Meet @jenniferhunter: Where Health and Art Meet
Member Spotlights feature interviews with fellow Connect members. Learn more about members you’ve connected with and some you haven’t met yet. Nominate a member you think should share the spotlight.
TERESA: What brought you to Mayo Clinic Connect? What motivates you to take part in the community?
@jenniferhunter: Mayo Clinic’s Facebook posts got me thinking about it. I had life-changing spine surgery at Mayo that restored my ability to work as an artist, and I wanted to be able to help other patients from what I had learned through my experience and give something back to Mayo in gratitude for my recovery. The difference I've found in the Connect community is the higher level of information and links to medical studies. That is more than just a support group: It's a way to learn from others who've been there. I know how hard it can be to navigate medical challenges, and I want to help other patients with information.
TERESA: What about Connect makes you feel comfortable to share and to be open with the community?
@jenniferhunter: I learned firsthand the differences in what it is like to seek medical care at a place that treats patients with compassion and empathy when I came to Mayo. Connect upholds Mayo's values of being supportive and welcoming, and mentors and members reach out to ask how people are doing. I also like being part of a community that shares good educational resources as well as emotional support for medical issues. I feel I can help others navigate and learn to advocate for themselves. I can share what I've learned about overcoming fear and adversity.
Many Connect members have shared a lot that has helped me, and welcomed me into the community. There is insight into treating and managing health conditions. Having different opinions helps patients find doctors who are at the top of their game, not just at Mayo, but around the country. I've been able to share some of that with people I know outside of Connect.
TERESA: What groups do you participate in?
@jenniferhunter: I checked the groups I follow in my profile and found that I have participated in a lot of groups:
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Bones Joints & Muscles
- Brain & Nervous System
- Chronic Pain
- Brain Tumor
- Depression and Anxiety
- Diabetes/Endocrine System
- Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT)
- Epilepsy & Seizures
- Eye Conditions
- Just Want to Talk
- Heart & Blood Health
- Lung Health
- MAC & Bronchiectasis
- Mental Health
- Spine Health
- Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases
- Visiting Mayo Clinic
- Women's Health
TERESA: Who has been a special connection for you on Connect?
@jenniferhunter: @hopeful33250, @lioness, @johnbishop, @artscaping @loribmt @ralphysmom @becsbuddy, @harriethodgson1, @windwalker, @rosemarya and @gingerw.
TERESA: What surprised you the most about Connect?
@jenniferhunter: The shared knowledge and willingness of others to help reflects Mayo's values of excellence, which sets it apart from other online support groups. I was welcomed when I started, and my input was valued. I've learned things from others which helped me personally that I wouldn't know about if I hadn't been reading the posts. I think outside the box, and try to empathize with others and think about how would I approach a problem if it was happening to me. Often, I am tagged by a moderator to try to help, or I find a description of symptoms that I recognize as needing medical attention, and I try to educate as to how symptoms might relate a possible problem and how to communicate this with a medical provider, and also which medical specialty may be a good place to start. My biology background helps me explain things from medical literature to make it more understandable.
TERESA: What energizes you, or how do you find balance in your life?
@jenniferhunter: Sometimes it's a juggling session between trying to meet a deadline when I'm working on a new painting for a competition, my physical therapy sessions, driving my mom to her appointments and finding time to work with my horse. Riding him is great exercise, builds my core strength and gets me outside for fresh air and sunshine.
Horses are always honest and communicate their feelings, and my relationship with all my animals is based on respect. With a horse, anything less than that is unsafe, since a human will always lose a contest of strength. You have to become a team with your horse and enjoy things together, and also understand the herd instinct and his relationship to other horses.
TERESA: Tell us about your favorite pastime or activity.
@jenniferhunter: Artwork … painting. Nothing feels as good as completing a painting when it all falls into place and comes close to the painting that was inside my head before I began. Often there is an unconscious message I'm expressing which I don't discover until after it is finished. If my painting touches someone else and they can feel like they have experienced it themselves, or it brings them joy, then I have succeeded.
