Creating beauty during an ugly fight

Photo of girl with painting

Karina Perez-Ortiz has participated in the St. Jude Teen Art Show for the past four years.

If you travel the hallways of St. Jude, you can’t miss the Teen Art Gallery. It’s a collection of artwork by teen patients who have poured their thoughts and emotions onto canvas. For the fourth straight year, I have a painting displayed there.

I have taken part in the annual St. Jude Teen Art Show every year since 2015. Each year when I hear that it’s coming up, I get excited. It’s important to have little things to be happy about and look forward to while going through treatment.

The hospital’s Child Life program hosts the event. A group of us teen patients pick the show’s theme along with the Child Life specialists. The artists don’t have to follow the theme, but it helps to come up with ideas. This year’s theme was “Home is Where the Heart Is,” which really hit home for me.

I am from Puerto Rico. It’s been hard being away from my family and friends for so long while I receive treatment. Creating art has helped me express my feelings. I’ve also learned how to look on the bright side of things as I go through this long, difficult journey.

A positive attitude and outlook make a difference in whatever you are experiencing—something that the Child Life team also tells me. The Teen Art Show is one of the many positive experiences I have at St. Jude.

We start our projects by getting supplies. Then we find out the date of the show. It’s exciting, but I get a little anxious thinking about what to say when we present our work at the show.

The child life specialists encourage me to keep drawing and painting because they know it’s my passion. Making art shows a different part of me—not the fighter who is battling cancer, but the artist and the teenager who has been through a few more things than other teens.

I get excited by the thought that other patients and families and visitors to the hospital will walk through the gallery and somehow feel they got to know me through my artwork. It makes me happy to see other patients get a boost of self-esteem when they see what they have created, and it’s displayed for an entire year for everyone to see.

Every time I walk through the hospital for the next year, I get to see my creation and remember how much fun I had making it. No matter what I or other patients were going through at the time, we managed to make something beautiful in its own unique way.

About the author

Karina Perez-Ortiz has been a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 2014 and has participated in the Teen Art Show every year since 2015.
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