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Parkinson's Survivor Turns Artwork Into Therapy, Business

MILLBURY (CBS) - His artwork came out of boredom, but turned into therapy and is now a business for a Millbury man with a serious illness.

Mike Wackell has Parkinson's, a progressive disease that causes tremors and stiffness. Those problems affect his right side, and Mike is right handed. But he's figured out a way to move forward with beautiful results.

Mike Wackell has run a successful home improvement business called Wackell Interior Renovations for more than 30 years.

"And I'm right handed.  I make my living with my hands," he said. But now he's working with his left hand.

"In 2012, I started to have rigidity on my right side," Mike said.

Watercolor therapy Millbury
Mike Wackell suffers from Parkinson's disease. His artwork came out of boredom, but turned into therapy and is now a business. (WBZ-TV)

That's when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease which causes tremors in his right hand and leg.

"At first, it took away the person I used to be.  Now, I've recaptured who I am, and have an understanding of who I am," he said.

His artwork is part of that. After teaching himself to use his left hand for his carpentry, he decided he needed to do more.

"I can't sit here and watch TV. I've got to do something creative to get my mind off this," he recalled.

So Mike bought his first watercolor kit.

"I said, 'I'm going to teach myself, come hell or high water,'" he said.

He taught himself one of the most difficult forms of painting, using his non-dominant left hand.

Mike Wackell
Mike Wackell (WBZ-TV)

"It's not 100 percent natural yet, and I'm still developing, trying to be looser and freer," he said.

At first, he put his work in the closet, but then was encouraged to do a show.

"We framed up a bunch of stuff, went in there, and we sold almost every piece we put up," Mike said.

Southpaw Watercolors was born.

"It was a 'wake up' moment: 'You really need to continue with this,'" he said.

And he vows not to let the Parkinson's stop him.

"Through the progression of the disease I'm going to continue to paint. It's going to be different, but it'll still be art and it'll still be painting, and I'm going to let the painting tell the story," he said.

In coming years, Mike hopes to transition from carpentry to art, full time.

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