December 11, 2017
Arts & Entertainment
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  • After being misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis and losing several family members, Tracie Boush would have every reason to be angry. Yet, when she sits in her paint studio, Boush is the epitome of resilience and strength.
    Photo by Judy Tacyn
    After being misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis and losing several family members, Tracie Boush would have every reason to be angry. Yet, when she sits in her paint studio, Boush is the epitome of resilience and strength.
  • Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
    Photo by Judy Tacyn
    Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
  • Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
    Photo by Judy Tacyn
    Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
  • Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.
    Photo by Judy Tacyn
    Tracie Boush’s favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours,” a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner.

Local Artist Chooses Paint Over Pain

Judy Tacyn
Judy Tacyn's picture
View Bio
December 5, 2017

Tracie Boush is an artist, but for her, the craft doesn’t come easy. She grew up in the Pasadena neighborhood of Green Haven Forest and attended Northeast High School. At 54, she’s a prolific artist who uses her art as an escape from pain, and pain is something she has plenty of.

Nearly 10 years ago, Boush was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Since then, she’s endured adverse drug interactions and complications from medicine that was not doing anything to ease her disease. She was placed in a nursing home for six years before learning that she had been misdiagnosed; she had Parkinson’s disease, not MS.

“For eight years, I had been treated for the wrong disease. This had allowed the Parkinson’s to advance unchecked,” said Boush. She was immediately taken off the MS drugs, one of which was a monthly infusion that had a possible side effect of a brain infection, which if contracted, was often fatal. “That’s what bothered me the most about the misdiagnosis,” said Boush. “I risked my life taking medication that was not helping me at all.”

In just the last year and a half, Boush has undergone numerous complex surgeries, suffered setbacks due to complications of a misdiagnosis, and felt the crushing heartbreak of losing those closest to her. Her stepfather passed away from lung cancer. Her nephew Darien took his own life. And just this September, another nephew, Brady, was killed in an ATV accident. Both nephews were in their early 20s.

Boush would have every reason to be angry. Yet when she sits in her paint studio inside her mother’s Glen Burnie home, Boush is the epitome of resilience and strength.

“If I give in to my disease or to what has happened to me, it will be the end of me,” she said as tremors dictated her body’s every move. “I have to stay optimistic and do the very best I can with the hand that I’ve been dealt.”

Tina Anthony has known Boush since they were students and friends at Northeast High School. “Here is a terrific person who had a life, a house, a car, everything, and it was all taken away from her,” said Anthony. “It is amazing to me how her circumstances have not taken her spirit. She may have lost her mobility, but not her spirit. She’s determined to make something good come out of this.

“I’d like to think I am strong,” added Anthony. “But I am not Tracie strong, that’s for sure.”

Though dyskinesia, the uncontrolled and involuntary movements associated with Parkinson’s disease, have robbed Boush’s ability to live life freely, they have taken nothing from her sharp sense of humor, her introspective outlook on life, and her immense creativity that manifests itself in her artwork and writing (she has written more than 50 poems).

While living in a nursing home, Boush wrote poetry and filled in adult coloring books to keep her fingers limber. It was then that Boush crossed paths with the son of a woman in transitional care at the nursing home. Known to her as simply “John,” the man saw her coloring books one day and suggested that she try painting. For a second, Boush thought John may have forgotten that she had Parkinson’s disease. “How was I going to paint with the tremors?” she thought. Boush let John know that she would give it a try if he would buy her a painting starter kit.

“I had always been a bit crafty,” said Boush, whose paintings convey an innate talent for seeing and understanding color and composition. “But I don’t think I took more than a required art class in high school. I was willing to give it a try.”

Once properly diagnosed, Boush said she “felt like the Tin Man from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ after he had been given a good oiling.” She vowed to walk out of the nursing home. She penned a short story of her time there titled “Out of the Darkness.” With her new supplies in hand, she created a painting of the same name, her first of many paintings.

As her mobility and independence improved, Boush painted as often as she could, turning her disability into possibilities. She painted so many paintings at the nursing home, in fact, that administrators allowed her to create a gallery event there. She sold a few paintings and garnered commission requests.

Dyskinesia is a paradox. It occurs when Boush’s body is its most limber, her muscles the strongest and her mind most alert. Medication that suppresses the tremors also suppresses her ability to paint. When her tremors subside, her muscles are actually stiffening and she feels her weakest. She also feels her most tired. When her tremors are the most suppressed is when her painting becomes the most difficult.

In January 2018, Boush will undergo deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS). Doctors will surgically implant tiny electrodes into a region of Boush’s brain responsible for dopamine release. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter: a chemical responsible for transmitting signals in between the nerve cells of the brain. The surgery has shown benefits to Parkinson’s patients.

For now, Boush is concentrating on preparing for the upcoming surgery. After a brief recovery period, she plans to look for avenues to show and sell her artwork, and she hopes to develop a website. “I will try anything,” she said.

Boush is a self-taught artist. She scours YouTube “how to” videos. Her favorite types of art are mixed-media pieces and “pours” (a technique in which paint is combined in a controlled or uncontrolled manner).

Her studio is filled with brightly painted canvasses utilizing many different painting techniques. Her use of bold colors could be a metaphor for her resolve.

“Who wants to be down and depressed all day?” she asked. “I can lose myself in pain, or I can lose myself in paint. I choose paint.”


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