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Artist expresses her ‘new normal’ through art

Artist expresses her ‘new normal’ through artAPOP will display Her inspirational painting

APOP’s office will soon have an original piece of art on display, created by one of their patients, Desiree, a talented artist who expresses deep meaning in her work.

The piece she is doing for APOP is based on a sketch she showed her prosthetist, Kai Newton, CPO, shortly after her amputation as she struggled to accept her “new normal.”

“This painting, titled ‘Rising,’ was inspired by that image,” she said. “I have painted a prosthetic leg as a vase, exploding with vivid island flowers. The lei is placed around the foot as if to say “Aloha (goodbye)” to my old foot/life and “Aloha (hello)” to the new one. Each flower has a symbolic meaning:

  • Plumeria lei: new beginnings, hope
  • Protea: courage
  • Ginger: healing, strength
  • Bird of Paradise: joy, freedom
  • Canna lily: aka “confide in Heaven”
  • Monstera leaves: long life
  • Palm leaves: peace, victory

Artist expresses her ‘new normal’ through art“I wanted to illustrate the process of grieving life‘s unexpected tragedy, accepting an unwanted but necessary circumstance or outcome, and then embracing it and growing out of that trauma. Only God’s grace has enabled me to rise up and move forward,” she said.

Desiree has led a very spiritual, as well as an artistic life, beginning at a very young age. “I grew up on the island of Guam in a family of artists, so art has always been encouraged and enjoyed. My parents also faithfully brought me to church where I learned about Jesus.”

In 2016, just as she was planning to publish a coloring book illustrating Bible verses, she began experiencing nagging ankle pain. “That nagging pain caused me to limp into the doctor’s office and request for investigative tests. They found a tumor in my right ankle.”

She was eventually diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. She began chemotherapy, followed by radiation, and more chemotherapy.

Artist expresses her ‘new normal’ through art“The treatment made me very weak and sick, which prevented me from creating any artwork. When I could, I would draw, color, and hand letter Bible verses and inspiring phrases to encourage myself and others who were also experiencing hard times.”

She completed treatment in September 2018, but 10 months later the cancer returned and ultimately resulted in the amputation of her right foot. Her physiatrist recommended APOP and spoke highly of their work. Desiree agrees. She describes her experience with the company as “Excellent!”

She explains, “There was a lot of uncertainty and fear with learning to walk in a different way, but they were very understanding and answered any and all my questions, even the ‘dumb’ ones. They put me at ease as I adjusted to the many changes and always let me know that they were available to help with anything.”

Kai fit Desiree with a below knee prosthetic device designed to restore her ability to walk and pursue mobility goals. “Prosthetic devices should be comfortable, durable, and meet the needs of the client,” he said. Desiree’s prosthetic incorporates advanced materials like titanium and carbon fiber resulting in a system that employs dynamic motion to improve stability and reduce the energy required by the prosthetic user when walking.

“I’m able to do most things. I can walk at 2 mph for at least 30 minutes. If I wore pants, I don’t think you would know I’m an amputee. I can swim without my prosthetic leg. I’m still figuring out how to drive. I can do all the housework. As far as sports like volleyball, tennis, and Zumba, I would like to get back into them eventually. And there are other sports I wanted to try like surfing, but I’m not there yet.”

Desiree lives in Hawaii with her husband and their young daughter. She currently freelances her artwork, which includes drawing, painting, lettering, and other art prints. Her vision is to connect with people through art and healing and to point them to the Creator and Healer of our souls.