“We only have one life to live. Make sure you live your best life.”

A few weeks ago, I was at work, and one of my regular customers entered the lobby. I left my office and went to speak to Mr. John Doe (name has been changed for privacy reasons). I gave Mr. Doe a hug and asked how he’s been because it had been a while since I’d seen him. Mr. Doe said that he’d been given the diagnosis of having terminal cancer. I gave my apologies. He said for me not to apologize because he’s lived a good life. He said he was at peace and ready to be with God whenever the last breath left his body.

I was shocked and told him that I had never in my forty-four years of living heard anyone say that. He told me his reason why. His why was a promise he’d made to God over fifty years ago. Mr. Doe was drafted for the Vietnam war. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their son and was expected to deliver any moment. He was granted permission to stay at home for three months with her and the baby. He said during those three months that some of the people he knew from his hometown were killed in the war. When the time came for him to leave, he said he didn’t want to leave his wife, his new baby, and was afraid of the possibility of him losing his life as well. Mr. Doe told me that he prayed before he left. He said that he asked God if He would allow him to go to war and return back safely that he’d serve Him to the day he died. He said that was a promise that he kept. That was why he was at peace with his soon to be death.

His story really did something to me. I began to reflect over my life. I haven’t been to war, but I’ve had things that been earth shattering to my soul, moments that made me feel as if the wind had been knocked out my chest, and days and nights I’ve cried nonstop. I’ve experienced hurt that I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel. I’ve been lied on. I’ve asked God why did I have to endure those things and wondered if the truth would ever be revealed. During some of these moments, I became stressed and depressed. I couldn’t understand the why. Recently in prayer, God let me know that we might not always understand why some people do the things they do. I needed to quit stressing over things such as trying to understand those types of people. God wouldn’t let me give up. He gave me strength to keep going, to hang on, and share my testimony with someone else that might be going through something similar. I want people to know that no matter how hard it gets to never give up.

I captured this beautiful sunrise on my way to the gym one morning. Sunsets and sunrises are one of the most beautiful things that God gives. I, personally, look at it as my time from God to never give up.

This June, I went to Jamaica for my birthday. A lot of people asked me was I afraid of going internationally alone. I wasn’t because I was at peace within my spirit. There were several eventful things that happened that I could have let ruin my trip. Before I even left Memphis, I almost left my paperwork in my truck that I would have needed to enter the country. I almost missed my first flight . I’d left my paperwork for the covid test in my room that I needed in order to get back into the US. One healthcare worker didn’t want to let me sit and wait. Another one of the healthcare workers allowed me to stay, and she squeezed me in between other travelers that were prepared. I’d hired someone to take my pictures on the beach, but the photographer didn’t show up. After waiting over an hour, I asked a random worker from the resort if he’d take them. Despite all the hiccups, God showed me favor the entire trip. I went into more detail in my July blog in case you missed it. I could have let those things ruin my trip if I’d dwelt on it negatively. Instead, I went with the flow. My goal is to shift my mindset whenever a situation arises. It could be this, BUT it can also be that. Think the quantum theory we were taught growing up in our science class. It says for every negative, there is a positive. That’s the outlook I’m trying to live in my life.

One of the pictures that I had one of the resort employees took when the photographer canceled.

I bring up Jamaica for this reason.. I, too, said a prayer to God. It was my last day there in Jamaica that I gave God complete control over some situations going on in my life that were becoming overwhelming. In life, there are going to be sadness, heartaches and disappointments. I was going to my therapist and praying to God to help me endure. While I was there, I told God that I could not fix these situations. I said I can not understand everything that I am going through, but I put all the situations in His hand. I know that if I put the situations in His hands. I would have to stop trying to fix it and know that He would take care of me and the situations. I gave it all to Him on that day. Just a much as the trip was pleasure, it was spiritual and therapeutic trip as well

My last day in Jamaica. I made my first vlog here with this gorgeous background. https://youtube.com/channel/UCOZDt9VdVUzcirkECrifXyw

I know we’ve all heard the saying that life is short. It really is. We can be here today and be gone tomorrow. Think about it. There are people that you talked to on the phone and a few days later that person was gone from here on earth. We were unable to prepare for that person’s death. We are left shocked and hurting because of the quick demise. Sometimes, we have a family member or friend that is diagnosed with an illness as Mr Doe. The person is only given a few months to live. What do we do with that time? Do we sit and wonder what about the things that we should have done or could have done? Do we reflect on life and think about all things we’ve accomplished? Do we think about relationships we have with our friends and loved ones? What we could have done to make it better or to improve it? Do we think about and ask ourselves did we live our life to the best of our ability?

My reasons why I am trying to be the best version of Carman. These are my children. I want them to have a mom that is whole.

Here’s something else. Sometimes, we get caught up on wondering what other people will say about us if we do a certain thing. I can’t lie. In this past, this was something that I struggled with on a regular basis. Thanks be to God, I no longer care. I wondered if I wore this would I be criticized. If I said a certain thing and voiced me opinion about a situation, what will society think of me? We cannot control what people say about us. We cannot control what people think about us, but we can control how we respond to those things. We have to learn to not give people power and control over our lives. People will always have something to say. If we’re happy, they’ll say that it’s no way that person can be that happy. They’re just pretending. If we’re sad, they’ll say why are they sad. What’s wrong with them? They need to move on and quit being sad. That’s why we can’t get caught up on the opinions of others.

Me being happy with life

Life is truly short. It doesn’t matter if you made a promise to God. It doesn’t matter if you could care less what people say or do about you. It doesn’t matter if you have someone spreading lies on you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been through a bitter divorce. It doesn’t matter if you have lost friends that you thought would always be there for you. It doesn’t matter if you lost the job that you thought you’d retire from one day. I’m not saying those things aren’t meaningful. Nor am I saying that those things won’t bother you. I’m saying that you can’t quit living life when those things happen. Don’t get caught on people. Don’t give them your peace that you have worked hard to get to that place. Time is something that we can not get back. How we spend our time is important. We don’t want to reflect back on our lives and think of the should, woulda, and coulda’s. We need to live our lives to the fullest. We need to live our life with no regrets. Do what’s best for you and no one else!!!!! I want to be just like Mr. Doe and be at peace within myself and my spirit when my time here on earth is coming to an end. At the end of the day, you only have one life to live. Make sure you’re making the best of it.

Me not caring what anyone says because I’m out here living my best life.

“My Independence Day”

Today is July 4th, and this is my vlog post for this month.

Several people have asked me why I don’t have a YouTube channel. Honestly, I was reluctant because of my lack of knowledge when it comes to technology. I even had trouble today with uploading. I had to do it from my phone. The quality isn’t the best.

While I was on vacation, I had a lot of people to send me messages asking if I traveled to Jamaica alone. Here’s my reason why. This was my first and ONLY take. I had to finish packing for the plane. I hope you enjoy.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss any videos.

