All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for January 2004

Artist Battles Multiple Sclerosis

Tomic: Each Brushstroke a Small Victory

January 20, 2004
Amanda Hart - WSBT-TV Reporter
South Bend Tribune

You've heard the saying: A picture says a thousand words.

But a thousand words may not be enough to paint an accurate picture of one local artist's zest for life, his fight against time and his unsinkable spirit.

Alex Tomic has multiple sclerosis, an incurable neurological disorder.

The autoimmune disease affects the central nervous system, which consists of the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerves.

Tomic's MS can lead his hand to make unintended brush strokes on the canvas.

"While most people would say it's a mistake. I say, 'Ah, leave it in,' " Tomic said.

Last week, Tomic put the final touches on his latest work.

"It's taken a while, but it's worth the pain and frustration because in each and every brushstroke is a small victory," he said.

Of course, the enemy is the MS.

"The saving grace for me is I feel like I've won ... only for a moment, but I've won."

Diagnosed when he was 36 years old, Tomic, now 56, has come to terms with the disease.

But there are days when the disease holds the artist hostage -- refusing to let him steady his hand or put on canvas what he feels inside.

"The villain in all of this is the frustration," Tomic said.

Every artist needs inspiration, and for Tomic it's his wife, Sherry. He puts both his initials and hers on each painting.

"She is the reason that when I wanted to give up, I didn't," Tomic said.

The couple have been married 34 years.

Sherry Tomic quit her job two years ago to care for her husband full time.

She calls herself his biggest fan and biggest critic.

"This is one of his very first paintings, and I hate it. I absolutely hate it," Sherry Tomic said with a laugh as she held a painting of a bird and a fisherman on a dock.

Laughter and love has helped the Tomics keep fighting and keep the pain and frustration of his disease at bay.

"At times, it's very difficult to not succumb to those feelings," Alex Tomic said, "but then that means giving up, and that means I don't win and, by God, I'm not ready."

Copyright © 2004, South Bend Tribune