My story, my inspiration, my drive 

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Growing up I have always been active whether it was cheerleading, running, acting, dance, you name it, but it wasn't till my fifth grade year that I began to struggle and disconnect. When I was ten, I soon found myself struggling with my vision, comprehension and balance while enduring severe headaches and memory loss. As my parents’ concerns progressed, they became frustrated with my practitioners diagnoses of a cold. Soon later, I had a MRI which placed me in the hospital that night and surgery immediately, as I was on the verge of a coma. The surgeons confirmed I had a unusual case of Hydrocephalus, which means excessive fluid on the brain. After the first surgery failed, for unexplained reasons, a cranial shunt was inserted to circulate the fluid artificially. Unfortunately within a month I developed an infection causing my shunt to fail and readmitting me into the hospital. Doctors inserted an external tube connected to my head to relieve the pressure and fight infection until I was well enough for surgery. All I remember was my cerebral fluid soaking my hair and dripping down my face, as it seeped out my soggy incision. Because the brain cannot fight infection, this situation was far more severe than what a ten year old could comprehend, all I knew is I wasn’t myself. Fortunately I recovered from the infection and received a new shunt, relieving me home. 

Hydrocephalus is typically found in babies while their skulls are not fully developed and their ventricle tubes are still prone to collapsing, so it was odd that I had developed this condition without an explanation. Although I was fixed, over the years I endured peculiar complications with my new shunt. These uneasy situations drove me to meet with neurosurgeons in Gainesville where I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, a glioma located in the tectal plate region of my brain, which is inoperable. This had been the source of all the corruption, but despite these issue I am blessed this tumor is benign. Since then I have endured another shunt failure, which luckily I don't have any recollection of. A total of 5 brain surgeries by the age of 14. I also developed an unusual problem dealing with my shunt. In order to function throughout the day with the correct amount of cerebral fluid in my ventricles doctors proposed for me to sleep at an Incline of 45 degrees in order to keep the circulation of fluid at a consistent rate. My shunt should be coordinating this automatically but for some reason I am extremely sensitive. This idea works for the most part. I have a bed to help me sleep at an incline and I have been like this for 6 years. Unfortunately I constantly have bad days if I do not sleep at the right incline causing my symptoms to return, effecting my comprehension, concentration and athletics. 

Over the years I have become frustrated with my new way of life. After the mass fluid was released from my brain, I was still mentally bruised. I resumed school, but academics became overwhelmingly difficult for me, I was constantly frustrated with not being able to remember the information I had just been taught and I tried to rush back into sports but my coordination was still healing. These were infuriating setbacks, because I am a determined and outgoing person. My parents noticed my frustration and took me to see a Neuropsychologist.  After a series of test the doctor had noticed a serious problem. My IQ was high but there was a large gap between my comprehension time and deliverance time. The only way I can explain this feeling is holding a stack of books, books being information someone is giving to you, and with every book added to the top of the stack, the bottom book slips away, and you forget about it. It’s frustrating because I know my capabilities physically and mentally. 

It wasn't until I found art that I began to heal. Throughout my high school years I flourished in the arts, winning over 12 art scholarships and competitions. Over the years I had become more reserved but with art I was able to conquer that wall through self-expression. My teacher and parents gave everything for me to be successful, which I’ll always be eternally grateful for. 

With their support I adopted a new perspective on life. I decided to become more outgoing and to use my art to heal people, the way art healed me.

When I was 16 years old I began my own henna business called “Hennas by Jeli” and would go down to local beaches, advertising my work. I thought why not have a job I enjoy and why not start young? Little did I know this was only the beginning of my artistic career. Years later and I am still striving to make my dream as an artist a reality. I was in the Mount Dora Seafood Festival, as well as several other festivals, where I displayed and sold my most recent art medium of fluid resin paintings. The way I view life is, everything can be in your reach as long as you work for it and to view every downfall as a positive. Also we should not care about what society thinks about us but always remember to stay humble and kind. So be ambitious and be outgoing, because the best decision I have made so far in my life was being myself.

Besides art healing me, my inspiration stems from another obstacle in my life. A few years ago my close friend was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, and battled chemo and radiation. Throughout her treatment we arranged henna parties biweekly. She says they “give her something to distract her from the treatment and she feels beautiful even though another part of her body is being destroyed.” Her persistence and ability to maintain illuminating spirits astounds me. It wasn’t until this that I really realized I no longer wanted to do art for myself, but for others. I want to give back to the world in the only way I know. Healing with art, a compassion without words. 

We cannot explain why things happen to us but we can learn from the lessons we receive. These experiences taught me to make a negative into a positive, as well as becoming strong, outgoing and artistically compassionate. I have grown so much in the few years since I discovered my path in life, and I can’t wait to change lives.