“Preparing for the ultimate race, this thing called life”

A marathon is 26.2 miles. It’s not just for super athletes. There are people of all shapes and sizes, ages, and genre that will begin. One can’t simply wait until the day of the race to start preparing and expect to win. There is work behind this. Everyone will start, but not all will make it to the end. The good thing about life is that we can all be winners.

Typically, training takes 16-20 weeks to prepare for the marathon. This includes the runner running 3-5 times a week. Each week, he/she should increase the miles ran. There should also include strength training for your muscles to help endure (http://www.runnerworld.com).

As I was thinking about this month’s blog, I thought about another kind of racing-horses. Growing up, my father had three horses. On the weekends, we would go and ride. I have always had an admiration for horses (their strength, their beauty, and their endurance).

I’m not sure if you ever watched or heard of the Kentucky Derby. It is one of the elite social events of the year. Men and women are decked in their finest attire. Women’s heads are adorned with the largest and most unique hat they can find. While it a social event, the horses have trained and prepared for the race.

Training is typically in the mornings. Trainers focus on physiological as well as the physical. It is important for the horse not to have anxiety on the day of the race http://www.ofhorse.com. When you see the horses on tv or in person, you should know there is plenty of work and preparation behind it.

I’m sure you are wondering where I am going with this. For me, life is a simile of a race. The moment, we are born, our parents began to prepare us for life. They know what lies ahead.. They have already experienced where we are going. They watch us grow from infants into adulthood. They try to shield us from being hurt. They know that some challenges will be won, and there will be some failures. It is what life brings.

My mom and I

Even though life brings forth obstacles, we must not quit. Sometimes, just as soon as we jump over one hurdle, another one is there waiting on us. It doesn’t matter if we trample over it, leap high without touching it, or run right through it, we will not be disqualified. The importance of it is to never quit.

Other times, there is rain. The sun can be beaming down our faces, and the rain can come pouring down unexpectedly. This is the last thing that a runner or a jockey on the horse would want. Rain slows you down. If you aren’t prepared, you might want to give up. In life, we will have days where things are going great. Then, booom!!!! Here comes the rain. Will you dance in the rain like no one is watching, or will you let it ruin your day?

Family vacation in 2017. In New Orleans, and we got caught in the rain.

As I was gathering information for this month’s blog, there was one article about how to mentally prepare for a race. A couple of suggestions were to visualize yourself finishing yourself finishing and to run your own race http://www.runninforsweets.com. That was very profound to me. We must realize that life is not a competition, and that we must focus on ourselves. The race your friend or family member is on will never be the race you are on. There might be similarities, but no one deals with situations exactly the same. That is what makes us unique.

Today is my 44th birthday. I’ve had journeys. I’ve had hills. I’ve had mountains. I’ve had bumps and bruises. I’ve had heartaches. I’ve felt faint. BUTTTTT I’ve had sunny days. I had love. I’ve had rainbows. I’ve had days filled with glitter and days where I made lemonade out of lemons. Even though life might get hard at times, I shall never quit. Whether it is a Boston Marathon or the Kentucky Derby, there can only be one winner. In life, we can all win. It is the perspective we choose.

The summarization of Ecclesiastes 9:11 is the race is not given to the swift nor to the strong but he that endures to the end. It is one of my favorite scriptures. It helps keeps me focused. Another quote I use often is a sermon that my father once preached. It says, “a good start is important, but the key is to finish.” With that being said-Let’s go running y’all. We have a race to finish!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Even superheroes get weak”

We all have that friend or family member we can depend on no matter what. That person is dependable and reliable. That person encourages and uplifts. Basically, that person is there whenever we need him/her. He/she is a confidant. He/she is trusting and a pleasure to be around. That person is our rock. If you ever had the pleasure of meeting, knowing, or spending time with Shay Ashford, you know she embodies all of these traits and characteristics.

What happens when the person we depend on and lean on so much gets weak? What happens when our rock is suffering in pain and in silence that he/she is willing to end it all? Because of a chronic illness, Crohn’s disease, Shay has suffered and dealt with pain day in and day out, and only a very few knew the extent of pain she was in. One day, Shay had enough. She asked her father, Chip Ashford, to take his gun and shoot her because of the pain she was in. We all depend on our rock. There are times, even our rock, our superheroes get weak.

Shay is a person that never complains. You would never know what she battling internally. I have been guilty of calling in for a headache. I’m sure I’m not alone for calling in and might could have gone ahead to work. Yet each day, she presses on in spite of how she is feeling and goes to work without complaining. A few weeks ago, I began a series on Shay and how Crohn’s affected her life. When she was diagnosed in 2007, there was not a lot of information about Crohn’s. During her interviews, I asked Shay how the flare ups made her feel, the number of surgeries she’s had, and some moments that stuck out to her as she deals with Crohn’s on a daily basis. In her words, “Crohn’s ruined my life.” Shay went from being the social butterfly and a star athlete to a person who was bedridden for days or weeks at a time and having to give up the sport she loved. Her body had now become her enemy. Since that time, she has had over four surgeries and over twenty hospitalizations. Ask yourself this question. Would you still be able to press on?

Prior to Crohn’s, Shay lived a carefree life. She was able to hang out with friends with no worries. After her diagnosis, she had to worry about how many times she would have to use the bathroom. She had to know how long the ride would be because of the possibility of having to use the bathroom. She had to know where she would be dining whenever she ate with friends or family. She would have to look up the menu prior to going to see if it was something she would be able to eat. After Crohn’s, Shay was no longer able to eat lettuce, popcorn, anything spicy, or crab legs (one of her favorite dishes). There would be no more overnight stays with friends. If she did agree to go, she had to make sure there would be multiple bathrooms. Shay’s main concern was that she did not want to take away the fun from others. She did not want to be a burden to anyone.

During our conversation, I asked Shay during one of her 20 hospitalization, was there any moments that stood out? There is one hospitalization that sticks out vividly in her mind. She was teaching for New Albany Public Schools. That morning, she had one of her flare up symptoms (thrush in her mouth). She said everything tasted like wood. Later that day, she began to feel worse. Her ears began to burn. For her, that is a tale-tale sign that bleeding has began in her body. Therefore, she knew that her symptoms and flare up was about to be worst. Prior to that day, Shay had already been to the ER 4-5 times because of her flare ups. Because of her symptoms and knowing and body, she knew she needed to get to the hospital fast. She calls for someone to cover her class and the nurse because she knew she had to get to the ER and quickly. The nurse would not let her drive herself to Tupelo. She met her father, Chip Ashford, halfway to Tupelo.

When she got to the room, she tells Chip that she has to use the bathroom. When she goes, the toilet is full of blood. She is weak and barely makes it back to the bed. Only a few minutes later, she has the urge to use the bathroom again. She tells Chip that she feels her body weakening and knows she is at the point of passing out. She told him she needed him to come with her because if she did pass out she would need someone to get her. Just as she suspected, she passes out in the restroom and has a dream.

