Nissa Novas: Baking for Good

Shepherd’s Table loves to offer colorful and sweet desserts to our guests, especially when they’re made with care by a community member. Nissa Novas is one such artisan baker who donates her work, but it’s not only her baking that’s inspiring. Her journey to the practice is one born from extraordinary experiences.

Nissa Novas lives with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), a disorder that has resulted in the loss of her speech and hearing. When diagnosed with the condition, she was 22 years old and studying to become a physician. Despite her doctor’s recommendation that she select a different career, Nissa understood her calling clearly. She had already been accepted into medical school and decided to continue down this path, ultimately practicing emergency medicine for ten years. Throughout that time, she was able to deeply impact her patients with her gratitude and kindness, all while undergoing various treatments in her own health journey. She is marked by resilience and eager to share her light with others, and medicine provided a meaningful opportunity to do just that. In recounting her time in medicine, she reflects “Being a physician with NF2 has also given me a unique perspective. Constantly being confronted with my own mortality and being acutely aware of how fragile life is has imparted me with a greater compassion and empathy. It has kept me human, humble, and made me a better doctor” (2020).

Eventually, as her condition worsened, Nissa was forced to step away from medicine. She entered a difficult era, struggling to grapple with the loss of her career. She recalls that season as a dark time in her life, but it would not ultimately define her. While Neurofibromatosis Type 2 may have taken Nissa’s ability to practice emergency medicine, it could not redefine her calling. Throughout each season of Nissa’s life, she has carried an ability to overcome great odds and meaningfully minister to others. Baking is only her latest avenue through which to do so.

Nissa sporting her Birthday Cakes 4 Free shirt during a cake drop-off
A cake Nissa created and donated to Shepherd’s Table
Nissa displaying her cake
Nissa with her mom and family friend visiting Shepherd’s Table

She began exploring baking as a therapy of sorts and for the past three years, has been mastering the art. She finds joy in crafting delicious cakes and cupcakes, blending together the perfect flavors and skillfully decorating the exteriors. She shares these artful baked goods with her friends and loved ones, including the guests at Shepherd’s Table. She was inspired to donate her cakes when she saw the idea on a baking Facebook group. Some quick research led her to Birthday Cakes 4 Free Maryland (BC4FMD), a group that serves vulnerable populations through birthday cakes. Through BC4FMD, Nissa learned of Shepherd’s Table and began delivering her goodies.  

Nissa enjoys other creative pursuits as well, including writing and theatre. She’s also found strength through her family, including two nephews, and her faith in God. She continues to advocate for herself and others through her involvement with organizations like NF2 BioSolutions, committed to seeking a cure to NF2 and supporting patients and their families. She is keenly aware of the psychological impacts of this disorder and works to ensure others with the same diagnosis are supported and dignified.

At Shepherd’s Table, we’re so grateful for Nissa and her heart to bring joy to our clients. May is NF2 Awareness Month, and we’re pleased to share her story in an effort to highlight this condition and research for a cure. You can learn more about NF2 and donate at nf2biosolutions.org. We’re grateful to NF2 BioSolutions for their work supporting NF2 research, Birthday Cakes 4 Free Maryland for their support of Shepherd’s Table, and most importantly, Nissa Novas for sharing her story with us.

Cited:

(2020, June) Lost in Translation: a Doctor with NF2. NF2 BioSolutions. https://nf2biosolutions.org/news/press-release-and-tv-coverage/nissa-novas-an-nf2-warrior/

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