By: Kimberly Coleman

My battle with cancer has only served to enrich and teach me new and amazing things about life.

That statement is the last thing I thought would come from my lips when I was first diagnosed in July 2015, with stage 2 rectal cancer complicated by a fist-sized tumor in my sigmoid colon.

On the day of my diagnosis, I cried with my husband, left the doctor’s office, bought a bottle of champagne, and went home to toast my decision to beat this beast called cancer. Little did I know that cancer would prove to be one of my most formidable foes. There were so many days, it had me on the ropes and ultimately face down on the mat.

However, as I went through six weeks of oral chemotherapy combined with 33 radiation treatments, having the unconditional love and incredible support of my amazing husband of 16 years at the time, our kiddos, and my community was so uplifting and encouraging. Although my thoughts and large support system were mostly upbeat and optimistic, there were many rough and unbearably painful days that left me in tears and thinking that my promise to beat this disease was made in vain.

A few months later, in November of 2015, upon waking from emergency surgery in a hospital bed with my worried husband by my side, I realized just how much cancer had taken from me. After my surgeon soberly informed me that a bowel perforation and obstruction almost took my life and left me with a two-year temporary colostomy which was originally slated for six weeks, I was blown away by how quickly life had changed yet again for me.

During those ten days in the hospital recovering and adjusting to my new life as an ostomate, my biggest take-away was that I was alive. This realization gave me new purpose and strength instantly. It was then, I chose to pick up the phone and call my childhood abuser to demand an apology. After that, I felt free to live my best life.

Having experienced numerous complications and hospitalizations with my new ostomy, “Toodles”, formerly known as “Fred”, completing six more months of port chemotherapy, and experiencing the passing of my mother, life was challenging to the max. Yet the tools that I used to overcome the hardships such as: family support, cancer therapy, laughter, writing, goal setting, motivational speaking, traveling, and learning burlesque/pole fitness helped me to beat this disease. Many think beating cancer is physical, however, anyone who suits up mentally to battle cancer beats it, regardless of if our bodies transition. This battle is 100% mental and that is why having a positive attitude, healthy emotional outlets and a strong support system is crucial to those in the fight.

In December of 2016, I received the official NED aka “no evidence of disease” status and chose to permanently keep my ostomy, Toodles. Having since gone on to become an international best-selling co-author, model, motivational speaker, burlesque dancer, and ostomy/cancer awareness advocate have been incredible highlights for my life.

In 2020, still NED, my plan is to continue to create incredible memories with my family, set more goals and ride this thing called life, until the wheels fall off.