How one determined mom's great idea led to these innovative, one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

This is more than a piece of art.

"The Road to Helping Hands." Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.


It's a commitment. It's a movement. It's a whole lot of love.

It was created by a group of kind and amazing (and kinda amazing) middle-school students to celebrate their classmate with disabilities.

When Kimberly and Michael Resh welcomed a daughter in 1994, right away they knew something wasn't right.

Sleeping baby, sans ventilator, tubes, and beeping monitors β€” a newborn experience Michael and Kimberly didn't have with their first daughter, Mikayla. Photo by Morgan/Flickr.

Immediately after her birth, their daughter Mikayla required a ventilator to breathe. Five days later, doctors informed the Reshes that Mikayla had a severe and permanent brain injury.

At best, Mikayla might have cerebral palsy. Worst case? They were told she might be in a vegetative state, or not survive at all. It was a terrifying moment for the first-time parents, but with the diagnosis came a decision.

"All I could control was what I could control," Kimberly told Upworthy. "And I wanted to give her the best life possible."

Thankfully, Mikayla survived, and the Reshes set about creating a great life for their daughter, who is now 21 years old.

Due to her brain injury, Mikayla is non-verbal, deaf, and legally blind. She also uses a wheelchair to get around.

Mikayla today. Photo via Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

When it came to choosing an elementary school, despite Mikayla's significant disabilities, it was important to the Reshes for their daughter to attend their neighborhood school with kids her age.

"The district had never included a child like Mikayla [in a regular classroom] but agreed to give it a try," Kimberly said.

With the help of teacher's aides, assistants, and physical and occupational therapists, Mikayla thrived in her mainstream classroom with her peers. Kimberly even worked with Mikayla's classmates and, in 2006, published a children's book ("Our Friend Mikayla") about having a friend with disabilities.

Before long, Mikayla was in middle school and Kimberly needed a way to introduce her daughter to her new classmates.

She came up with the idea to create a project with Mikayla's art class. The students painted Mikayla's chair wheels and helped roll her across the canvas.

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

After that, students added their own hand prints and tissue paper to create two four-by-six-foot works of art.

Not only did the project provide the opportunity for Mikayla to work with her new classmates, but the resulting projects were stunning. Both still hang in the school today.

The first, shown in full at the top of this piece (the handprints in the shape of a heart), is called "The Road to Helping Hands." The second, shown below, is titled "The Wheels of Friendship."

"The Wheels of Friendship." Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

After pushing for classroom accessibility for her own daughter, Kimberly founded Mikayla's Voice to encourage classroom inclusivity for kids with disabilities.

"The single most important thing for her and our family has been her inclusion," Kimberly said. "So it only made sense that when we started a nonprofit, it would center around including kids in regular environments."

Since the painting projects had such a positive impact on Mikayla both socially and physically (her aides remarked how relaxed she was after art class), it only made sense for Mikayla's Voice to to start with art.

As part of the nonprofit, each year students at three or four schools across Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley complete their own paintings, working together to make large works of art for their school.

Kimberly and Mikayla also travel to local schools and community events to lead Wheels of Friendship workshops and demos.

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

The results are bigger than beautiful paintings. For the kids with disabilities, the project is a akin to art therapy, a tool widely used to encourage communication, express emotions, and relieve stress. Additionally, Wheels of Friendship workshops offer a unique starting point for students of all abilities to make art and come together as a team or class.

Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

By teaching children about disability, empathy, kindness, and teamwork, Kimberly hopes they'll serve as advocates for inclusion.

"If you want to create a cultural change, you have to start with the kids," she said.

"Because these are the people who in 25 years are gonna be the doctors, are gonna be the teachers, are gonna be the parents teaching their own children."

Children create a work of art at Peepsfest. Photo courtesy of ArtsQuest, used with permission.

The Wheels of Friendship paintings are now on display to the public.

To make it happen, Mikayla's Voice teamed up with ArtsQuest, a local nonprofit that promotes art and cultural education. Because the large canvasses hang at schools around the Northeast, the general public often doesn't have a chance to see the beautiful works in person.

For the first time, high-resolution digital reprints are being displayed at the Banana Factory, a gallery and arts space in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

It's part of a larger initiative, "Arts & Access," which was organized by the local Lehigh Valley Arts Council to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"The Keys to Friendship." Photo by Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

"More than 30 different arts and cultural organizations in our area have teamed up with local social service agencies to offer exhibits, performances, exhibitions, film screenings and more," said Stacie Brennan, senior director of visual arts for ArtsQuest. "[All] with the goal of expanding access for people with disabilities and their families and friends."

It's a fitting honor for Mikayla and Kimberly, who have dedicated much of their lives to encouraging inclusivity.

Mikayla, now 21, will finish her formal education this summer and is already taking painting classes at the community college. She also volunteers in the art room at her former middle school, where the work of art she created with her classmates still hangs.

Though she's never said a word, the work Mikayla has done to teach, inspire, and connect kids of all abilities speaks volumes to her heart and character.

It's no wonder Kimberly smiles through a few happy tears when she thinks about it.

"I'm so proud of Mikayla, and I'm so proud to be her Mom."

Mikayla and her mom, Kimberly. Photo via Kimberly Resh, used with permission.

via Sasssy Gran / TikTok

A 95-year-old-grandmother has become a sensation on TikTok, a platform that's most popular among the Gen Z set. Doris, also known as Sassy Gran, has become popular for her incredibly bold and refreshingly honest personality.

She's had a tough life which has given her a special edge that you don't find with most nonagenarians. There's also her elegant couture to show the young kids what real class looks like.

Doris was made famous by her grandson Gio who clearly loves going out to dinner with his grandmother and hearing her stories and advice.

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via Sasssy Gran / TikTok

A 95-year-old-grandmother has become a sensation on TikTok, a platform that's most popular among the Gen Z set. Doris, also known as Sassy Gran, has become popular for her incredibly bold and refreshingly honest personality.

She's had a tough life which has given her a special edge that you don't find with most nonagenarians. There's also her elegant couture to show the young kids what real class looks like.

Doris was made famous by her grandson Gio who clearly loves going out to dinner with his grandmother and hearing her stories and advice.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer β€” most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving β€” and for longer β€” than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval β€” an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases β€” something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."