Louisiana natives, Wendy and Brian Menard, stand in a recent family portrait with their children, Mark 13, and Marissa, 8.
If Wendy Menard’s artwork appears inspired, it is because it is — evoking her passion for life, and her desire to elevate others.
The McDonough mother of two works in oil paint, expressing herself in layered landscapes and still life. She has cultivated her love of art over the past two years, while recovering from an invasive surgery several months ago.
Between 2006 and 2010, Menard underwent several surgeries to relieve her suffering from endometriosis, a health disorder of the uterus. Among the surgical procedures she listed were a hysterectomy, laparotomy, and triple hernia repair.
Menard noted she sensed something still felt out of place with her health last fall.
“Something told me, in my gut, that something was wrong,” said Menard, who learned the same week that she had a benign brain tumor.
Just days before she received the news from her otolaryngologist, Adam French, she noticed a continuous ringing in her ear.
Menard also experienced some hearing loss, according to French, of the Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialists, in Conyers.
“She had acute hearing loss, and we typically treat that with steroids,” said French. “And we always want to get a work up done, just in case.”
French said he found, in an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), that Menard had developed a growth in her inner ear. He diagnosed her with acoustic neuroma, a benign slow-growing tumor on the vestibulocochlear nerve.
“Anyone who hears a diagnosis, especially who’s very young, you know you have to deal with it,” said French. “She was very focused about getting it dealt with.”
The physician talked about some things to do for dizziness and hearing loss, and recommended neurosurgeons and neurotologists who would be able to remove Menard’s tumor. She found a surgeon in Baton Rouge, La., and underwent her operation on Oct. 25, 2011. She is slowly overcoming the challenges of deafness, balance issues, and partial facial paralysis that resulted from the tumor’s removal.
French credited his patient’s due diligence and attention to her physical well-being, for helping her lessen the effects of her condition, though she does have some hearing loss.
Had the tumor progressed, the doctor said, she could have developed longer-term facial paralysis and compression on the brain stem and other nerves, which could cause other neurologic complications like controlling balance and coordination.
Menard has a keener sense of her physical well being these days, having gone through medical challenges the last six years.
“I have had many years of surgeries because of endometriosis and was told that I needed to lose weight and keep it off,” said Menard. “While I was doing this, my mom was diagnosed with her cancer.”
The wife and mother said she lost 55 pounds through exercise and participating in a weight loss coaching program, called “Take Shape for Life.” She is now a certified health coach with the Maryland-based company.
Menard said she believes she was guided by God to end her 15-year career as an elementary schoolteacher to become a health coach.
“I really believe He wanted me out of the classroom and doing this,” said Menard, who was a first-grade teacher at Ola Elementary School in McDonough. “I knew I wasn’t going to be the teacher they needed, and I wanted the best for them.”
Menard said she has found comfort in helping others as a health coach, and in her newfound study as an artist. She, a member of the McDonough Arts and the Southern Arts Guild, in Covington, displays and sells her works at various area arts festivals and gallery events.
“[It] has brought me satisfaction and happiness again,” she said. “This is my new normal, from being a teacher for 15 years.”
She credits her husband of 18 years, Brian, with helping her to realize her dream.
“I told him, before I died, that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “I told him I want to paint and play the piano before I left here. That’s when my husband actually bought me a paint set.”
Menard said piano lessons are next on her list. Meanwhile, she said she is grateful to continue an inspired life as a wife and as a mother to her two children, Mark, 13, and Marissa, 8.
“I knew everything was going to be OK, because I was taught, and I have a deep faith in God,” said Menard. “He answered a lot of my prayers with this tumor. A lot of people would think it was a curse, but I thought it was a blessing. He’s been blessing me with my art, and people that are interested in my art, and also people who are interested in losing weight.
“I give all my glory to God,” she continued, “because without Him, I don’t think I would have lived through everything I’ve been through.”
To learn more about Menard’s art, visit www.wendy-menard.artistwebsites.com. For more about her involvement with Take Shape for Life, visit www.wendylmenard.tsfl.com.