Unbroken- Cancer

From the age of 15 years old, I struggled with a very painful and heavy menstrual cycle. I missed 1-2 days of school every month, because of it. At 18, I was diagnosed with endomitosis. I had several laparoscopy and ablations throughout a course of several years, but they never helped. so at age 30, I had a full hysterectomy. 2 years later, I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. I did not want to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, so through lots of prayers and educating myself on nutrition, I was able to enter into remission. It was 6 months of extreme discipline and being bedridden a lot of the time, but it worked! Since then, I have been rediagnosed with Melanoma on multiple occasions, and have had to undergo many surgeries, but am blessed to still be here.

God is good.

-Amber Cline
Optimistic- Cystic Fibrosis

I was diagnosed at 2 with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. I was told to expect frequent hospitalizations and knew that a lung transplant could be in my future. A typical day for me consists of multiple therapies and a regimen of pills. One of the hardest decisions for me was pursuing a career in microbiology knowing that the bacteria and viruses could be dangerous to my lungs. I refused to let my disease limit me and I am now working full time as a researcher and couldn’t be happier. I’m rarely hospitalized and thanks to advancements in research and a strong support system, I’m blessed with a high lung function. Remaining optimistic has gotten me through many struggles. I know I have a bright future ahead, even with Cystic Fibrosis.

-Briana Swan
Valiant- Domestic Abuse

I was charmed into a relationship with a narcissistic psychopath at age 19, had a child with him, endured narcissistic abuse, and left him when my daughter was 2 months old. Little did I know that I would spend the next decade of my life defending myself in court and trying to protect myself and my daughter from him while he continued to abuse me, tell outrageous lies, and try to take my daughter away from me simply out of spite. Within that decade, I had been stalked, harassed, drugged, raped, and fought off another attempted rape. I married, had a miscarriage, and had another child only to have my husband fall off the wagon return to drugs and alcohol, have an affair, and leave us shortly after our son was born. That ended with divorce. I know dealing with my crazy, taunting ex was too much for him. I am happy to say that I won the decade-long court battle and I am now happily remarried, homeschooling my children, and own three businesses. I never know when my crazy ex will rear his ugly head and I live every day knowing that his plan was to drag me through the court system until my daughter turned 18 and then kill me. However, I refuse to live in fear; I have the Lord on my side and I am thankful for my story and all that I have overcome that has helped shape me into the woman I am today.

I have seen God at work through all of this; He has redeemed my life! By His strength, I have made it through many difficult years. I have been determined to use my pain for good. It has refined me, not defined me, and I hope that my story will help encourage and empower other women to not just survive, but to thrive. You have to make the choice to be better, not bitter.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
Isaiah 43:2

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

“As long as you have breath, your story isn’t over yet.”
– Christena Elliott

-Christena Elliott
Invincible – Chiari Malformation

“My name is Dana, I am a strong, independent, invincible omen who has overcome an enormous amounts of hardships. I have raised two kids on my own, while working twelve hour shifts as a home health nurse, and suffering from a neurological condition called Chiari Malformation that hs no cure Trying to decrease my symptoms, I took a risk and pursued my first brain surgery in January of 2015. Unfortunately, this surgery was a complete disaster making my condition worse. Symptoms ranged from server headaches, debilitating dizziness, nausea, trouble swallowing, vision problems, rapid heart rate, gait problems, server neck pain, and on and on! It was very scary time for all of us. About six months later a tumor was found on my parotid gland, so that was remove with another 6 hour surgery leaving me with numbness to the right side of my face forever. I was progressively getting worse with my Chiari symptoms, but in March 2016 I found Dr. Vorster who was willing to help try to reverse what symptoms had been done in the first surgery.

He performed an 8 hour surgery and put a titanium plate in my head to keep my brain from falling out of my skull. My muscles in my neck had scarred to the head to keep my brain from failing out of my skull. My muscles in my neck had scarred to the dura of my brain and had to be scareped away carefully. I was in ICU for a day and then to a step down room. I thin went through therapy and was back to work after 6 weeks of healing. My symptoms aren’t nearly as bad as they were. I am forever grateful for being able to push through all of these challenges and to be able to raise my two daughters, Paige and Mya, and keep my job as a home health nurse. Later on this year, I will even be getting married. Although I still heal and suffer from Chiari Malformations and the neurological symptoms that come with it, I keep pushing.

Nothing can stop me! I am invincible…”

-Dana Nicole Lindsey
Everything that I was feeling would happen at random times. I couldn’t find a pattern or any triggers. I missed birthdays, work, and would have to back out of plans. It was a horrible time period. I was scared and started to doubt myself, because every test result stated that I was healthy. All of the symptoms showed otherwise. I pushed to be referred to a gastroenterologist and ophthalmologist. This was the peak of everything for me. The roller-coaster hill I would soon fly over.