Her dream is of flying pigs. They tell her “follow me Shay. Follow me into the light.” She begins to follow them. The sun was happy and shiny. She starts gravitating towards the light. After following them for a little while, she tells the pigs she can’t go the light. She tries to turn backwards, but she is unable to move. She attempts to turn again. This time, she awakens. When she does, she is on a gurney, and Chip is standing over her and asking her to wake up. She begins to vomit on the floor and in her hair. If you know Shay, you know she’s a germaphobe. She said she wasn’t worried about her body. She was worried if the vomit got in her hair. ☺️ On this visit, she has to be admitted for 3 days. Only few family members know that she is even there. They bring her one of her favorite stuffed animals, lady bug. The lady bug is symbolic for good luck. In that moment, good luck and positive vibes is what she needed.

Shay has endured four surgeries because of the Crohn’s. The most horrible surgery was in 2016. The reason for the surgery was because her bowel was not moving through her rectum as it should. She had anal fissure (tear in anal lining) and anal fistulas (infection in anus). Having the surgery was important because her body was identifying the stool as a foreign object. Her body was going into shock because of the pain. The pain she experienced prior to the surgery was nothing compared to the pain she felt after surgery. The only thing that helped eased the pain was bathing in warm water. Her mother, Carolyn, helped her into the tub. Even the warm baths weren’t helping. At that moment, Shay could not take anymore. She asked her dad to shoot her. That was the only way she felt that she could escape the pain. They all sat in the bathroom and cried as Shay suffered in pain. It would take months for her body to completely heal and for her to regain her strength. Still to this day, Shay said the pain she felt was the worst she ever felt in her life.

Typically, a person does not have colonoscopies until the age of 50 (http://www.cancer.org). Due to the in inflammation of the bowels, people that are diagnosed with Crohn’s are more likely to develop colon cancer (http://www.webmd.com). Due to Crohn’s, Shay has a colonoscopy every two years. In 2019, during one of Shay’s routine colonoscopies, the doctors were unable to complete it. The doctors were not able to see inside the colon with the scope because of two blockage, and there was a possibility of colon cancer. She was referred to a specialist. The doctors said that she would have to have surgery to go in to see what was going on. They gave her three scenarios because they didn’t know what it would look like when they went inside. Option A. The large intestines would be taken out and reconnect the small intestines. They would make a clean passage. The small intestines would do what the large intestines used to do. Option B. Everything did not go as smooth, and she would have to wear a colostomy bag for six weeks. She would go back after six weeks and reconnect the small intestines to the rectum. That is if it was a little irritation. The colostomy bag is a plastic bag that collects feces from the digestive tract with and opening from the abdominal wall (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com) Option C. If they go in, try to connect it, and it won’t connect, she would have to wear the colostomy bag permanently for the rest of her life. The doctors felt that because of her being young that option a is what they were hoping for, but she had to be prepared for option C. She didn’t want to have surgery. She did pray about the options, but she was afraid. Shay felt that she PTSD from the surgery of 2016. She didn’t want to have the surgery because of what previously happened. She was afraid of the healing process and wondered what would the pain level be this time around. She researched YouTube, talked to her doctors, and called her friends to get insight on what would happen. None of it helped, but she decided to go ahead and go through the surgery. In order to prevent the risk of colon cancer, Shay’s entire right colon and appendix was removed on December 17, 2019. The hospitalization was four days.

She said it was the best decision ever in her life. She wish she’d done it earlier. It didn’t take away her having Chron’s, but she no longer suffers in pain each day. She is able to eat things that she previously had to let go. She no longer lives her life in fear. Before the total right colon removal, Shay was afraid of trying new things and living her full potential because of her illness. Now, the fear is gone. She is able to live a care free life. She is able to bet he social butterfly that she once was. I am glad and thankful that Chip did not honor her request.

Remember, just because you see someone smiling, it does not mean there isn’t pain behind it. There are people that push through the pain regardless of what is going on with their bodies. They get up, get dressed for work, encourage you, pray for you, and still have a smile on their face. BUT!!!!!! If you don’t remember anything else, remember this!!!!!! There are times, even our superheroes get weak.

“There are superheroes living amongst us each day “

Many of us wake up each day with no pain. We get up and go about our morning/daily routine (showering, breakfast, leave for school or work). Have you ever stopped and thought that waking up with no pain is actually a blessing? For the person that suffers with Crohn’s disease or any type of chronic illness, the person may not have the luxury of waking up with no pain.

March is recognized as colon cancer awareness month. I did a three part series on my friends, Gary and Mary Pat Hancock. When I was discussing my topic for the month of March with one my close friends, Shay Ashford, she reminded me about having her total right colon removed in order to prevent the possibility of her getting colon cancer as a Crohn’s patient. Statistics show that every 1 out of 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. People with Crohn’s have an even higher risk of obtaining it. http://www.everdayhealth.com. Initially, I thought she would be the week four blog post in the month of March to conclude the series, but there was so much to her story that needed to be shared as well. It would be impossible to tell it all in one week.

If you were like me, you might not even know what Crohn’s disease is. I had not heard of it until Shay told me about her diagnosis and how having Crohn’s has affected her life. Before I share part one her story of her with her battle of how having Crohn’s diseased changed her life, I need to explain what Crohn’s is and how it affects people.

Crohn’s disease is an chronic illness. It is inflammation of the bowel. Some of the symptoms are excruciating stomach pains, fatigue, severe diarrhea, malnutrition, and fatigue. Sometimes, the complications of Crohn’s can lead to death. There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. People that live with it have to learn how to live with it and attempt to do certain things to reduce pain and flare ups. http://www.mayoclinic.org

The symptoms can be mild or severe. They can develop or a period of time, or it can hit a person at all once. This is called the active time period. During this active period, the list of possibilities of symptoms goes on. Sadly, a person can experience several of these symptoms at once. Other symptoms besides the ones from above are blood in stool, mouth sores, reduced appetite, pain or drainage in the anus, inflammation in several areas (skin, eyes, joints, liver, or bile ducts), iron deficiency and kidney stones. If you have some of those symptoms, it does not mean you have Crohn’s. The time to see the doctor is when you are experiencing blood in stool, days of diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever, or abdominal pain http://www.mayoclinic.org. There are even times when nothing is going on. This period is called remission.With symptoms as these, I would personally call it moments of gratitude because I wouldn’t be in pain.

Since November 2003, this was not the case for Shay. It would be the moment that her life would forever change, and things would never be the same. Shay remembers it as if it were yesterday. She was in her college dorm room watching an episode of The Golden Girls when she would have experience her first symptoms; what we now know as her experiencing her first flare up. She felt sick to her stomach and had to go to bathroom. She was vomiting and experiencing diarrhea. Shay assumed it was something she’d eaten and didn’t put much thought into it. Around day 5 of the same thing going on, Shay was extremely weak that her basketball coach had to come feed her like an infant. The smell of food would not allow her to keep anything down. This went on for 7-8 days. After lasting that long, Shay knew it was more than a stomach bug or a bad case of diarrhea. She just didn’t know what it was.

