Hawaii woman saves her passion for art by being the first to take new medication

Janelle Fiesta lives up to her name by celebrating every moment she spends drawing.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 6, 2022 at 7:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Janelle Fiesta lives up to her name by celebrating every moment she spends drawing.

“I want to put smiles on the faces of other people,” Fiesta said.

Her graphic design business, Cute Loot Arts, is her passion.

And it’s something she won’t give up, until she has to.

“Growing up, I was actually diagnosed with a condition called spinal muscular atrophy type 2,” she said. “Parts of my body don’t receive messages properly, which means that I’m incapable of moving them.”

“My muscles slowly weakened to the point where I’m not able to do many physical activities that the typical able-bodied person can do,” Fiesta said. “Because of this, I took a liking to things that I could physically do. And one of those things was picking up a pencil and doodling on paper.”

She started designing professionally a few years ago, around the same time she started seeing changes.

“I notice general declines where I couldn’t really lift up my arms like how I used to be able to do or be able to grasp things with my hands,” Fiesta said. “It was very scary because being able to create art is just a huge part of who I am. And having that taken away from me was something that I didn’t want to face. "

It was hard on her mom, Elvira Fiesta, too.

“It’s scary and it’s difficult to think about it,” she said. “But Janelle always tell me, ‘mom, just look at the positive outcome.’”

To save her passion, she was the first in Hawaii to take Evrysdi, an at-home-treatment for spinal muscular atrophy meant to stop the progression of the disease. She saw changes right away.

“I was able to pick up like a glass of water and actually carry it to my mouth. Or that I was able to grasp things easier,” said Janelle Fiesta. ”This medication gives me a chance to continue doing what I want to do.”

“I’m so proud of Janelle,” her mom said. “She has a lot of accomplishments even though she’s in a wheelchair or she has a disability.”

Today, Janelle not only runs her own business but also works in the Navy’s equal employment office.

“I hope that I even as an artist people can see beyond the wheelchair and the disability,” Janelle said. “And see this is just someone that’s chasing after their dreams and making the most of the life that they were blessed with.”

And as long as Janelle Fiesta can, she’ll keep celebrating her gifts.