I was scheduled to have an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy. Photos, results, explanations, and a plan were all given to me the same day. It was such a load off of me to have confirmation that I was sane. I wasn’t exaggerating or creating all of this. There really was something going on. Down the line, I would learn that my eye inflammation and joint pain were symptoms of my underlying illness.

In 2016 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Colitis, or Crohn’s effecting my colon. In 2017 I was diagnosed with uveitis and iritus.

There are a few types of Crohn’s Disease and it can occur anywhere from your mouth to your rear end. Some people show symptoms by having chronic mouth sores, and others can have blockage of their intestines. It is such a vast illness to have, which can make it tricky to pinpoint. Iritis is the inflammation of the iris (color part of your eye) and uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea (white of your eye).
Previously, I had heard of Crohn’s Disease, but had no idea what it was. I would soon have a crash course in learning about this autoimmune disease. This means that your body believes a part of itself is foreign and it attacks. Inflammation is the result and is bad. The inflammation can manifest in your eyes, joints, colon, small intestine, stomach, etc. There is no cure, but with treatment it can be managed — In the best cases you’ll reach remission and become symptom free. I’m learning to listen to my body when it says I need to sit down, when I need to choose different ways of eating, when I need to say no to stilettos, knowing that it’s ok to decline an invite, and more.

I’ve been active in modeling for about 10 years. It has been difficult to know that I’ve been passed over due to my body changes and the pressures of the industry. Swollen faces from months of steroids aren’t selling product… neither is a puffy belly from a flair up *sarcasm..kinda* It can also be tough to have to often explain why you forget simple tasks, are wearing sunglasses indoors, need help to cut your food, don’t want to go to dinner, have multiple alarms set for the bag full of pills you carry everywhere, want to sleep all the time, need to take breaks from standing, or are carrying your dress shoes while wearing slides. I use to feel very isolated. Very alone even if I was in a crowded room. I was so close to going back to counseling it’s not funny. One day I stumbled upon a Crohn’s support group and local foundation. Life. Saver. Knowing there were women living with the same illness as me, having similar thoughts, similar questions, and feelings turned everything around. I’ve met some of the most wonderful people.

Recently I started a biologic medication. I’ll have to have injections indefinitely, but the goal is for this to help put me in remission. Big picture moment here.

Learning is a lifelong task. You should never stop. I’m learning to overcome Crohn’s Disease and to live my best life. It won’t stop me from my goals, from being a good person, or role model. Crohn’s is an extension of me. It allows me to connect with people that I normally wouldn’t, helps me show others that they can reach goals too, and more. It also helps with the understanding that even when you see smiles and success there can be an unknown battle taking place.

DeSire Ball
Indestructible- Abuse

“I am indestructible.

I recently found out I am a child of rape. I am a survivor, thanks to my mom. I am indestructible.
I have been abused physically by a finance. I was carrying his child at the time. He broke things, threw things and picked me up and slammed me against the wall. I didn’t marry him and I raised MY son with no help from him, into a wonderful, brilliant young man.

I am a survivor, I am indestructible.

I have been abused mentally and emotionally for a year by my husband, at the time. He said I would never amount to anything. I didn’t know it was abuse. He was charismatic, he was a pastor, he was a father, I believed him. I thought I was nothing, no good, the worst of the worst and he convinced me that my family didn’t want or love me either. Until that night… we were arguing. He left and went to bed. I sat there on the couch, I prayed to God, I told God that I would not leave my husband. That I made a vow, a promise to withstand it all, through sickness and health, richer or poorer, through good and bad. I asked God for strength and His guidance. God had other plans. He knew I wouldn’t stay if I was hit. I had witnessed it before when my dad hit my mom. I wouldn’t stand for that. And that is what happened. My husband required me to sleep naked. So I got in bed that night, naked and he hit me. Slapped me over and over and over. He only stopped because I screamed so loud, a bloody murder scream. When he stopped, he said, “see what you made me do.” I left that night, with my 5-year-old son and never looked back.

I am a survivor, I am indestructible.

My life is much better now. I am remarried to a wonderful man and have an amazing daughter. My son is married to a wonderful girl. But even being married to Michael hasn’t been easy. It’s not him, it’s his ex-wife and daughters. I have had some of the worst lies told about me, ones that make it so I haven’t been able to be around his daughters. Horrific. The girls are no longer welcome in our house because of the lies they tell. My husband is protecting me and our family. I feel for him. He misses his girls, but they have betrayed him and me.

Some people wouldn’t be able to handle all that. All that evil has been thrown at me.
With my God, I have survived. He has given me a supportive family- a mother who raised me to be strong, a son who believes in me, a husband who has my back. I thank God for always showing me the way.

I am a survivor, I am indestructible.” -Gretchen Hines
Determined – Endometriosis

I was 12 years old when I was laying on the bathroom floor in so much pain I was vomiting, it was Christmas eve and I was wearing a new pair of purple pajamas. Through the years the pain continued on and only became worse, how that is even possible, I still don’t know. At 17 driving home from tennis practice, I passed out from the pain of an ovarian cyst rupture. Thereafter was the first of hundreds of doctors appointments and hospital stays. The doctors would say “Well you don’t look sick”. I was diagnosed with Chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, IC, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. No one believed the amount of pain I was in on a day to day basis. I felt very alone.