The next severe flare up did not happen until the summer of 2004. Shay was on the track field with her basketball team. Her vision became blurry, and her ears began to hurt. The coach blew the whistle for the team to begin. Shay could not move because of not being able to see and the pain in her ear. She began to black out. Her coach yelled at her because she was not running with her teammates. He asked her was she scared to work out. He even gave her an option. He told her she could either start working out or pack her bags and go home. If you know Shay, she is an athlete. She has been involved in sports all her life. She was not a quitter. She gathered up some strength and began walking as fast as she could around the track. Every 10 steps, she was vomiting on the track. She only made 1 lap around the track, and she collapsed. She doesn’t remember how she got back to her dorm room.

This flare up lasted almost 2 weeks. She was experiencing constant diarrehea, rapid weight loss, no desire to eat, and thrush in the mouth. Shay was going from doctor to doctor to see what was going on with her body. Doctors were saying it was bacteria in her blood, the flu, or a stomach virus. She was having a side effects from the medications on the same time having a flare up, but she didn’t know it was a flare up. She was having to use the bathroom approximately 4 times in each hour. The diagnosis the doctors were giving her symptoms were absurd. She knew it wasn’t the flu. She knew it wasn’t a stomach virus. She lost 40 pounds in 3 days. Her teammates would be shocked when they saw her. Shay was in her room crying and praying for an answer. Due to her being in pain and not being able to practice, Chip, her father, came and withdrew her from school. Shay enrolled at ICC on a basketball scholarship. The head coach gasped when Shay arrived on campus. Shay was not the athlete she’d watch play in high school. Shay told her she was overcoming a sickness. She assured the coach that she would be able to practice if she would bare with her during this time.

In January 2005, there was a little relief. Shay went to a gastroenterologist and was diagnosed with Crohn’s. Even though she had the diagnosis, it didn’t help much. There was little information out about Crohn’s. The doctors didn’t know how to control it or how to reduce the symptoms. The doctors were changing her medications to see what happened. In the first 2 years, she changed about 6 times. The doctors told her to keep up with what foods made her sick and what didn’t. Her weight and health was in such bad condition. Typical body fat for athletes ranges from between 14-20% http://www.healthline.com. During this time, Shay’s body fat was reduced to 10%.

In August 2006, Shay transferred to the University of Alabama. The first year wasn’t bad. She would have min-flare ups that lasted 1-2 weeks instead of the 2-4 weeks before diagnosis. The college got a new basketball coach in June 2007. Shay was excited. Her stamina was coming back. She was looking forward to a new season. July 2007, Shay woke up that morning feeling dizzy. She went to the bathroom, and everything was coming out on both ends. When she flushed the toilet, all she saw was blood. Within 20 minutes, it was still going on, and Shay used the bathroom 4 more times. She freaked out. She called the coach, but he didn’t answer. She called the trainer. The trainer asked if she was able to drive to the school’s infirmary. Somehow, she was able to make it. It was nothing but the grace of God that allowed her to get there safely. During the drive, her head was spinning, ears were burning, and her vision was blurred. Once she was inside of the clinic, she passed out. She remembers the nurse slapping her in the face telling her to wake up and not to die on the floor. The nurse was kind and helped Shay clean herself up before the paramedics came to take her to the ER. When the paramedics came and rolled her out, Shay remembers seeing her teammates and coaches outside watching. All she could think about at that moment was being embarrassed because they’d seen her in that condition.

For 2 days, Shay remained in the hospital with no answers. Chip came and drove her to NMMC. The doctors discovered she had ulcers in her intestines. She had to receive blood at the hospital and another form of medication at the cancer center. After about 15 minutes of her second treatment, Shay had an allergic reaction to the Remicade and couldn’t breathe. The nurse inserted Benadryl into the treatment. They tried one more time doing the blood treatments at the cancer center, and the same thing occurred. That had to be stopped. It was trial and error with her body and her medications. Her medications had been changed many times. She had taken prednisone, flagly, Remicade, and some other pills. Now, her flare ups included everything she was already experiencing with bloody stools, receiving blood, and hospitalization that lasted for days. Would this ever stop? Would Shay ever get any relief?

I asked her how did the flare ups make her feel and how often was she having them. From 2004-2009, she was having flareups 4-5 times a year. 2010-2015, she was having them 2-4 times those years. 2016-2017, there were 6 flare ups. 2016 was a very bad year for her. Later, you’ll read why. Her answer to how the flare ups made her feel was the she had no control over her body. She was afraid of going places in fear of the possibility of having to go to the bathroom. There was no word to describe the pain that she was feeling. She felt that she had lost her true identity of Shay because of Crohn’s. She didn’t want to be a burden to a potential spouse because of her illness. She felt bad because of her parents or grandmother having to take off work to take care of her. She felt useless as a person.

The first time her grandmother, Lula, saw her. She began to cry. She said my baby is dying. That was a moment that Shay will never forget. In actuality, Mrs. Lula did not realize how true of a statement she made. I recalled one weekend going to the movies. I’d seen the movie, A fault in our stars. The movie was about a two teenagers with terminally and chronically ill patients that fell in love. Their parents did not want them to be together because they knew the end results for their lives. At the end, they die. After it was over, Shay and I were on the phone. I was in tears about the movie. I will never forget Shay telling me that is how she feels. There is not a day that her body is not in pain. She was smiling on the outside and going through her day, but she was in severe pain internally. There was a point that Shay should have died, she could have died, and Shay wanted to die because of the pain, how her life completely changed, and how things were no longer the same. In 2016 (during one of her flare ups), Shay was in excruciating pain and was unbearable. To escape the pain and misery, she asked her father to take his gun and shoot her…….

“I know the true meaning of in sickness and in health.”

January 1, 2016, Gary Hancock logged onto his Facebook page and wrote “I can’t wait to see what all good things come out of 2016. I am looking forward to a blessed year.” That would be the last time he would ever write those words. He said that he wishes it in his mind, but he will never write those words again on any social media platform. 2016 became of the most trying years of his life. In 2016, it became a year that Gary would experience the true meaning of the words (when he took his vows) through sickness and health. In 2016, he, also, experienced something else that was traumatic. What a year, 2016, it would be….

In 2010, Gary’s friends told him that they wanted to introduce him to someone, he told them that as long as the woman knew he wasn’t interested in anything serious he was okay with having a new friend. All he wanted was someone to occasionally go to dinner. Surprisingly, Mary Pat told her friends the same thing. The joke was on them. They fell in love. A year later, they were walking down the aisle saying “I do”. July 22, 2011 was when they became one together with them and with God on their side. It was God that gave them strength during these tumultuous times.

