AKRON, Ohio — Sometimes it can take decades to realize you have a special talent hidden deep within yourself.
This is the case for Ned Germany, a 73-year-old Army veteran from Akron, who discovered his creative side after a cancer diagnosis.
Each stroke of a brush paints an evolving picture of Germany who had no idea he was an artist until five years ago.
"The thing about it is I never was interested in art. That was not my thing," Germany told News 5 during an interview at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center.
Long before his painting days, Germany served in the Army. He was drafted during the Vietnam War era. He was not deployed to Vietnam. He served in Germany and remains proud of his service.
"I got a letter from Uncle Sam that said, 'I need you!'" he said with a chuckle.
Fast forward to 2017 when it seemed like Germany would need a miracle to keep living.
He was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer and doctors gave him about six months to live. He outlived that estimate, and the next year, he was told he'd be gone in 30 days.
Germany, a married father of three, wasn't having it.
"I said, 'No, I'm not. I'm not dying. I'm gonna live.'"
During that time, Germany was introduced to art therapy at Cleveland Clinic Akron General.
As he began painting and drawing, he was surprised at how natural art came to him, but now, it's hard to imagine life without a creative outlet.
"I'm very amazed and this is not the end of it," he said.
He enjoys painting animals, nature scenes, and flowers on canvases. He also likes drawing with pencils and making collages.
The impressive works of art have captured the attention of many. He has produced more than 100 pieces. Some of them hang in the hospital and others are inside the Summit County Courthouse.
Germany credits his care team, family, and faith for his longevity, but said art therapy also helps him fight cancer, providing motivation and calming his anxiety.
"It eases my mind and I'm able to focus on what I'm doing rather than my pain of what I'm going through," he said.
Germany even works on projects while receiving chemotherapy treatments.
"If I'm gonna sit for three of four hours, I might as well be busy," he said.
Amber Gano, a board-certified art therapist, suggested the therapy to the veteran.
"A patient doesn't have to be a great sketch artist, sculptor or painter. They just need to have an open mind and a willingness to participate," said Gano. "It's more about the many therapeutic benefits the creative process can provide."
Germany said he plans to stay busy. His passion for painting— discovered later in life— is helping him enjoy every day to the fullest as an artist.
"It's a way of expressing myself."