Through my paintings, I can go anywhere my heart desires and to any time period or culture. I love horses, and I like to visit the times when horses were part of everyday life. For all the footprints through time, there were also hoofprints which helped our culture and civilization grow. These were slower, simpler times which defined our heritage as Americans.
TERESA: Do you have a favorite quote, life motto or personal mantra?
@jenniferhunter: It was so hard to choose, but I will share two quotes by John Denver. These words share my expression of who I am, and the person I want to be in the world.
“I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other. Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life — whoever you are, whatever our differences.”
“The best thing you have to offer the world is yourself. You don't have to copy anyone else. If you do, you're second best. To achieve success is to be first, and that's being yourself.”
TERESA: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?
@jenniferhunter: Honesty and humor.
TERESA: What food can you simply not resist?
@jenniferhunter: Fresh ripe peaches from the tree — not peaches picked before they are ripe and shipped to a store that don't taste or smell like a fresh peach — but a soft, fragrant, juicy peach that alone tastes like heaven, where you can hardly stop the juice from running down your face. I have a peach tree that produces some tiny, but oh-so-good peaches.
TERESA: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see cast as you?
@jenniferhunter: Jane Seymour. I've always liked her as an actress, and she actually knows artists I know who are my friends. I enjoyed Jane's role as Dr. Quinn in the “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” series, and she also likes and rides horses. The TV show is a historical period drama about life in the Old West. Funny I should like that, right?
TERESA: What do you love about where you live or vacation?
@jenniferhunter: One day, we'll build a house in Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park, because I love everything about it and will always have something beautiful to enjoy and paint. I was an artist- in-residence at Rocky Mountain National Park in 1996. They have one of my paintings in their permanent collection illustrating the park's historic dedication in 1915.
TERESA: Puppies or kittens?
@jenniferhunter: Kittens ... I have three shelter-rescued cats, two of which were kittens I got right after my spine surgery. They keep me laughing. They also learned how to open cabinets and dresser drawers by watching me, so I have to stay a step ahead of them. I also had a chocolate Lab who learned how to climb a ladder, because I was up in a tree picking apples, and he wanted to be near me.
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Thank you so much for giving our Connect community some insight into your participation here! It was a pleasure working with you on this interview and I just love the picture you chose for your Spotlight!
@hopeful33250 Thanks, Teresa! I appreciate the story and had fun doing it!
@jennifrhunter, I have enjoyed getting to know more about you in this interview. Thank you for participating in the Spotlight Project.
I am intrigued with your statement, "Often there is an unconscious message I'm expressing which I don't discover until after it is finished."
How do you discover that message? Has this always been something you have experienced, or is it since your surgery and recovery?
@jenniferhunter it is really nice getting to know you a little better. You have been a real blessing to the Connect community with your knowledge and support helping members learn and be a stronger advocate for themselves. I love both of your John Denver quotes and his music ☺…from the heart.
@rosemarya It's always been true that I have deeper reasons for being drawn to paint something and it gives me a reason to explore. I am always painting a "self portrait" because whatever I paint, it is always my expression of how I look at something and how I relate to the subject. I just get an idea usually from something I see that moves me, and it is much later after the painting is finished when I think about it and how it relates to my life, that I find another meaning. I am a visual story teller, and although I might be telling a story about someone or something else, I am painting my connection to it.
The portrait painting of my Mayo surgeon is a good example and I've given your question some thought. The background of the painting shows the intricate detail of Mayo's Plummer building doors and all the carved figures on it. I loved that building and all the history it represents. It was a huge challenge to paint that much detail with accuracy, and to essentially break the rules by putting a lot of detail in the background of the painting. By doing this, I literally put the history of Mayo Clinic behind my surgeon, and that makes sense because he was trained at Mayo and teaches there, so he is part of the history. That was a conscious choice. I wanted to offset the blue in his scrubs with the golden colors by design, as they are close to "complimentary colors" on the color wheel that visually pop and enhance each other.
