (although I don't mean it was easy to do -- it just has a visual freshness to it). Sketching and painting is a great way for me to distract myself from my other worries and stresses, like Parkinsons for you. For years we thought my Father had Parkinsons because he had a tremor, but we never got a confident answer on that before he passed on. I look forward to your future posts - I love your artwork! Blessings to you.

  7. Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement! I'm spending this rainy day at home with my laptop (and a sore throat) so I hope to be visiting everyone on my blog list today...such a great way to spend the day!

  8. Congratulations on your 100th post. You really are an inspirational and amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your story...

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. You inspire me every time I visit your blog. I've even been using my Prismacolors! Keep creating; you have a special gift! :)

  10. Sarah, you're such a wonderful artist. I'm so glad that the Parkinsons hasn't affected your ability to make your drawings - and that it never will. Like you say, great strides are being made, and I hope that there is a cure in the near future. Meanwhile, I will look forward to more of your beautiful art, and send you healing thoughts.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story with us Sarah. I have always been incredibly impressed with your fine work, your intelligent posts and even more now am I impressed with the grace in which you live. Thank you also for sharing the people and links regarding Parkinson's Disease. I've always been so impressed with Michael J. Fox's endeavors. I am wishing you good health and many many years of creating your beautiful illustrations. Happy New Year, Sarah!