PENSACOLA, Fla.— Evan Taylor doesn’t really consider himself an artist. Before June, the last time he picked up a paintbrush was nearly six years ago.
But the vivid undersea mural he completed recently at the Nemours Children’s Clinic at Sacred Heart Hospital tells a different story. In the center of the deep sea wonderland of marlins and dolphins is a large, gold ribbon. For many of the young patients who walk past the painting each day, it tells a story of hope.
Evan was one of those patients. On Oct. 15, 2007, a month before his 14th birthday, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“I was just kind of in shock,” he recalled. “When you’re a teen, you’re not conscious of your own mortality. You’re not aware of the road ahead.”
The road ahead for Evan and his family was a long one filled with daily bouts of nausea and pain, weekly visits to the hospital, months of homeschooling and countless tears.
“It really makes you grow up fast,” Evan said. “You have to think about things that most normal kids never have to go through . the long road of treatment, seeing your family breakdown.”
It’s an inside perspective that Evan shares with about 10,400 kids. That’s roughly the number of U.S. children under age 15 who were diagnosed with cancer the same year he was, according to the National Cancer Institute. The disease is the second most common cause of death among children between the ages of 1 and 14 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surpassed only by accidents.
But at age 19, Evan is a survivor, now studying electrical engineering at the University of West Florida.
He is using his own experience — and talent — to paint a light at the end of the tunnel for other children battling the disease.