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2 August 2012

Artist raises money for cancer research

Junior Sarasmati Narasimhan’s signature henna tattoos bring smiles to her human canvases and help cancer patients in St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital through her nonprofit organization, Art for a Cause.

Narasimhan, an engineering and physics major, uses tattoos and other forms of artwork to raise money for the cancer treatment and research facilities at St. Jude’s, which does not turn down patients who can’t afford it.

“Every day is like a bonus day, and I believe I should do something with it,” Narasimhan said.

After discovering she was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Disorder in October 2010, Narasimhan was inspired to create Art for a Cause.

RSD is a nerve disorder that causes severe chronic pain from excessive, abnormal responses of portions of the sympathetic nervous system, like blood pressure and heart-rate regulation. The disease is not fatal, but a cure has not been found.

“Every step feels like a fracture,” Narasimhan said. “Imagine a cancer patient’s pain, minus the cancer.”

With such overwhelming pain, most RSD patients are often bed-ridden like Narasimhan was.

Hospitalized at Sylvester Cancer Comprehensive Center, she started drawing to pass the time when she couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t long until other patients began offering money for her work.

“It was a really sudden change in everything,” Narasimhan said.

After being in a wheelchair until May 2011, Narasimhan made the decision to change her life, regardless of what her doctors felt.

“I thought that I’d make something good come out of this,” she said.

After abandoning her wheelchair, Narasimhan attempted to participate in everyday activities and pursue her interests, such as dancing. Her organization was another outlet for her to cope with her condition.

“Art for a Cause snowballed into something larger than I ever imagined,” she said.

Narasimhan recently participated in a campus-wide henna tattoo event. Students could receive henna tattoos in exchange for an optional donation.

“If you can’t give a donation, then that’s fine,” she said. “Get henna done because it makes you happy.”

The event raised $171 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

Art for a Cause also has events in which Narasimhan fulfills requests for drawings of everything from henna doodles to figures of elegant ballerinas.

Narasimhan said she’s happy that Art for Cause funds can make a difference in the lives of families at St. Jude’s.

“A family gets a beach day because I did a painting,” she said.

Narasimhan also said she strongly encourages people to remember to live life to the fullest.

“Take time to do things that make you happy because you might not be able to later,” she said.

For more information on how to volunteer for Art for a Cause, visit the organization’s Facebook page, Art for a Cause.