It was only a month later after Gary’s Facebook post that he felt the wind knocked out of him. Mary Pat was experiencing irregular symptoms going on in her body. She was bleeding in her stool. Mary Pat assumed it was irritable bowel syndrome. Through the urging of her family and Gary, she went to the doctor. Mary Pat was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Everything was set for Mary Pat to have surgery on February 1. Two days later, Gary’s mother, Jo Ann Holloman, was diagnosed with colon cancer too. Can you imagine having to try to be there for your mother and your wife at the same time with the same diagnosis? Can you imagine being pulled in two different directions because you want to be there for your wife, and you want to be there for your mom? Mary Pat made the decision for him. She told him she had plenty of support and for Gary to be with his mother. Be being with his mother, he was able to make lasting memories. Initially, Gary was afraid of losing his wife when she received her diagnosis, but he lost his mother to colon cancer instead.

Mrs. Holloman had no symptoms of any type of cancer, and their family had no history of cancer. Her diagnosis was a surprise because she was only exhibiting signs of anemia.She set up an appointment with her endocrinologist. Her doctor ordered a colonoscopy. There was still no sign of cancer, only the anemia. Four weeks later, her doctor still wasn’t satisfied. He ordered a more invasive scope. This scope revealed that Mrs. Holloman was in stage 4 cancer. The doctor had Gary to step out and delivered the news to him. Mrs Holloman asked Gary what the doctor said. He didn’t want to tell his mom what the doctor said about her diagnosis. She insisted that he shoot it to her straight. Gary uttered the words, ” Mom, the doctor says that you only have 6-9 months to live unless a miracle happens.” Mrs. Hollomon said “maybe, I’ll be the wrong to prove him wrong.” It was exactly 3 months from her diagnosis that Mrs. Hollomon took her last breath. She passed away May 2, 2016.

Gary said the months from February to June of 2016 was a total blur. It was filled of doctor’s appointments with his mom and making sure Mary Pat was ok. He was the only surviving child left. His brother passed away over 20+ years prior. His step-father passed away 2 years prior to his mom. He is thankful for their friends and family that stayed with Mary Pat as he was with his mother the last days of her life.

Life was going good. Mary Pat received a clean bill of health for three years. In 2019, her cancer returned. Here he was having another in sickness and in health test. He felt hopeless. All he had left was his wife and children. He begged God to please not take Mary Pat from him. Mary Pat had her ovaries removed. The doctors thought this would have her tumor level numbers back aligned. When she had her follow up appointment, her numbers were four times higher. This time, it was discovered that the cancer returned in her liver. Surgery was set at UAB March 2020. Prior to surgery, the hospital told Gary that he would be able to stay in the room with her during recovery.

On day of the surgery and after they’d taken Mary Pat to the back, they told that Gary would not be able to stay at the hospital during her recovery because of new Covid procedures. Gary wanted to pass out. He could not see her in prepping, after recovery, or even after surgery. The moment she was rolled back was the last time he would see her until she was released. UAB told Gary that he could drive back home, and they would call him each day to inform him of Mary Pat’s status. Gary did not care what the hotel fee was going to be he was not leaving Birmingham without his wife. Years prior, Gary worked in the hospitality industry. He still had friends there. They allowed him to use the friends and family discount for his stay. Due to the entire world had been shut down, there was nothing Gary could do but sit and wait. Gary said that he watched a lot of television and ate at few local restaurants that were still open. Due to the havoc and extra responsibilities of everyone in a hospital, UAB was not able to contact Gary as they’d stated. He was feeling helpless.

After being in the hospital for 6 days, Mary Pat was able to come home, but the feeling of helplessness was still there. He wanted to be strong for his family. He remembers one night he and Hayden were outside. Hayden asked was his mom going to be ok. He assured him that if it was the Lord’s will that she would. In the back of his mind, he was still wondering because he was thinking of his mother and her death. His mother was ordered chemotherapy. She was not able to take it. All she had was one round, and it put her in the hospital for one month. Mary Pat was ordered 12 rounds of chemotherapy, the same regiment his mother was on. Each round Mary Pat had, Gary wondered what if it got to the point that she could no longer take it and if it would do the same to her as it did his mom. One of his friends, Bobby Mooneyham, told Gary that because of everything he experienced with his mother he knew too much dealing with Mary Pat’s health and her recovery. He finally had a meltdown one night. He had been holding in his mother’s death for years. Mary Pat encouraged him to let it out and to seek counseling to help him through the emotions. Therapy still helps him to this day get through the hard times of life.

Each year, Mary Pat has to have test to ensure that the cancer has not returned. Gary tries to remain calm and not worry that is has returned. Even in the her moments of weakness, he could not give up nor let her give up. Gary’s faith in God and the support of family and friends have helped him endure the trying times. Sometimes, Mary Pat has questioned God why she lived and his mother did not. During a private moment before her death, Mary Pat assured Mrs. Holloman that he would take care of Gary and make sure he was ok.

Often times, couples do not make it when the sickness and health comes. Divorce is soon after. I asked Gary what advice would he give to anyone that is dealing with an illness of his/her spouse. Gary said that you have to have three people in your marriage (the couple and God). Without God, it will not survive. He said to be sure to support your spouse and to remember the vows that were taken before God. Through sickness and health. To death us do part. With God, all things are possible.

Sidenote… I went back to ask Gary more questions, and Hayden was home for spring break. It was impossible not to include him in hearing how he felt about his mother’s journey. I asked him how did he feel as his mother was going through chemotherapy and diagnosis. He said that he held it in. He did not express himself outwardly. To ease his mind, he played a lot of golf. That helped keep his mind off what was happening. Because of covid, he did not want to expose his mom to any germs and visit often. Hayden said it was very tough for him. He was not one to express his emotions until it was all over. He said that his mother’s healing and a clean bill of health was the best news that he ever received in his life. He said it was priceless. He said seeing Mary Pat ring the bell was worth it all.

The day Mary Pat rang the bell.

“I heard the words I have cancer twice.”

Here she was celebrating with her friends and family having dinner at Old Venice when Mary Pat received a call from her guardian angel. He told her Mary Pat. “I know you’re celebrating with your friends and family, but you were right. You cancer is back. There is a spot on your liver. You need to have more test.”

The ironic thing is that she didn’t have a clean bill of health.

Mary Pat had stepped outside on the patio when the call came through. She turned and looked at Gary. By the look on her face, immediately, he knew something was wrong. He stepped out to the patio to join her. Her friends were inside having a joyous time believing that all was well. Mary Pat and Gary had to yet again break the dreadful news that her cancer had returned. The entire team got quiet. They said maybe it’s a mistake. Even if it is true, we will get through it as we have before. Her friends were very supportive.

NMMC referred her to UAB again. She needed an oncologist/liver specialist. She had to wait about four weeks before one was selected. The doctor, she would be seeing, was ranked as the number 1 specialist in his field. Everyone was confident that this would be the last time she’d have to have surgery or the cancer reoccurring.

