Diane Sims, a terminally ill Stratford woman living with end-stage multiple sclerosis, is raising money for her medical expenses by selling greeting cards featuring her hand-drawn sketches as well as commissioned paintings.
When Diane Sims’ doctors told her last spring she would likely only have three months to live, the Stratford woman living with multiple sclerosis who has endured numerous surgeries over her lifetime to remove cancerous tumours from her lower abdomen had a choice to make.
She could let her prognosis chip away at her spirit and positive outlook on life, or she could continue doing what she loves.
As a journalist and author, Sims’ greatest passion has always been storytelling, but thanks to a lifelong love of art and some motivation and guidance from friend and renowned Manitoulin Island artist Ivan Wheale, Sims has embraced a new creative outlet through sketching and painting as a way to keep her mind off her health.
“Prior to (getting my prognosis) in June of 2020 … (Ivan) coaxed me to put paintbrush to canvas,” Sims said. “He just saw so much creativity in me, he said I want you to do this.”
Originally, Sims said she resisted the idea, having been told by her Grade 4 art teacher that she was awful at art — a comment that stuck with her for life and kept her from exploring the visual-arts medium. But when an artist of Wheale’s reputation and talent suggests taking up the paintbrush, Sims says it’s advice worth heeding.
About six months later, another friend sent Sims a copy of artist and author Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which she worked through over the course of seven months to teach herself how to sketch.
“I knew I was sick that winter. My doctor couldn’t figure it out, but I knew it,” Sims said. ” … I’d been a vegetarian since I had a bowel obstruction and I ate everything I thought was good for me. Finally, (at the end of March 2021), they did a CT (scan) and the whole ascending transverse descending colon was full of fiber. That’s when they found out that one side of my bowel was stuck to the wall and it’s because … I’ve had eight abdominal surgeries for cancer. … I had hundreds of adhesions (resulting from those surgeries).
“And then there’s the MS. … The MS has really weakened (my bowel). So one side can’t really do anything because it’s stuck and the other side (is also) very weak now.”
Sims was in and out of hospital more than a dozen times last year and she has nurses and personal support workers come to her home several times a week. While trips to the hospital and homecare are covered by OHIP, she’s on a number of drugs prescribed by a world-renowned gastroenterologist in London that are not covered by insurance.
“And because of my condition, my medical expenses for medical supplies are very high every month,” Sims said.
With Wheale’s encouragement, Sims decided to turn six of her favourite sketches — which she draws from memory and photos she’s taken on her travels up to Manitoulin Island and elsewhere in the province — into greeting cards she is selling by commission through several retail outlets including Turners of Little Current on Manitoulin Island, as well as Blowes Stationary and Office Supplies and Treasures in Stratford.
“What I love on Manitoulin are the split-rail fences,” Sims said, referring to imagery featured in a few of the sketches she printed into cards. ” … I’ll be taking more pictures up there.”
While the greeting cards bring in a little extra money, Sims is also offering to paint on commission as a way to further cover her medical expenses. Anyone interested in commissioning a painting can contact Sims either by calling 226-921-4790 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
And as if painting, sketching and continuing to work as a freelance journalist and author isn’t enough, Sims was also recently certified as a wedding officiant and has just launched her new business, Weddings on Wheels, not so much as a way to make some extra money, but as a way to inspire joy and gratitude.
“Part of living in gratitude and joy; that is an affirmation of life,” Sims said. “I think being able to solemnize a couple is an affirmation of life. It was on my heart for a couple of years to take this course, so I took a leap of faith and now I have the certificate and the official government license.”
The name for her business, Sims explained, came after a friend told her no one would hire a wedding officiant in a wheelchair. Sims, however, took that as a challenge to prove that people with disabilities can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.
“So I called my business Weddings on Wheels out of fun,” Sims said. “My professional photo shows the corner of my wheelchair but, as you can see, (my wheelchair) lifts to a regular height. … I am ready to go (and) I’ve been distributing businesses cards around town.
” … It’s part of the affirmation of gratitude and joy and my business card says, ‘Inspiring with joy and gratitude.’ ”
On Sunday, the Kingston Women’s Art Festival will return to City Park to celebrate women artists. Bring the family, browse, and enjoy original art designed and created by women. Sasha Jiminez French, local multi-disciplinary artist, is volunteering her time to help ensure the festival returns to full strength after the
Windsor Public Library wants to showcase the city’s downtown art. It plans to have two cycling tours to show it off.
Becky Mayer, a librarian at the Windsor Public Library organized the tours. She said the main reason she wanted to do this is because people think there’s nothing to do or see in Windsor.
“I often ride my bike around and I see a lot of cool and weird stuff,” said Mayer. “So, I just thought that maybe a few people would want to join me on a weird stuff tour.”
Mayer said she’ll be bringing Betty the Bookmobile along for the journey. She said the ride will be pretty casual and if someone has a story to tell she’s happy to give them space to share.
“I’m fine with talking as well. If you want to have a silent tour, that’s also cool. Like, it’s very, very casual. Go with the flow. We’ll see what happens,” Mayer said.
The first tour starts at 6 p.m. August 16, the second tour is on August 20 starting at 10 a.m. The tours last about an hour and starts at the library’s Central Branch at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Pitt Street.
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