GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Kim Ott-Gray was a dentist until the day doctors found the cause of her crippling migraines - a golf-ball sized brain tumor. Doctors removed the tumor, but she said she lost "ninety percent" of her abilities. But she gained one -- she found out she could paint.
"Now I have the miracle of art...but I've lost almost everything else," said Ott-Gray.
Ott-Gray told 24 Hour News 8 she suffered from crippling migraines for more than a decade. She said she went to doctor after doctor, and tried many different kinds of medicines but nothing worked.
"I was taking like six to eight aspirin a day, and of course I was a doctor, so I knew that wasn't right," said Ott-Gray.
She said everything changed when her husband put his foot down, and told her doctor she needed an MRI.
The test revealed a golf ball sized tumor on the left side of her brain.
"My first profession was as a dentist and, then I got the brain tumor and that kind of rocked my world because I lost the ability to practice anymore," said Ott-Gray.
The surgery removed the tumor and a "quite a bit" of the left side of her brain. She went through cognitive therapy at Central Michigan University -- basically training on how to use the other side of her brain -- the more artistic side.
"I was scientific, organized, type A -- and I can't do that any longer," said Ott-Gray. She said she still gets confused easily, and won't drive someplace new without written directions.
"The big thing when you have a brain injury is you look the same, and people think you are the same, but really you're not that person you were before," said Ott-Gray. "It takes a long time to realize you have to mourn the death of that person [you were] and become another person."
After going to an art class with a friend in 2008 -- she found suddenly she could paint.
Less than four years later she entered "Dreams of Tomorrow," a watercolor of her granddaughter in that moment where she found the perfect wedding dress, in ArtPrize 2012.
"I think I would be totally lost without art, because when I'm painting, I'm in that zone," she told 24 Hour News 8. "To me, it's that time I spend with God, to tell you the truth."
She said she hopes to win for a few reasons. One is she wants people to be encouraged to keep going -- no matter what life throws at them.
She said obviously the big prize would be very helpful.
"I would love to win the money there was nowhere in my life that I was anticipating never being able to work again so I have a ton of bills I never expected," she said while blinking back tears. "You don't realize that when you are healthy, you don't realize how expensive it is not to be healthy."
Her painting is on display at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
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