Don't Pity Me For Being An Ostomate, I Love It

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Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful… well, at least that’s how I used to feel about my body.

I used to pride myself on how toned and in-shape I was, and that I was able to wear cropped tops and low rising pants to shop off my abs. I knew I was being watched and admired by men, and probably hated by women who came to my shows. My ego and vanity thought it would go on forever.

Melissa Marshall

(left) mid 1990s, pre-ostomy. (right) is a recent photo wearing No You Cant'cer Foundation t-shirt.

On September 24, 2013 life as I knew it came to a screeching halt.

I was diagnosed with a golf ball sized tumor in my rectum that was sitting 1mm above my sphincter. My ostomy surgery was set for November 14, 2013 where I would receive an ileostomy before beginning chemotherapy and radiation.

The treatments continued almost all the way through the following year, but even in the time of darkness, I knew it had to be done to save my life. Still, during this time, weakness, sadness and fear were omnipresent. Every moment was a flurry of thoughts that whirled in my head, and I put on a strong front for all those who loved me as they watched my transformation from the confident singer into an ill shell of my former self.

I felt that everyone silently had pity for me, and my fear was confirmed when I’d hear, “You’re so strong. I would never know you had a bag!” Their gaze would always go to my stomach, as if they wished they had x-ray vision and could see through my shirt and pants. In those moments, I would look up to the heavens and say, “Why God? Why did you take away the one thing I actually prided my self on?” I thought it was such a cruel joke.

As time went on, I got stronger and my muscles got their memory back. I realized that healing was forming not only in my body, but also within my soul. In coming to understand that my looks weren't the only thing that people cared about, I started to see that I was a fighter. I was someone who survived cancer, and there just might be more in store for me than the person I was before.

When you have the ability (and fortune) of redefining who you are and what you can do in this world, then you realize you've been blessed. That is how I feel today—blessed. I am blessed to have survived the cancer. I am blessed to now see myself, not from vanity, but as someone with so much more worth and real value.

I have purpose and a mission. My head and my heart are the driving force to inspire others.

My father used to tell me life is full of lessons, and that is how you grow wise. Now I am kinder to myself, less critical and constantly learning. Having an ostomy remains my biggest life lesson. It reminds me that I’m alive and fully functioning human, just with the new way of living. I am thankful to be living in a time that ostomy surgery exists with modern appliances, and that the surgeon had the ability to keep me alive. This knowledge grounds me to live in the present moment and be grateful that I have another day to sing, dance and swing my granddaughter in the air.

I found my voice and the courage to empower more people to say, “No You Cant’cer.” In early June 2015, I recorded the song, “No You Cant’cer” and began to establish my nonprofit organization. Yes I have an ostomy, but don't pity me for being an ostomate. It is exactly where God intended me to have it, so I know to be humble and as positive about life as I can be. Yes, I have an ostomy, and I ab-solutely love it… and my new life.

No You Cant'cer Foundation

promoting No You Cant'cer Foundation with my family.