Aaron Visiting Tibet (1981-2011)
Grand Rapids, Michigan ~ 2020
Oil on Canvas
30" x 24"

Aaron Anderson was born in Michigan in 1981. He was a chubby little blonde who never met a ball he didn’t want. The diagnosis of NF1 at age three was a shock. Apart from some fine motor delays and a moderate degree of ADD, Aaron’s NF had only minor impact on his early school years.After junior year he entered a two-year international baccalaureate program in New Mexico. There he developed an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Next was the University of Michigan, where his ADD caught up with him. Having chosen grades over sleep, he was heading toward a crash. By cosmic good fortune Michigan regularly hosted a summer Tibet program and he visited Tibet three times. In those same years his music passion shifted to a genre known as Northern Soul produced in nearby Detroit.

In 2006 Aaron was accepted into a PhD program in California to study child development. It only took a year to realize he wasn’t enjoying life as he had in Ann Arbor. Everything changed in March 2008; he stopped going to class, answering emails, texts, phone calls or knocks on his door. It took three months of this reclusive behavior to get him admitted to the psych ward of the university’s hospital. They found a tumor deep in his brain, malignant and inoperable. Six months of treatment brought him back to his fun-loving self. At nearly 28 years old, he moved home to Michigan to live his best life, not as an academic, but as a DJ and record dealer. He died in Buddhist peace at age 30, leaving a trail of friends around the world.

The story continues past Aaron’s death in Sept. 2011. With the help of his neuro-oncologist at Michigan and NF researcher, David Gutmann in St. Louis, Aaron was able to donate his body to the Univ. of Michigan and his brain to Dr. Gutmann’s Washington University lab. Within seven years the speed and accuracy of genome analysis increased so significantly that the progression of the brain tumor, a glioblastoma, could be tracked through its many genetic changes. A brief paper about the tumor appeared in the journal Neurology in late 2019.
NF1 Memorials