Detroit Tigers fan and brain tumor survivor Nestelynn Gay unfortunately couldn’t go to the Tigers Opening Day in Detroit on April 8, 2016.
But everyone who attended the game at Comerica Park and pre-game celebrations along Woodward Ave. saw her face.
That bright, smiling face adorns an entire building wallscape at the corner of Woodward and Elizabeth, facing into the Detroit Tigers home field at Comerica Park.
Nestelynn’s medical team from the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford Hospital unveiled the mural to her during a special celebration the week of Tigers Opening Day.
“This is amazing. I’m completely shocked,” Nestelynn said when she saw her mural for the first time in person.
“Just seeing when she first turned around and looked at (the mural) – that moment was so cool,” says Matt Zelley, who created the artwork for Nestelynn’s mural.
Nestelynn was in the prime of her life three years ago when she begin experiencing a headache that wouldn’t go away. She thought the headache was brought on by extreme stress at work, but decided to go the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital to be safe.
There, an MRI revealed a malignant brain tumor that required surgery.
“I always tell people I got up, I went to work in the morning and I came home with a brain tumor,” she says.
Nestelynn was diagnosed with a glioma, a type of brain tumor, in the frontal lobe of her brain.
DNA from her tumor revealed that with surgery, her tumor was curable.
Using a real-time technique to track the tumor during surgery, Nestelynn’s Henry Ford neurosurgery team was able to remove the tumor while protecting normal brain tissue.
“Our goal is not just that people survive but come out with something positive and can live a full life,” says Tobias Walbert, M.D., neuro-oncologist and co-director of the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center at Henry Ford Hospital.
Dr. Walbert says Nestelynn is the perfect example, and the mural truly exemplifies her spirit of persistence and survival.
Nestelynn, who’s never missed a Tigers home World Series game, admits that while she wants her mural to give others hope, she’d really love it if one Tiger in particular sees it and is inspired: Her favorite player, Miguel Cabrera.
“I’m Miggy’s No. 1 fan!” she says of Cabrera.