The thing is Mary Pat had a feeling that something wasn’t right even before she’d received the call that night. She’d seen Nurse Nan in Walmart and told her that she was wanting them to look again at her scans. With her receiving that clean bill of health, she wasn’t due to go back to the doctor for another six months, but Mary Pat could not shake the feeling of something being wrong. She asked Nurse Nan if she will talk to the doctors to see if they can review her charts again. Thankfully, the guardian angel did so. Her doctor in Birmingham informed her that if she had waited six months after the news of the “clean bill of health” she would not have been alive.

On top of the diagnosis of her cancer coming back, covid hit the entire world. Hospitalization would not be the same. Her surgery was scheduled, but it was not a guarantee that it would be performed the day scheduled because of covid. The hospitals did not know if there would be enough blood to have the surgery. The hospital informed Mary Pat that people could donate blood even if it wasn’t her blood type. A week before surgery, the community of Tupelo and Houston (Gary’s hometown) came together to donate blood. There was an enormous turnout. The blood drive was a success, and the surgery was scheduled.

Prior to covid, the patient’s loved ones were allowed to sit in the waiting room until the patient was sent into recovery. After recovery, family was allowed to stay and spend the night in the room with the patient. Due to no one understanding the virus and how it was transferred, the hospitals around the world had to take safety precautions. Prior to the surgery, Mary Pat was nervous about surgery and Gary being allowed to be in the room. The day before the surgery, the hospital called and stated that Gary would be able to stay in the hospital room with her. On the morning of surgery, everything changed. The staff came to take Mary Pat for surgery. She and Gary told their goodbyes. Gary went to sit back up front. The staff called him to the front desk. She said the hospital received a memo that morning that no one could be in the patient’s room, no one could sit while the patient was being prepped, no one was allowed in recovery, and that was his last time seeing her before he would pick her up after release. Gary became frantic and worried about his wife. He asked had Mary Pat received the news. If so, how did she react? The staff informed him that Mary Pat was distraught and had to have medicine to calm her down. He asked if there was any left for him. The hospital told him that once she was out of surgery he could go back to Tupelo, and they would contact him each day. Even though he wasn’t able to see her, he was not going to leave the city without her. He would remain in a hotel near the hospital and wait on news from there.

The surgery was successful. When the doctors went inside, a second spot had started to develop on her liver. The cancer had been growing rapidly. It was a blessing that she did not wait six months for another review. Because of the location of the tumor cells, Mary Pat would have to have chemotherapy. The tumor cells were close to arteries. The doctors had no way of knowing if the cancer had spread through her body. For safety precautions, twelve rounds of chemotherapy were ordered. It will eliminate the possibility of the cancer spreading. She didn’t have chemotherapy the first time, but this time she would the second round of cancer.

Everything was hectic and stressful. Mary Pat was in the hospital room alone. She wasn’t able to do anything for herself. Because of covid, nurses were pulled in every direction. It was no longer nurses being able to come in draw blood and examination. I know nurses do much more than drawing blood and checking on patients. I want to enforce that other duties of nurses outside of the norm were added to them. Because no one was able to sit with patients, the nurses were having to assist patients with positioning them in the bed, going to the bathrooms, walking down the hallway, and so many others things that were not typical nursing duties.

Mary Pat remembers one day she had to use the restroom. She waited 45 minutes for assistance, and no one came. She began to unhook herself. She said to herself. It was either her wetting the bed or unhooking herself. One of the nurses came in and asked her what she was doing. Gary had mixed emotions. He was upset that it took them that long to help her. He was sad that he wasn’t able to be with her as she was going through her healing. It was a tough six days of not being able to assist Mary Pat and sitting alone in the hotel room.

I asked Mary Pat how did she feel being alone in the room without Gary. She said that she thinks she was ok because of the pain medicine and being incoherent of what was going on. Her medicine had her very relaxed. She was only breathing five times a minute. It wasn’t good that her breathing was that low, but it was a good thing because she didn’t know what was really going on. While she was in the hospital room unaware of what was really going on, Gary was patiently waiting on news to see how Mary Pat was. It would be two days before she was coherent enough to call him. Gary laughs. He said she was talking mumbo jumbo, but he was ecstatic to hear her voice.

After being in the hospital for six days, they were able to go home. They recalled it as being similar to a carpool line at school. All the patients that were discharged were lining up in their wheelchairs and waiting on their rides to pull up. Just as the other times, her support system was there. Sherrie called Gary and told him to let her know when they were within thirty minutes away. When they pulled into their subdivision, there was a surprise waiting on them. Sherry and other friends lined up on their streets and had a parade for her. Chris, the owner of Absolute Clean, came and disinfected the entire house for her. With covid, it was a necessity for there not to be any germs for her healing. Friends and family made sure they were fed. They would sit the food on the table by the door. The home room parents surprised her at the Tupelo Country Club. All her students and parents presented her with a snack basket, rolls of quarters for her to have during her visits of chemotherapy for the vending machine, and an envelope of cash for her to use for her liking. The last day of school, the students and her parents lined up the neighborhood with signs telling her because of you I can do this now. It listed what the child learned from her. Mary Pat said she didn’t care at all about covid at that moment. She wanted to love on her babies.

On the last day of chemotherapy, Mary Pat’s friends and family were outside waiting on her.

Mary Pat had to wait six weeks past surgery before her chemotherapy would begin. In the first post, I discussed how teaching saved her life. Dr. Richard Arriola was the doctor that performed her biopsy after surgery and input her port. Mary Pat taught three of his children at Saltillo. She had to have twelve rounds of chemotherapy. It was once every two weeks. Due to covid, she had to go alone. It would start on Mondays with a four hour infusion. She had to wear a pump. It was in a 10 pound cross body bag. She would have to wear it for two days. The bag had its own place in the bed with them. It would keep her up for the days that she wore it. Once it was off (after 48 hours), Mary Pat’s body would crash. This lasted for six months. It was very tiring, but Mary Pat was determined to endure it to the end. Her goal was to make it to ring the bell. Ringing the bell is the significance of the patient letting everyone know the chemotherapy is complete.

This was one of her grandparents Christmas ornaments. Her mom gave it to her after chemotherapy to remind her to always rely on God.

After her chemotherapy, Mary Pat sought professional counseling. Her counselor told her you have gone through trauma. You have survived cancer twice. You have not been able to return to the classroom. As of today, she still hasn’t been able to return. She is waiting on the moment that she can. She lost her mother in law during her time of healing. She had surgery through an entire world pandemic. She was focused on ringing the bell and finishing the race, but she needs to take the moment to process it. That is what she is doing to this day.

The day Mary Pat rang the bell, her last round of chemotherapy

She is thankful for all the support she has had through her each and every experience. She is thankful for her friends, Sherry Rial and Julie Halbert, taking her to the beach to have moments of escape from reality. She is thankful for her children for loving her. Lastly, she is thankful for the love of her life for never leaving her side. When they said the vows of sickness and in health, their marriage was put to the test when she became sick. Gary never left her side.

