I was born with a rare, incurable, genetic disorder called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), which causes abnormal blood vessel formation in the skin and organs. In 2003, I was coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing. Doctors eventually found a large AVM (artery/vein malformation) in my left lung. I underwent surgery to remove the small portion of lung that contained this AVM. At the time, I was not told that the consequences of having this procedure would mean that I would have to live with chronic pain, from nerve damage, for the rest of my life. Since 2003, I have had two more lung surgeries and several procedures to treat the chronic pain, including the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator.
My artwork is autobiographical, and explores my experiences dealing with surgery and chronic pain. Pain is something that most people do not talk about. It can be a very isolating experience, because people who suffer from chronic pain often look perfectly fine. It’s not a disease like cancer, where everyone knows what you’re going through because they’ve had it, or they knew someone who had it. Because of this, when people with chronic pain try to talk about it with someone, they are often told to “cowboy up” and “grin and bear it.” Pain is not seen as a real disability, instead, people who have pain are often seen as complainers or drug seekers. My artwork is an attempt at making invisible pain, visible. It is my hope, that my paintings will foster a greater understanding of what it’s like to live with chronic pain and an incurable illness.