Stage 2 Rectal Cancer was the absolute last thing I thought would lead to the enrichment of my life. In July of 2015, after experiencing months of bothersome symptoms, I woke up from sedation for a colonoscopy to hear the words we all dread hearing, “You have cancer…”
"My fight for healing began in August, 2015 with six weeks of oral chemo combined with 33 radiation treatments"
Those words stung. It was like a rose-colored lens dropped over my eyes. In an instant, the world as I had known it, changed on a dime. My husband and I cried and embraced each other as we left the doctor’s office. As we drove home, the silence was thick and heavy. It was at that moment that I made a conscious decision to fight. I made the pronouncement to my husband, whose face lit up and we bought a bottle of champagne on the way home to toast my decision and what I believed would be a victory.
Feeling bolstered by the zamazing love and support of my hubby, family, and community, my fight for healing began in August, 2015 with six weeks of oral chemo combined with 33 radiation treatments. Little did I know that cancer would prove to be one of my most formidable foes.
"My life was threatened when I suffered a bowel perforation and obstruction from the treatments"
There were so many days, all of the endless doctor visits and treatments had me on the ropes and left me face down on the mat. Although my thoughts and large support system were mostly upbeat and optimistic, there were many rough, unbearably painful, and soul-testing days that left me in tears and thinking that my promise to beat this disease was made in vain.
A few months later in early November, after completing that first set of treatments and as I was resting up for my scheduled surgery to remove a fist sized tumor in my sigmoid colon, my life was threatened when I suffered a bowel perforation and obstruction from the treatments.
My kids had to run and get the neighbors to come and help me because I was unable to move from the indescribable pain of the perforation. I was rushed to the ER via ambulance and into emergency surgery. Upon waking from surgery with my worried husband by my side, and looking down at my abdomen which had 33 staples in it with an ostomy bag next to it. I realized just how much cancer had taken from me.
The next day, my surgeon soberly informed me that the bowel perforation and obstruction almost took my life and left me with a two-year temporary colostomy which was originally slated for six weeks, I was blown away by how quickly life had changed yet again for me.
"Many think beating cancer is physical, however, this battle is 100% mental"
I spent ten days in the hospital recovering and adjusting to my new life as an ostomate, and my biggest take away was that I was alive, I made it through yet another traumatic moment in my life, by God’s grace. This realization gave me new purpose and strength. It was then that I chose to pick up the phone and call my childhood abuser whom I had not spoken to for quite a while to demand an apology. After he apologized, I was freed of the guilt and shame which I felt lead to my diagnosis. Healing myself of this past toxicity was crucial to my ongoing treatment and eventual NED status.
This healing has taken time and I have experienced numerous complications and hospitalizations with my ostomy, “Toodles”, formerly known as “Fred”. Life was challenging to the max as I underwent six more months of port chemo and lost my mother. However, the tools that I used to overcome prior hardships such as, family support, cancer therapy, laughter, writing, goal setting, motivational speaking, traveling, and learning burlesque/pole fitness helped me to beat this disease, mentally.
Many think beating cancer is physical, however, anyone who suits up mentally to battle cancer beats it, regardless of if our bodies transition. This battle is 100% mental and that is why having a positive attitude, healthy emotional outlets, and a strong support system is crucial to those in the fight.
In December of 2016, I received my first NED aka “no evidence of disease” status and that is when I chose to keep my ostomy, Toodles permanently. As for the enrichment of my life through the cancer battle, it has been a blessing to become an international best-selling co-author, model, motivational speaker, burlesque dancer, and ostomy/cancer awareness advocate have been incredible highlights for my life. As of 2020, I am still NED and my plan is to continue to create incredible memories with my family, set more goals and ride this thing called life, until the wheels fall off.