Gaylyn Henderson Is Fearless After Meeting This Female Leader

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By Gaylyn Henderson

The Story Behind the Photo

In March, 2016 I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Janssen Biotech, Inc. manufacturing plant and tour the Janssen Research Labs, all part the BioExperience Program. I have an undergraduate degree in Biology, so these tours reminded me of the time I spent in the lab at college - yes, I’m a nerd.

It was physically demanding trip for me.

Due to the side effects of Crohn’s disease, I have a hard time standing up and sitting down for prolonged periods of time. When the tour wrapped up, I was grateful that I made it through the weekend without a hospital visit, but now I had to make it back home to Atlanta.

Advocacy is something that I absolutely love doing but during the tours I thought to myself, can I keep doing this? I was in physical pain and feeling mentally discouraged. I was questioning everything - my life, my purpose, my physical capabilities. At that moment it was looking like the answer was, no I can't.

Gaylyn Henderson at Janssen Biotech, Inc.

What happened at the airport made things worse.

I knew it would probably be best to ask for a wheelchair, but I don't like requesting assistance of any kind because to me it feels like I’m giving up or giving in to the disease. That is a constant struggle for me, accepting and realizing that I sometimes need help.

Then, I went through security. My ostomy shows up on the body scan, as it normally does, but this time I get patted down. The TSA agent then says, "next time, wear the ostomy to the side." I was so upset and on the verge of tears, but didn't respond because I was so mad and had no energy to engage. The airport experience coupled with the physical demands of the tours, I was done! I wanted to quit being an advocate and quit my non-profit, Gutless & Glamorous.

And then this happened! (cue the picture below)

On the plane, I see Regina M. Benjamin, the 18th Surgeon General of the United States! I've met her a few times through my job so decided to say hello. I debated starting a conversation because I wasn't feeling well, but I spoke. I told her about my non-profit and advocacy campaign (at that time I was doing the Instagram Contest) and I ask her to take a picture with the Gutless and Glamorous sign.

Gaylyn and Regina M. Benjamin

Then she said this to me, "I love that you are doing this and advocating for others, please please keep up the good work!" Once again, I was about to start crying, but this time tears of joy! I couldn't stop smiling. What are the odds of this happening AFTER the very recent thoughts I’d been having?

Lesson Learned: Don't ever give up no matter how hard and difficult it may seem.

It may take days, months or years to fully understand why some things happen in life. This time, my reassurance came through the U.S. Surgeon General! I won’t quit advocating for IBD or ostomates, in fact I just held an event on April 18th called #FunFearlessFellowship, and it was fabulous!

Read the full story on Gutless & Glamorous

Gaylyn Henderson is the founder of Gutless & Glamorous and an ostomate since 2008 due to Crohn's disease.