After being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, my ostomy — which I named Toodles — opened up a world of body positivity for me.
Before being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, I was experiencing symptoms, but I did not trust my body. Some of the doctors I saw did not always trust me and what I was saying, and it took me seven months to get diagnosed after being misdiagnosed several times with hemorrhoids.
It is essential to hear and connect with your body and trust it when something feels off, regardless of what doctors may say, and especially if they’re not taking you seriously. Fiercely advocate for yourself.
I was diagnosed with stage 2a colorectal cancer in July 2015 and almost lost my life. Then, I received a lifesaving ostomy in November 2015 that helped me redefine beauty and gain confidence.
My nurse suggested I name my ostomy because it would make noises, and the name would allow me to place blame. “Toodles” is what I decided. Before I knew it, my Toodles had opened up the world of body positivity for me.
Before my diagnosis, I was a model. The modeling industry is body-conscious and strives for perfection. But no one is perfect. Over time, I saw people on social media living a full life with their ostomies and realized I could do that too. I started traveling and reclaiming my life.
I have a vertical scar that runs down my abdomen, a port scar, my ostomy and scars from having my children. My body has evolved, but I have too. I am thankful for my body. I am grateful for every scar because every scar tells a story of my strength. The scars are what make me beautiful.
If I have a day where I am not feeling positive, I find one thing on my body I feel confident about and embrace it.
I also created an Instagram account to reclaim my femininity with an ostomy. I started talking about my experience, and the page grew organically. I have been able to advocate internationally and domestically. It's been such a blessing.
When you are diagnosed with cancer, being an advocate is not at the forefront of your mind, as you are just trying to survive. After I made it through the initial part of my diagnosis, I realized that so many people supported me, and I created a community around me. I learned how important the community is to those in the fight. Through social media, I found Fight Colorectal Cancer and their resources. I wish I had found the resources when I was diagnosed so I could better advocate for myself. Now, I make sure to share the resources.
I was recently declared five years cancer free and celebrated my 53rd birthday. That was a great birthday present! Hitting my five-year mark was powerful because every year as a survivor you think, “Is this the year my cancer will come back?” After hearing the news, I paused and realized I got five more years with my children and my amazing husband of 22 years.
When I talk about my diagnosis, I often say “we” were diagnosed with cancer. My husband and children went through it with me. We were all in fight or flight; we all experienced trauma of some sort; and we all went to therapy together. This experience bonded us as a family so deeply. My family and I have become enriched by this experience.
From Fight Colorectal Cancer: Knowing the symptoms of colorectal cancer and understanding your risks of developing it may prevent this cancer from happening to you or help get a diagnosis as early as possible. Learn more at FightCRC.org/Symptoms.
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