This Artist Is Inspiring Other MS Patients With Paintings of Their MRIs

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis led artist Lindsey Holcomb to start the #colorsofMSproject to turn patients’ diagnostic MRIs into inspiring paintings.

This Artist Is Inspiring Other MS Patients With Paintings of Their MRIs
Photo: courtesy of Holcomb

Tell me about your journey with multiple sclerosis.

I started experiencing MS symptoms in high school, including balance issues, some cognitive function issues, and tremors. I spent my 20s and 30s in and out of doctors' offices, trying to figure it out. But my symptoms began to disappear when I was pregnant with my daughters. In about 2017, when I was reading my then 3- and 4-year-olds a bedtime story, I was reading the words in my head but they were coming out strangely. I couldn't understand why I was having such a hard time articulating my words. So I was really persistent with my doctors, got an MRI and spinal tap, and it was confirmed that I had multiple sclerosis.

When did you decide to paint your own MRI?

When I saw my MRI, it stopped me in my tracks. It didn't feel like me. It felt very clinical, and I had no connection to it. I remember one night after the kids went to bed, I took the scan to my studio-slash-home office and I painted a new version of my MRI. And it felt really cathartic. I felt a lot of grief in the process, but the end product felt joyful. This moment was a kind of a flag in the sand to say, "I have control of where this goes from here on out."

Natalie MRI-painting

Why did you start the #colorsofMS project?

The MS Society shared my painting on its Instagram , and I was taken aback by all of the positive comments . So I started reaching out to strangers via social media and email, asking if I could paint their MRIs and share their diagnosis story on my Instagram (@lindseyjoyholcomb). I've now painted 192 MRIs, and the project lives across 28 U.S. states and 12 countries.

Any advice to others with chronic diseases looking for a creative outlet?

You don't have to pick something and create a giant project out of it. Find one thing that gave you joy when you were younger, even if it's squishing play dough while on a phone call. Bringing that little bit of joy and relaxation into your life makes a huge difference in a chronic illness journey.

This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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