Art of the soul: 'It's seeing life in front of me'

LEABURG, Ore. -- Heather Williams survived cancer not once but twice, but those battles weren't the toughest she would fight.

"I was always fatigued," said Williams at her home in Leaburg on Thursday. "I was tired. I wasn't breathing well. I was having issues with not being able to feel my feet."

Williams was diagnosed with a rare autoimmunity disorder called Myasthenia Gravis three years ago. She said her doctors told her life would take a drastic turn for the worse.

"They told me I had one foot in the grave and one foot out," she said as she sat in the middle of her couch, "and they said to get a hobby because I was going to have a lot of time on my hands."

She said this diagnosis sent her into a deep depression.

"Because I thought, oh my God, what's my life going to be like?" said Williams. "I'm a mother and I'm a wife, and how am I going to do that and have a disease?"

But rather than accept a death sentence, Williams opened a new chapter in her life.

"My front doors were open and I decided, wow, that flower looks really pretty outside and I decided to take a really close-up shot of it," she said.

Williams said that first click of the camera changed her life forever, and a hobby for photography turned into a therapeutic art form.

"It's seeing life in front of me, even if it's in a different form," she said.

Last month, Williams turned her art into more than a personal hobby, forming an online support group for other disabled artists. She said it is the first phase of a much larger plan.

"Well, hopefully it will be a center and a gallery for artists to display their art and be able to meet other people in the business and be able to fellowship," she said.

Williams said her ultimate goal is to open a nonprofit center and art gallery for the support group.

"It's pretty grim when you get news like this that you have a debilitating disease, and you have a lot of time on your hands," she said. "So, you need to do something with it. So, why not do something that inspires others?"