Student’s art blooms despite chronic condition

The following essay was submitted by Mary Grace Bernard, a graduate student at New York University’s Institute of French Studies, as part of her application to the AbbVie CF Scholarship program.

AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company, created the program 24 years ago to provide financial assistance to inspirational students pursuing higher education who have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. 

Mary Grace was named AbbVie’s 2015 Thriving Graduate Student, winning a total of $23,000 in educational funding for her perseverance and positive mentality. For more information about the scholarship, visit www.abbviecfscholarship.com.


Mary Grace Bernard.

By Mary Grace Bernard  

I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 5 years old. Ever since that time, I have dedicated my life to staying healthy and keeping a strong, positive mentality.

My daily routine — completing my breathing treatments three times a day, taking more than 40 pills a day, and taking enzymes every time I eat — is the most important aspect of my life.

Staying healthy in order to achieve my life’s goals — traveling the world and creating art — requires a lot of time and responsibility. However, it is worth the effort. In fact, in order to share with the world the importance of my daily routine, I began a campaign called “The Sixty-Five Roses Challenge.”

One of Bernard's artworks from her "Sixty-Five Roses Challenge."
One of Bernard’s artworks from her “sixty-five roses challenge.”

Each day, from Feb. 1 to April 6, 2015, I created an art piece, which usually took me about six hours to complete. That same day, I attempted to sell the artwork for $65 in order to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis and money for a cure. I was able to raise a little more than $1,500, solely through the challenge.

My “sixty-five roses” collection is a graphic, artistic representation of how I live my life with cystic fibrosis. The repeated “sixty-five roses” phrase imitates my daily breathing treatment and medication routine. The designs created by the phrase signify my ever-reaching desire for perfection. However, when viewed closely, each piece reveals multiple flaws, and thus human imperfection and the imperfect human body.