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OstomyLife Community Spotlight | Melissa Marshall

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
11/15/17  2:24 PM PST
OstomyLife Community Spotlight

OstomyLife wants to share the stories of our amazing community members!

If you would like to be featured on our OstomyLife Community Page, please submit your or your loved one’s story to asklaura@shieldhealthcare.com.

 

Singer and songwriter Melissa Marshall was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013 at 51-years-old. After a lengthy battle, and ostomy surgery, Melissa was cured, and began a crusade of inspiration and education.

Because of her high-energy career of nightly musical performances, Melissa felt the toll of years of dancing on her hips and joints. While prepping for a routine hip replacement surgery, Melissa dealt with fatigue, rectal bleeding, and weight loss. She assumed all of the signs were connected to menopause and the stress of preparing for surgery.

Following almost a year of escalating bleeding, constipation, and irregular bowel movements, Melissa confided in a friend about her struggles. The friend urged Melissa to speak with a colorecal surgeon who, in turn, immediately paused the hip replacement surgery and sent Melissa for medical tests to determine what was causing all of her symptoms. After a colonoscopy, a tumor the size of a golf ball was found very low, near her sphincter. It was cancerous.

Melissa began the arduous wait to see a colorecal specialist that could offer her the care she needed to survive. She was then diagnosed with stage III colorectal cancer and ended up receiving a colostomy bag on November 14th, 2013 with little chance of a reversal. This meant that, for the rest of her life, she would be living with an ostomy bag. As she began chemotherapy on January 31st, 2014, as well as undergoing radiation from April to March of that same year, Melissa found her body ravaged by their effects. She was frightened that due to the ostomy bag, and the months of chemotherapy, she would never again resume her singing career.

While recuperating from her ostomy surgery, the idea for the “No You Cant’cer” Butterfly necklace came to her. Melissa wanted a token of her fight against colorectal cancer. She designed the blue-ribbon butterfly charm and had a jeweler set it into reality. Fueled by a new excitement, she penned the song, “No You Cant’cer” about her surprise at being diagnosed and how she would persevere in her attempts to overcome it. Even though Melissa still was unsure if she would ever be able to sing again, writing the music began to heal her.

After receiving her necklace during the December holidays, Melissa’s jewelry became her trademark and she wore the piece every day. It garnered interest with strangers, some for its beauty and others for their understanding of what the blue ribbon represented. Melissa found herself sharing her story with others, many of whom who didn’t understand what an ostomy bag was. She saw that there were many misconceptions to the life-saving appliance and those who did not understand it thought it to be unclean, undesirable, and unnecessary. From these myths, she decided to devote her life to educating the public about colorectal health and ostomy bag realities. From this, the “No You Cant’cer” Foundation was created.

In early June of 2015, Melissa found the strength to record ‘No You Cant’er’ and begin the task of growing her new nonprofit. She nurtured an idea: “It’s in the Bag,” is an educational pamphlet that will be available in hospitals and colorectal doctors offices. In these publications there will be links to support groups, the dispelling of ostomy myths, and facts to help others take charge of their colorectal health. Colorectal cancer is not glamorous, nor are many comfortable discussing it as they are with the more “mainstream” cancers. After she was found to be cancer free on July 17, 2014, Melissa found that she had the voice, and the courage, to empower more people to say, “No You Cant’cer” and live their ostomy life with pride.

You can find Melissa’s foundation at www.noyoucantcerfoundation.org.

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My 89-year-old mother loves to swim but she has found that the pouch fills with water when she gets into the pool. What can we do to fix this?
Cathy
We recently had someone reach out to our Facebook community with a similar question, and several of our OstomyLife community members responded with their own advice.
 
Hopefully you and your mother will find their answers helpful ...


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