Mary Pat and Sherry at the beach
Wedding day

The words of advice that Mary Pat would like to give to anyone that is reading today is to listen to your body. She doesn’t want them to wait until the last minute to have a colonoscopy. Don’t wait just your’e 50 if there are issues going on. She lets people know just because you have not had family history of cancer in your body it does not mean that you are not capable of getting it. If you have to have chemotherapy, there might be hard times. There will be times of wanting to give up and loose hope. She advises anyone to never give up.

Mary Pat going through a round of chemotherapy

Even though Mary Pat has endured a lot, Mary Pat feels that her experience has allowed her to become an advocate for colon cancer awareness. She came across a quote that she used to help her overcome. It says, ” you have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

“Teaching saved my life”

Cancer, the word no one wants to hear. Can you imagine hearing it twice? This is exactly what happened to Mary Pat Hancock. There had been no family history of cancer in her family. It was very shocking for her to receive the news once, but it was more shocking to hear it a second time less than five years later after the first diagnosis. The word, alone, is something that will suck the breath out of you and make you want to give up. Where as many of us would have given up, Mary Pat told her doctors that she was willing to do whatever she needed to do in order to recover because she wanted to see her children grow older, and she wanted to grow older with the love of her life. Mary Pat was a fighter. She was determined not to give up. Here’s her story.

Their family 💛💛💛

For a few months, Mary Pat noticed blood in her stool. Sometimes, it was light pink, and other times it was bright red in her stool. There were days when she felt an urgency to go right then. All things were uncommon in her body. I’ve written in other blog post. It is very important to know what is going on with your body and notice when you have changes going on. When this happens, it is important to seek medical attention. By doing this, it can save your life as it did for Mary Pat.

Mary Pat assumed she had irritable bowel syndrome. I asked her if she had previous diagnosis or stomach issues the reason she thought it. She hadn’t, but she just wasn’t believing it to be cancer. With her assumption of it being irritable bowel syndrome, she did not put too much concern in it. She had an appointment coming up in a few months with her gynecologist for her annual yearly check up. Mary Pat decided she would bring it up to her gynecologist at that appointment because said who likes talking about stool or bowel movements. There are not a lot of people that do. For this reason, colon cancer is the second leading cause of deaths in the United States (http://www.coloncancercoalition.org). Colon cancer is a very treatable disease. The 5 year survival rate is 90% when there has been early detection. This is why it is important to have a colonoscopy and get a health screening (http://www.cancer.org). Unfortunately, many people do not talk about it. March is colon cancer awareness month. Mary Pat wants people to make the topic of colon issues a normal casual conversation.

During a talk with her sister, Jenny Filgo, who is a nurse, about what was going on, Jenny advised her to seek medical help. She told Mary Pat to not wait a few months until she went to see her gynecologist to discuss what was going on. She told Mary Pat that she needed to see a doctor ASAP. It could be more than irritable bowel syndrome. A few years prior, Gary thought he might have had colon cancer. He had some issues going on. His only ended up being hemorrhoids. He advised Mary Pat to seek help as well. By listening to Jenny and Gary, it helped saved her life.

I’m sure you’re wondering if listening to Jenny and Gary saved her life how did teaching save her life. Mary Pat has been a teacher for 23 years. Teaching is her passion. She is a teacher that treats all children the same. If your children were taught by her, your children are blessed. With Mary Pat giving her all to her profession and her babies, their parents gave it all back to her. Let me be clear. Mary Pat did not go to any office asking or requesting any specific doctor. As a believer of Christ, she felt that all the doctors and nurses were aligned by God to take care of her during her time of preparation, the process, and the healing and were all God sent. She’d taken care of their children or grandchildren. Now, it was their time to take care of her.

With the advising of her family, Mary Pat made an appointment to see what was going on with her body. Her first visit was with Dr. Stephen Amann. She taught his sons in second grade. She told him what her suspicions were. Dr. Amann told her he wanted to have her do a colonoscopy to make sure she was well. Mary Pat was 47 at the time. She was worried about insurance not paying for it because of her age. Usually, insurance does not pay for the first colonoscopy for patients until the person is 50 years old. Dr. Amann told Mary Pat not to worry about insurance at the moment. Regardless if they paid or not, she needed the colonoscopy because of the symptoms she was having.

After she woke up from her colonoscopy, Dr. Amann said you need to sit up. He said I need everyone take a deep breath. Something was there. This is cancer. We’ve set up an appointment with Dr David Gilliland. She taught his son in second grade. Dr. Amann said you are to head there now. Mary Pat and Gary did not have the time to process what had been told to her. They had to immediately leave from Dr. Amann’s office and drive to Dr. Gillialand’s office. Just as other cancer, there are stages. Mary Pat was in stage 2 colon cancer. If she waited until the age of 50, she could have been in stage 4 cancer or even died before then.

Dr Gilliland had another scheduled event prior to Mary Pat’s appointment. He set up the appointment for Mary Pat to have surgery a week later. True to nature, Mary Pat taught each day leading up to her surgery.

They’d called some friends to let them know what was going on. Gary called her best friend, Sherry, and her sister to come and be with Mary Pat as he went to pick up Hayden from school. They did not want him to hear the words “your mom has cancer” from someone else. Sherry left work, and Jenny did not go in that day. She told Mary Pat that she felt in her spirit to take off work that day because she felt she needed to be there for Mary Pat. The Hancocks had the greatest support system with friends and family, and they are very appreciative still til this day.

When she was diagnosed, she was teaching at Saltillo Elementary. These are the teachers that supported her.

Surgery was set for February 1, 2016. Two days later, Gary’s mom, Jo Ann Holloman, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Gary was being pulled from all directions trying to take care of his mom and his wife. Mary Pat told Gary to focus on his mom and taking her to doctor appointments. They relied on their friends and family to be there with Mary Pat while he took care of his mother. I’ll share more of Gary’s experience and journey in two weeks.

The removal of cancer in the colon surgery was successful. 18 inches of her colon was removed. The doctors were pleased and satisfied. They ran test, and it showed all the cancer had been removed. Her margins were clear. Mary Pat and Gary asked if she was going to have chemo or radiation even if it was only one round. With her test showing normal, statistically, it wasn’t a need. The reoccurrence rate was 2 out of 100. Therefore, there was no protocol for her to have it. She had to see Dr. Julian Hill, the oncologist, for follow up visits. At first, it was three months. It progressed to six, nine, and to yearly appointments. Scans and test were done to ensure no cancer has returned.

Things has gone well for three years. Mary Pat was scheduled for her 4 year appointment. For cancer patients, it is a victorious moment if the patient makes it to year 5 without the cancer reoccurring. Everything was well the previous years, Mary Pat was expecting the same thing. Why should year 4 be any different?

This is one of Mary Pat’s favorite quotes.

