I will always remember the moment I was told I had cancer. It was a moment of shock. Of disbelief. For a moment I felt disconnected; as if I was watching a movie, a story that belonged to somebody else. But it wasn’t me, it wasn’t mine. I had just had my colonoscopy and I was still a bit dazed from the medications and stunned by the news. My husband, Joey, and I were so disoriented as we left the building, that we couldn’t find the exit. We couldn’t find a way of escape. Life was too hard. I just wanted to wake up from the nightmare.
The next few weeks were a blur of doctor’s appointments and bad news. I was spinning. But it was also a time where I felt amazingly surrounded, incredibly covered. Held. Sheltered in prayer and community support, by my family, my friends, my church, and a startling amazing support by people I didn’t even personally know on Instagram.
As we learned more about my cancer, I realized that my family and I had to keep changing our perspective. When we found out that I had stage 3 colon cancer instead of stage 4, we were relieved and thankful. As I sat waiting for my second colonoscopy I remember looking around and seeing white heads and wrinkled faces. I told my husband, “Babe, one of these things just doesn’t belong here.One of these things is not like the others…” He told me that when my hair fell out, he would buy me a grey wig so I could fit in with those who had my disease. 🙂 The chemotherapy and radiation turned from something poisonous and toxic into something that would help to save my life, a “drip of life” (thanks Jen). The loss of organs that had gifted me with my beautiful children and had been destroyed by radiation, now allowed me less worry and fear from more cancer. The percentage of 65% survival rate meant that instead of a 35% chance of dying from my disease, I had better odds of beating it.
Please know that with each of these moments came feelings of fear, of anger, of uncertainty. I am not strong. I am not a super woman.
But I serve a super strong God. And when I have felt overwhelmed with all of these feelings, He was there to support me and carry me through. And I believe He uses my community of support to hold me up, to give me hope, and to help me fight. He uses them to help me change my perspective about my disease. And even the changes in my body.
Probably the biggest body image battle I have had to overcome has been with my ileostomy. I didn’t have to have it. It was my choice. Choosing to have the ileostomy allowed me better odds of survival. And I would choose anything that would help me survive for my children, my husband, and my family. A family who had already lost a son, a brother, and a father. But it has been a huge struggle for me. I am a woman. And a ileostomy is not a beautiful thing. In the beginning it was humiliating for me. My husband found me lying on the floor of our shower one day too weak and lightheaded to stand. I remember covering my face in shame as he covered my stoma with the bag. And I cried. He gently helped me up, dressed me, and brought me to bed. It was a moment that I have awarded as my “least sexiest”. But my amazing husband told me how cool my stoma looked and he did his best to make me laugh. He made me feel sexy. My children laugh each time my ileostomy or “Illy” as we have nicknamed it (thanks Laurel) burps, or as my kids like to say, “toots”. My husband says people wouldn’t even hear it or notice the sounds, but I always make this shocked embarrassed face that I cannot control. It has brought my children many moments of fun and I realize as time passes, that my perspective with “Illy” is slowly changing. Do I like how it looks or the embarrassing sounds that it makes in front of people? Absolutely not. But it raises my chances of beating this disease. And for that, I am grateful. And for the next nine months, until I am resected and put back together, I won’t have to worry about urgently finding a bathroom. For the next nine months, I will enjoy the perks that an ileostomy brings. It’s all about perspective.
Please listen ladies… Sexiness isn’t about how you look. It’s about a quiet confidence in who you are and in your story that God is writing.
I am stepping way out of my comfort zone and sharing a picture of a girl with an ileostomy. Me with my ileostomy.
Abraham Lincoln has said this, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” I would rather see the roses, rather choose joy. I would rather see my glass half full.
It’s all about perspective. The angle at which we look at things. We have the decision to either be sad or to choose joy. Perspective allows us to find good in the bad, the beauty in the ugly and the imperfect.
Ann Voskamp says this in her book, One Thousand Gifts, “All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining” (p. 88). This is one of my most favorite quotes.
It’s all about perspective, pressing into Jesus, moving more into surrender, to allow for a different, a better, view. A view from above the clouds, rather than from below.
Having cancer has taught me many valuable lessons. One is that I will willingly give up my hair, lose my ability to have more children, live with an ileostomy forever if need be, pump toxic poison through my veins, and fight to choose joy, for the opportunity, the gift to stay with my family.
It’s being thankful and finding joy in the moment that you are in and not wishing time away.
Life is so much more than beauty and vanity. So much more than comfort. Sometimes it’s about sacrifice. Sometimes it’s about changing our perspective to one of joy in times of bad. One moment at a time. It’s about surrendering and relying on Jesus for our every need. It’s about realizing that every day, every breath, is a gift.
Even though I have cancer, I have much to be thankful for. And I would rather focus on the blessings in my life than on the hardships that life sometimes brings.
When bad things happen I encourage you to remember this, “It is not what happens to you, but your attitude toward the happening that determines your happiness” (author unknown). It’s okay to feel your feelings, to cry, to be down. But I encourage you not to stay there. Don’t let anything steal your joy. It is up to us to decide how we will see life, to determine our attitude. It is up to us determine our perspective and choose joy.