By BRENNA GRITEMAN
Elise Billmaier has been treated for cancer twice, received a bone marrow transplant, and overcome an autoimmune disorder so rare her doctors at the James Cancer Center at the Ohio State University had only ever seen 10 cases.
But the 21-year-old from Findlay doesn’t hold a “grudge.”
A year and a half after being declared in remission from cancer, Billmaier has illustrated a children’s book titled “Mr. Grudge.” She’ll host a book signing event from 1-3 p.m. Sunday at the Cold Stone Creamery/Tim Hortons (co-owned by her aunt, Susie Kinn) at 1050 Interstate Court. Copies of the book will be available for $10.
Billmaier is a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, majoring in digital arts. When Edith Plettner, a woman affiliated with the university, put out a call for illustrators, Billmaier said to herself, “I’m all in.” She submitted her portfolio and was chosen out of a massive field of student entries.
She explained “Mr. Grudge” follows a 10-year-old boy with a little grudge on his back who follows him everywhere. By the end of the book, the boy kicks the grudge off and moves on.
Billmaier found out in August she’d been chosen to illustrate the book, and had until the following January to complete the work. The illustrations were created with colored pencils and outlined in pen, in a mixture of cartoonish and realistic images. Billmaier said she dedicated all her free time toward completing the project and, upon seeing the finished book in mid-February, was thrilled with the outcome.
“It was very exciting. I’m really happy with it,” she said.
Billmaier has been creating art for most of her life, and originally planned to enter the art therapy field. She is now focusing her efforts on animation and illustration, and said this project is a perfect piece to highlight on her resume.
As a sophomore at Findlay High School, Billmaier was diagnosed with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), an autoimmune disorder that attacks the skin, causing open wounds and seeping sores. The diagnosis was upgraded to pyoderma gangrenosum, acne and suppurative hidradenitis (PASH), an incredibly rare condition.
She was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant in April 2017, but was diagnosed with leukemia just weeks before her scheduled surgery. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy before receiving the transplant, then several more rounds of chemo after the cancer returned in summer 2018.
“It’s been a very long journey,” Billmaier said of her health, adding that she entered remission in September 2018.
As an active student, she said it’s important to prioritize her health and to adjust her activity level accordingly.
“I know when my body says ‘you need to take a break,'” she said, adding that she still gets her blood checked every couple months.
“Mr. Grudge” is available for purchase on Amazon.