What if you woke up one day and your world turned upside down? What if the only way you were able to have kids was freezing your eggs, because you may not be able to carry the baby? What if you woke up and had to take a drug every day that made you sick to your stomach, while also going through multiple surgeries and having needles stuck into you every day? What if you had to get radiation treatment and the end results turned out to involve constant pain?
I have always known I was an earth angel. God showed me that He still has purpose for me on this earth. The day I found out I had stage three colorectal cancer was one of the worst days of my life. I was on the verge of turning twenty-four. I said to myself, “I’m too young for this.” It was March 2016; the results came back from my colonoscopy. The doctor said, “The mass is the size of a peach.” Needless to say, it was a tough couple of months, but with the support of God, my treatment team, family, and friends, I was able to go through the experience gracefully.
My treatment began shortly after. For the next four months, I experienced agony in ways I didn’t think could exist. Shortly after, I took a break from my job. My treatment then became my job. The doctors explained the importance of the treatments, before removing my cancer. I was able to retrieve fourteen eggs, remove one ovary, and move the other one up, to be cautious. Chemo started with two weeks on and one week off. I looked forward to my breaks off. It made me insubstantial and caused my taste buds to change. The foods I normally ate, I no longer wanted. My hair started to thin, and my skin turned darker in different areas. Arriving to radiation every day, I had to make sure my bladder was full. This process made it difficult for me to urinate and have bowl movements. It felt as if I were pooping out knives, which was a very excruciating pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Through it all, I still kept my faith. August 2016, the doctors were able to remove all of my cancer! I thought everything was over but shortly after, I became ill with C-Diff. After weeks of treatment, I began to heal. In order to heal properly from cancer, I had to wear an ileostomy bag for almost a year and still continue to intake chemo to assure that the illness wouldn’t appear again.
After months of wearing an ileostomy bag and taking chemo, I realized who I could trust. Dating was very difficult because once I disclosed my situation no one wanted to be bothered. The long calls became shorter calls, and the shorter calls became no calls at all. I started to take it one day at a time and wrote in my journal on my good days. I recognized people were judging me since I didn’t look like what I was going through. For instance, once when I used my handicap parking placard, before going into the store, after I returned I saw a note on my car window that said, “You are a piece of shit. There are real people in need of handicap spaces – you suck.” Just because they judged me didn’t mean I had to judge them. I had to let go and let God do the work.
It was finally April 2017, and my ileostomy bag was removed! It took time getting comfortable without the bag. I had to eat fibrous foods in order to have normal bowel movements.
Things can be taken from you instantly, but life has its way of changing you for the better. I realized that suffering can help one to grow and mature. “God will turn your pain into promotions and as long as you lean on him during the storms, he will promote you.” God has His way of changing a person. He also has His way of being on time. He gives second chances, shows up, and saves lives. He is alive. He saved my life!
Since I have been given a second chance, I have decided to live my life to the fullest – doing all the things I like to do; continuing to be an advocate for colorectal cancer, meeting new people, traveling, etc. I have since found a new job which has allowed me to take my career in a different direction, steadily learning something new every day.
Life after cancer has been amazing. I feel like a new person. The full process has brought me peace of mind. I became a pescatarian, and I am now 27 years old, still living, and enjoying every moment. I have nothing to complain about. I get my scans every six months to make sure the illness does not return. There are good and bad days, and I have to watch what I eat to avoid having accidents, but I forced myself to stop thinking I was sick because if you give into the fact that you are sick, you will stay sick.
All those journal entries will not go to waste, because I am now in the process of writing a book.
God is great!
This feature was submitted by Jasmine Pettross