Updated: Mar 27, 2020
This blog is dedicated to anyone who is struggling with a difficult challenge in their life. That could be anything! Your health, a relationship, finances or any other trial that is keeping you from being really happy right now. Just know that I'm thinking about you.
I want to share some details of a very difficult experience I went through in 2013. My focus is how I actually discovered JOY and HOPE in my diddicult journey, rather than depression and despair.
I was diagnosed with colon cancer August 26, 2013.
SPOILER ALERT: As of March 27, 2020, almost seven years later I am cancer free but it cost me twelve inches of my colon which was removed. I am EXTREMELY grateful, however, that it wasn't worse. I was in stage 2 of this cancer. Thankfully it hadn't spread to other parts of my body so I was able to avoid chemo and radiation treatments.
That day in August after receiving the news that I had Colon Cancer, I immediately started journaling my experience. I didn’t realize at the time how healing it would be to write down my thoughts and feelings as it unfolded. This is the first time I have revisited this experience in almost 7 years.
My desire for sharing it publicly is to hopefully help at least one person who may be struggling with something and give them hope and some valuable tools to help them find joy and happiness DURING their trial.
It all began August 26, 2013.
I’ve been an outdoor adventure guide since 2003. I’ve created, planned, researched, promoted, and guided hundreds of adventure trips for several years so I am very familiar with "adventure trips", however, this one will be remembered the most since it has had the biggest impact on my life.
Within an hour after I was told I had Colon Cancer by my good friend and physician, Dr. Randy Ryser, I was inspired to name it the
“CC Adventure Trip” (Colon Cancer). That's a story all by itself. Later I'll share how this inspiration came to me.
I have felt plenty of remorse for not listening to my mom and getting a colonoscopy sooner. I now live with the consequences of my actions.
1) Even as an adult, do what your mom says, especially when she tells you to do something several times.
2) If a person has a family history of colorectal cancer, his or her risk of developing the disease is nearly double. The risk further increases IF other close relatives have also developed colorectal cancer or IF a first-degree relative was diagnosed at a younger age. Find out if you have a history of Colon Cancer in your family. If so, talk to your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy. I either disregarded this information or somehow didn’t realize I had so many close relatives with a history of colon cancer. Be open and discuss difficult subjects like this with your children, grandchildren, spouse, etc.
This was not the adventure trip I wanted but it didn’t matter. It was mine, like it or not.
Here are my thoughts as my 2013 trial unfolded which
I’ll now refer to as an "Adventure Trip".
Monday, August 26, 2013
This adventure trip is full of knowns and unknowns.
Here’s what I know so far:
I know who is coming on this trip. It's a lot more people than I usually take on a trip. It includes all of my family members, extended family members, friends, doctors, nurses, and many other medical personnel, etc.
I know it's not centered around the outdoors which is a little foreign to me.
This one is mostly centered inside of my body.
It started Monday, August 26, 2013, the day I found out I had colon cancer.
How long will this trip last? Unknown
How much will it cost? Unknown
Where are we going on this trip? Unknown
Will it be fun? YES
Regardless of what happens, I have already decided, as of August 26, 2013, that it will be a FUN adventure trip since who wants to go on an adventure trip that isn't going to be fun?
I know that ALL of my trips are full of many incredible, memorable moments along with some difficult, not-so-pleasant moments.
That's what happens on all of my adventure trips!
I know this adventure trip will have meaning and purpose.
5 things I know...
1) There are many people who love and care about others and want to help. I feel this love from many people far and near and from my own support team.
2) When you increase your faith in God or in a higher power you can be healed. Faith really does precede a miracle. I have tested this principle out many times in my life and it works every time! I live by the words of President Thomas S. Monson, which again I have tried and tested throughout my own life,
"Your future is as bright as your faith!"
I exercise faith every day in relationships I’ve been developing all of my life, namely in my Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Trying to learn more about Jesus Christ and how He can help me in all of my daily decisions is something I spend time doing every day. I put a LOT of trust in Him. I have been promised that Christ will help me if I draw closer to Him and that's exactly what I try to do each day. They have never let me down. Not even once. How many people can you say that about? I don't always get my way but I feel an inner peace and happiness when I keep God's commandments and try to be close to Him. I know they love me very much and I know they know me really well because I have felt their love often and can tell they are guiding my life. Since it has been this way all of my life, there is no doubt I will continue receiving more divine help through this particular Colon Cancer trial.
3) Be grateful for EVERYTHING that comes your way - the good, the bad, the ugly. Someone once told me "Sheryl blooms where ever she is planted." This is the person I'm trying to become every day. Even though I fall short it is something I’m striving for. I know that the “merciful” really do receive mercy. (Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7).
4) Life really IS like a boomerang - whatever you do to others it will come back to you and hit you right in the face! I know I’m far from perfect but I try to show kindness and compassion to all people who are around me. It is coming back to me 1000 fold.
5) Great and wonderful things often come from really ugly, hard experiences. That's exactly how my hiking group got started in 2003. It certainly wasn't when I was feeling happy and on top of the world. It was exactly the opposite. I was very distressed, discouraged, sad, frustrated, confused, etc.
On another occasion, a friend shared her feelings with me after her three month old daughter died. She said: "Before the baby was born, everything seemed fine. Then, she was born, complications came one right after another before she finally died. It was like I had prepared for an Adventure Trip to Italy but instead we landed in Holland. There is nothing wrong with Holland but our hearts were set on Italy."
Generally we want our lives to go in one direction when they actually head in another direction. I believe God is leading us on a different path that is actually much better than the one we picked for ourselves.
Because of the path I've been on, I have developed a much deeper empathy for those who suffer with cancer, illness or any kind of heartache - whether it be emotional, mental, physical, social, financial, etc.