At the time I came to Mayo in need of spine surgery, I was loosing the ability to hold my arms up to do anything because of my spine problem. I had been denied by five other surgeons over a two year period, and during that time, I was taking care of my elderly parents. Those were the hardest two years of my life, and my dad passed. I think it was supposed to happen that way, and I had more time to spend with my dad at the end of his life.
After my dad's services, Mayo called me for an appointment. Then I met Dr. Fogelson who was kind and it was the first time I didn't have fear meeting a surgeon at a medical appointment and I was then able to take time for my own care. It was in the loss my ability to paint well that was speaking the loudest to me, and I decided that I had to face my fears in order to get my artistic gift back, and that I could use my art to help me do that (which is how I got started doing sketches of my surgeon). Art work led me to Mayo where art has always been intertwined with healing, and in the painting, the designs on the Plummer building doors also intertwine art and medical symbols and lead the viewer right to Dr. Fogelson. He is the calm in the center of everything, and that is what he was to me. For the first time, I was able to embrace my future and I finally had an answer and an offer of medical help. I also got something unexpected at that meeting. Dr. Fogelson liked my art work. I brought one of my paintings with me to show him what I needed to be able to do, and it gave us a connection.
There is a door way in the painting…..which is the "door" that I entered when I came to Mayo embraced by all the artwork around it…. a door that opened new possibilities in my life and a surgery that gave me my life back and I am meeting Dr. Fogelson at that door. I broke the rules by painting lots of details in the background of the painting, but I also broke the rules in my own diagnosis when I figured out what all five of my prior specialists missed about my case. I found medical literature with cases similar to mine, and I found that because I looked up a term in one of Dr. Fogelson's papers. It was right after the fifth surgeon dismissed me, and no medical personnel at that facility would help me bring the literature to his attention. I was the patient who connected my symptoms with my medical imaging that the surgeons missed and my Mayo surgeon helped me do that even before I met him.
A painting of a surgeon needs to show his hands, and when I was planning the painting, I asked Dr. Fogelson about what he usually does which is to intertwine his fingers, and this forms a circle, that brings the viewer up to his face and back to his hands. It keeps the viewer in the calm center of the painting which is the doctor. A circle also represents trust. I trusted my life to this doctor, and he trusted me and gave me permission to represent him in a painting. That is from a doctor who said he usually doesn't like pictures of himself, but that he loved this painting…. and he did… his face lit up with joy the first time he saw the portrait. There is a reflection of the doctor in the glass door behind him and the Mayo building where his office is, and this painting is also a reflection of him as the compassionate person that he is. That is what you see in his face, the kindness in his eyes, the genuine smile, and the enthusiasm of a man who loves his job.
@johnbishop Thank you, John. I'm honored.
@jenniferhunter That is an amazing explanation and beautiful painting. The detail! And thank you for sharing your insight and artists POV. I love hearing about the creative process. Being a writer myself, I think it's fascinating examining what our work can uncover about ourselves and the world at large.
PS–I love those doors as well. That building!
@mbear Thank you, Melissa! Isn't it amazing how we learn about ourselves? I love the Plummer building too, and last time I was at Mayo I had some time to explore the historic spaces inside the building. I'm imagining what it would have been like to be a patient and visit the building for an appointment with Dr. Charlie or Dr. Will, and enter through those doors. I noticed the initials "CM" for Charlie Mayo in the doors when I was working on the painting. I'd love to learn more about what some of the other symbols mean that might be specific to Mayo. There were assorted birds and animals, corn (representing the rural location), and Indians, and mothers with children as well as many medical and apothecary symbols.
@jenniferhunter A delightful story and interview with you and what a delight to read all of the comments that follow! I am humbled that you mentioned me in your interview. Your insight and explanation to so many things have been a gift for many of us here, even when we don't say anything outright to you. Sending you blessings and continued success in your painting and recovery from the surgery. Give your horse a rub on the forehead for me!
Terrific Spotlight, @jenniferhunter Cheers — and your art is amazing!