Carol’s Story

Not a lot of people talk about cervical cancer or having ostomies. I was diagnosed in 2011, and it reoccurred 10 months later. I was faced with total pelvic exenteration (TPE) surgery.

I was told I had to get important organs taken out, which was a bit of a shock—my new “normal” being diagnosed with cancer, going through chemo, and radiation—and then to find out I’m still not done and have to have organs taken from me.

Having to live with ostomies has been a challenge. It took me a good year to grasp everything physically and emotionally, but I know that surgery is a good reason why I’m still here 11 years later.

“I stopped counting my years. I only count my sunny days.”

When cancer recurred after surgery, I went through salvage chemo. All the steps I went through led me to be here still today. I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for science and taking chances. A big part of my cancer journey was my great aunt Anna. She was a fabulous lady and a fashion icon. Whenever someone asked for her age, she said, “I stopped counting my years. I only count my sunny days.” I kept hearing her voice when I went in for surgery. “More sunny days…” It became my mantra because I want more sunny days. My ostomy bags kept leaking, but I grounded myself and said, “More sunny days… That’s all I want. I’m going to do whatever it takes.” I gave myself moments to grieve what was taken away from me, but those things don’t make me a human being. Those are just body parts, part of the tools to my vessel, but it’s really what’s inside that makes you who you are and gives you that strength, kindness, and grace you want to walk through life with—even if you have a disability.

Beauty radiates no matter what you go through. These ostomies are part of who I am, and it’s a good reason why I’m still here. I have ostomies, but I’m going to walk through this world happy and confident because life is too short.

Carol’s advice:
Reach out and find your community to help lift you up. Find your people because you don’t want to do this alone, and you don’t have to. When I became a double bagger, I found so many resources, from bag changing to emotional support. When you’re trying to do this alone, it’s a struggle. The more visibility and normality we can bring to being an ostomate is huge. This doesn’t have to be scary, or something people talk about badly. We’re all human beings living this life.