BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Tishawna Dunphy started painting when she was about 7 years old, never realizing how important her hobby would become later in life.
“My first painting was a boy I liked,” she said, smiling. “My dad didn’t like the idea.”
Then, around the time of the birth of her second child, Dunphy was diagnosed with a type of kidney disease: Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).
It was a 12-syllable word that changed her life.
“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t even swear,” she said. “I was just devastated. Really sad.”
For the past three and a half years, as she’s waited for a kidney donor, Dunphy has been going to dialysis three times a week for about four hours each session.
“It was depressing,” she added.
She felt the disease defining her, as some would ask her questions about things like the bandage on her arm.
“That’s for dialysis,” she would tell them. “What’s dialysis? Oh, this is something I need to keep me alive, to clean my blood. And so they just see that, as opposed to me as a person who has so much more to offer.”
It was only a few months ago—more than three years into her wait for a new kidney—that she decided to use her hobby to help her cope with the short-term wait during dialysis and the longer wait for a viable donor.
With a rather large needle in her left arm, she began using her right hand to paint, aiming her brushes, her thoughts, some color and creativity at the disease that impacted her life so suddenly.
“Once I started doing that, I felt like it’s bringing me more joy because I’m not holding all this anxiety, stress, depression, inside of me anymore,” Dunphy said.
Her time in dialysis has prompted the creation of 21 portraits that will be part of a weekend art show titled “I Am…”
“The idea is this is who I am,” Dunphy explained. “I’m putting it out on something, and it’s expressing my story and my journey.”
I Am will be on display July 27, from 6-9 p.m. at 85 Industrial Circle in Lincoln.
“This has helped me to show that I can be more than this disease, or the situation that I’m in right now.”