Odessa Enjoying Nature (1987 - 2021)
Manassas, Virginia ~ 2023
Oil on Canvas
30" x 24"

Odessa Black had big blue eyes, long eyelashes, strawberry blonde hair and a smile that would light up a room. Odessa was sassy, quick witted and had an impeccable memory. She loved to tease her family and friends and was never afraid to share her opinion. She had a pure soul, was very loving, and cared so deeply. Odessa loved nature. As a child through her young adulthood, she enjoyed experiencing life around her. From finding box turtles and baby bunnies in our yard, to capturing caterpillars and discovering what kind of butterflies they turned into.

At a routine MRI at age 14, a tumor was found on her lower lumbar spine. After three surgeries, the tumor was completely removed along with her right L4 nerve root. Not long after, she started having neck pain and another MRI revealed tumors in her neck, specifically two that were growing like barbells pinching her spinal cord at C2-C3. After three major surgeries to remove them, they kept growing back.When she was 21, she had a MPNST (Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor) in the sciatic nerve in her left leg. Removing that high grade cancerous tumor resulted in no function below her knee and her foot.

Over the years, Odessa had well over 100 MRIs and 27 surgeries. The result of all the surgeries and the continual growth of the tumors on her spine left Odessa without the ability to walk, move her arms, or use her hands to any large degree for the last several years of her life. Even with the adversities brought on by NF over the years, Odessa was a happy person and she was able to adapt. She had been fully functioning, graduated from high school, had a part-time job, driver’s license and was fiercely independent. She then became totally dependent because of the NF.

It got to the point where Odessa could only move one finger which was just enough to scroll through Facebook. It was her window to the outside world and to keep up with the people she knew. As the tumors continued to grow, Odessa got weaker. She had trouble breathing and eventually her body simply wore out. She was truly a NF warrior and she could no longer fight the battle.
NF1 Memorials