Art showcase

Featured Artist: Eileen Theresa Stephens

Content warning: cancer, loss

Eileen Theresa Stephens (1947-2023) was a Vancouver-based writer, artist, and advocate for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Graduating with honours from UBC (BA, Eng Lit) and Queen’s University (MA English), Eileen pursued a doctorate at University College in England and taught English in France and Ontario, before returning to Vancouver to teach Communications at BCIT. After earning another MA (Comm & Psych) at UBC, Eileen worked as a counsellor at VCC and then Langara College for over a decade, inspiring students and colleagues alike.

Following a series of motor vehicle accidents, Eileen was diagnosed with severe ME and faced declining health. She became a committed ME advocate, educating family, friends and doctors, and creating a lasting legacy by supporting research and awareness.

Eileen passed away from cancer in 2023, after her severe ME thwarted the possibility of travelling for experimental treatment. Her final wish was that her memory and artistry continue to inspire action for ME.

A remembrance of life? Nothing to remember. My testimony would be to those who endure ME/CFS, to their bravery, to their solitude, to their endurance, to their invisibility.


Headshot of Eileen, a white woman with grey hair, wearing a dark shirt and golden jewelry. Behind that are four photos of a young Eileen before she got sick. She has light brown hair and is shown outdoors, travelling and smiling, her whole life ahead of her.

Learn more about Eileen:

Image description: Vivid, textured painting of seven golden flowers dancing against a stylized background of green grass shading into an azure sky.
Image description: ‘Untitled’ (2022). Vivid, textured painting of seven golden sunflowers dancing against a stylized background of green grass shading into an azure sky.

Eileen’s painting

Eileen created this painting to express how she felt living with ME/CFS. She was a flower that wanted to reach for the sun, but was held back by her many symptoms. Though many with ME/CFS feel alone, they stand together in solidarity, even on the days the disease keeps them from everything they once knew.

Eileen’s words

In the later years of her life, Eileen documented her experiences when she could in a series of journal entries. Shared by a family member, her writing offers a raw, intimate glimpse into the daily life of someone with severe ME/CFS.

Content warning: disability grief

“I’m “with it” only briefly each day. I have only one frightened fool to deal with: myself. Nobody else cares. I didn’t have a meal tonight. I’m feeling lost. I listened to the sound of silence and I was surprised to feel alive, however briefly. I want to enjoy life. Simple stuff. Like work! Like normal movement. No advocacy. I want to enjoy.”

“Today I remembered the young woman I was, and all her dreams. Her dreams and her concerns. Her way of being. I have felt not just grief but a kind of loss. That has been an exile, an exile from my own way of being.

“…What has this disease taught me? What has life taught me? Why did I come? I wanted space. I wanted openness. I wanted gentle kindness, especially for the vulnerable. I thought that I had to get it before I could give. I thought that I had too little to give. And I was probably right.

“In the last decade of my life what did I learn? I learned to be broken. I learned to endure hopelessness or something close to hopelessness. I learned the necessity to stop trying though I didn’t master the art.”

Created on the unceded, occupied lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples

Opera Mariposa would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Eileen’s loved ones for entrusting us with her legacy. We’re honoured to showcase her work both in our prize draw and our online shop. In keeping with Eileen’s wishes, 100% of proceeds will go to research, support, awareness and advocacy for illnesses like ME.