It is a day that Gary will never forget. Gary owns a roofing company. He and his business partner were on a roof. While he was working, he received a call from Nurse Nan Francis (Dr Hill’s nurse). Tupelo had a bad storm. Gary thought she was calling to have work done for her house. He would have given anything for that to have been the purpose of the call. Instead, Nurse Nan called Gary to let him know there was an issue with Mary Pat’s test. The office had run the test three times. His business partner said that Gary’s face turned whitish gray and told him that they needed to get off the roof. Nurse Nan informed Gary that Mary Pat’s tumor marker numbers were up and had never been in the previous years. Something was wrong, and they needed Mary Pat to come back in. Gary knew that Mary Pat was excited about her getting close to the 5 year marker. He asked Nurse Nan to allow him to be the one to tell her the news.

When he got home, Mary Pat was headed to Starkville to take Hayden something to MSU. He’d left something at the house over the weekend, and she was about to leave the home to take it to him. Gary had called Sherry to have support to deliver the news. He told Mary Pat to wait to go because Sherry was coming over. When Sherry came, she and Gary were acting strange. Mary Pat said what’s going on. Y’all are acting like someone called y’all and delivered bad news about my test. Gary began to cry. He said since you mentioned it. Yes. I got a call from Nan today. Your numbers are off. You have to have some more test. Mary Pat said I knew this was going to come back and get me. Gary reassured her that he would get through it this time just as they did the last time.

All the appointments and testing started back over again (blood work, sans, and CT scans). The doctors did not know where the cancer was in her body. With the numbers being so high, they knew it was there. October 2019, the doctors found a cyst on one of her ovaries. Everything else was clear. The doctors said if the ovaries are removed that it should put the tumor marker numbers back in line. This surgery would have to be done at UAB hospital in Birmingham because Mary Pat had to have a specialist for gynecology/oncology. Her surgery was set for December 26, 2019 to have the ovaries removed.

When the doctors went to remove both ovaries, only, one ovary was there. The doctors said it was probably from the colon surgery. Originally, the doctors wanted to perform her colon removal laparoscopically. Due to the location of the tumor, Mary Pat had to be cut from the top of her chest to her pubic bone. All her inside organs had to be removed and placed in sterile surgery bags during the surgery. The ovary removal surgery was successful. Compared to the eight night colon recovery stay in the hospital, this time was only overnight stay at UAB. Mary Pat was scheduled to come back in six weeks for a check up.

The bracelets say fearless and survivor.

Remember, the ovary removal was to reduce the tumor marker numbers and eliminate the possibility of cancer in her body. Instead her numbers were 5 points higher. The doctors relooked all the test and scans and were unable to find anything. They said your CT scans are all clear and gave her a clean bill of health. Mary Pat and Gary decided to celebrate with a few family and friends at Old Venice restaurant because they’d received the clean bill of health news.

They weren’t there 20 minutes when Mary Pat received a call from her guardian angel. He said hey. I know you’re out celebrating and having dinner with your friends. I heard you received news that you were all clear. Mary Pat, you’re not all clear. There’s a spot in your liver. I think the cancer is there………………………………………….

“The question is are you truly loving you”

When you see the smile that is on my face today, it is one that is genuine. The happiness and joy that I feel is not a facade or pretense for others. Do I have sad days? Yes, but do I truly love Carman? ABSOLUTELY YES!! The feeling of truly loving myself was a journey and a process that took me some years to finally achieve. Now that I have this feeling of self love, I will NEVER go back for anyone.

I have had people to inbox me and ask me how are you so happy. Some have said you are glowing. Do you have a new man in your life? I don’t have a new man in my life. I let them know that I love Carman for all that she is. Here is my story.

Valentine’s Day is the day of lovers. We celebrate this day and honor your boyfriend/girlfriend or your husband/wife. What if you are single? How do you handle this day? I can only speak for myself. Valentine’s Day used to be depressing for me. My divorce was final January 2013. For 21 years, I was used to receiving gifts on this day or though out the year. After my divorce, I would see my coworkers receiving their gifts, and I would be envious. In my mind (at the time), the open display of gifts represented love. I wanted someone to love me.

For many years after my divorce, I was full of emotions (anger, sadness, bitterness, depression, and unforgiveness). I couldn’t seem to shake it. I wore my infamous smile, but I was really a broken women.

In 2014, I became a member of Saving Station International Ministries. My former leaders saw the mental state I was in. They said you have to first forgive yourself and love yourself. After you do those things, you can heal. That was such a hard concept for me to accept. In order for me to be a better person, I knew I had to take heed to these instructions.

Lady Casey Bumpus would hold monthly women’s meetings. Each month, there would be different topics. Regardless of the topic, her platform and ministry is always gonna be about centered around love. The meetings were a safe place for any woman in attendance to pour out her heart and heal. She always had the best interest of the women (men as well) in her heart.

Lady Casey Bumpus would always ask thought provoking questions. During one our private conversations, she asked me do I love myself. Immediately, I said yes. She said Carman, do you truly love yourself. Again and quickly, I said yes. She said ok. If you do, why are you entertaining the relationship with John Doe? It was nothing but a pointless “situationship” as the young people say. Why are you still walking around with unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart? She said you have let yourself go (my physical appearance), and I had. If I wasn’t at work, I didn’t care how I looked. I neglected pampering myself as I did in the past. I had to admit that everything she was telling me was true. The words of wisdom that she spoke to me began to marinate in my spirit and sink in. It was a must for me to let all of that go (situationship and all the things that were holding me bound).

Another piece of advice she gave me was to get busy. I thought it was very clique. I said what does getting busy have to do what anything. I said lady. You are married. You do not understand. She said Carman. I haven’t always been married.There are things that you like to do. Focus on those things, and you will begin to see you for who you truly are. The love for yourself will come. I am a witness to the statement. If you truly get busy, it allows your mind less time to wonder on pointless things.

I began to focus on me in all areas of my life. I focused on my classes and FINALLY graduated. I started blogging last year. I purchased a camera and began accepting clients for pictures. I started back caring what I looked like when I went outside the house and not just for when I went to work. I traveled wherever I wanted. I made sure I kept my facials, pedicures, and manicures. I began wearing makeup. Lady Bumpus was the first person that had my makeup professionally done for me and tips and lesson in it. I absolutely love makeup. I don’t wear it as much now because of the masks. If I’m headed out on a night out of town, I’m beating my face. ☺️ If you knew me from days old, you will see the transition I’ve had. Simply, I started doing things that make me happy. Now, I have the concept that if it isn’t for my happiness, I am not doing it.

Even though I am not a member of SSIM anymore, I believe in giving credit where it is due. Thank you Lady Casey Bumpus for instilling the values, encouraging me, and empowering me to love myself. If you had not seen something in me, I would still be that broken and hurt women that is going in circles and letting life pass her by.

Now, when you see me, the smile is genuine. It is real. There is no man that is making me happy. It is self love. I can truly say that I am at a place in my life where I am happy within myself, and it is true happiness.

I ask that each of you reading this today to do one thing. Look in the mirror each day. Find something you love about yourself and speak it outloud. If you don’t love yourself first, who can you love? Remember, “to thine own self be true”. The question is do you truly love you?