At 25 I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis. My health was declining and with ovarian cysts filling my abdomen my hormones levels were off so much that I ended up becoming obese. At 27 I lost 100 pounds in 1 year. I was to sick to take photographs and set my camera down. At 29, I underwent a laparoscopy to have endo scraped out and my ovary removed. My reproductive organs were on borrowed time and the dreams of becoming a mother faded each passing day as the pain become debilitating. In June of 2013, childless, incredibly ill and exhausted, I had a full hysterectomy that in returned saved my life. With a size 7 chocolate cyst that had engulfed my pelvic cavity, my ovary was not even able to be seen. The doctors told my parents it was so bad there was no way I would have ever been able to have children and he didn’t know how I was even functioning day to day.

As the weeks went by I adjusted to the medically induced menopause and started taken photographs again. As I took a leap of faith into becoming a full-time photographer I became very ill again. With the shift in my organs, my gallbladder became infected and I started to go septic. After weeks of issues, my gallbladder was removed. I didn’t get better though, after months of issues I ended up back in the hospital from complications from the surgery. I was again in pain every day. The following year I woke out of my sleep in the early mornings to what I thought was a heart attack, I couldn’t breath and the pain in my chest felt like I had swallowed flames. Do to the NSAIDS I had taken for pain for so many years, I had developed 100’s of stomach ulcers.

After years of dealing with ulcers and changing more of my lifestyle, eating and living without pain relief I started to heal. Going on to open my photography studio in the fall of 2017.

Endometriosis has been a huge part of my life. It has taken years of my life away from me. It has ruined friendships, relationships, jobs, and so many other things. I raise awareness for the incurable disease that affects 1 in 10 women whenever I can. I won’t ever let it stop me again, I have dreams to achieve and a life to live, I am determined.

-Joslyn Crowl

Patient – Crohn’s Disease

My diagnosis of Crohn’s didn’t come until after years of doctors, testing, and misdiagnosis. There’s nothing like being told that you’re choosing not to eat. No one believed me or understood how simple foods caused horrible and debilitating pain.

Fear of pain can affect every choice you make.

Life isn’t easy or perfect.

Divorced parents, a medically fragile little brother, my oldest brother killed in Iraq. Not a picture perfect life, even without an invisible illness.

But sometimes tough challenges make strong survivors.

I was unexpectedly pregnant and told the risks of continuing. My biggest blessing came from deciding to live my life and not a Crohns life. I love every moment with my baby girl.

-Lucie Kinslow

Hopeful – Miscarriage

I gave birth for the first time in 2015 following a normal pregnancy. I was so anxious and paranoid about every little thing throughout those 40 weeks that I barely enjoyed being pregnant at all. So when I learned I was expecting again last spring, I promised myself that I wouldn’t worry and would focus on just being healthy and enjoying the experience.

The first doctor’s appointment about a month later was exciting – my husband and I were able to hear the baby’s tiny but strong heartbeat and were given a due date. We shared our happy news with our parents, siblings and a few close friends who were all thrilled for us.

Several weeks later I had some unusual symptoms but as I had promised myself to be calm, I wasn’t worried. I checked in with my doctor’s office and they asked me to come in right away. The drive to the office was the first time I even considered the possibility that something might be wrong.

After what felt like an eternity-long wait in the exam room alone (my husband was in the waiting room with our toddler and my 11-year-old stepson) the doctor came in and promptly began the ultrasound. He was quiet as he looked at the screen and with every passing second of silence, I could feel my chest tightening more. When he finally spoke, he began by saying, “I’m so sorry.”

My first thought was that my poor baby’s heart had stopped beating at some point and I didn’t even know it. How could I not have known when he or she was a part of me? You hear about miscarriage happening, but never think it will happen to you.

The very next day I had to undergo a procedure to remove the baby’s body from mine, which was a horrific experience. The following days, weeks and months were full of a grief that’s difficult to describe – for a life not even lived outside of the womb for a day, but a life that was fully loved already.

While I still think about our son or daughter every day and feel sad, I know he or she is in heaven with God and am hopeful that we will be together again one day. I am also hopeful that God’s plan for me and my family includes more children. I know He will show me that plan at the right time. I am hopeful.

-Mary Moore

Tenacious – Attempted Suicide

“I have struggled with mental illness since I can remember. It wasn’t until I had my son that things took a turn for the worst. I developed server PPD/PPA days after having him and was hospitalized for 10 days when he was 6 weeks old. He is now 5 years old., and my life has never been the way it was before him. I have been diagnosed with OCD, and Bipolar II Disorder. I have been on pretty much every medication for the last 5 years. I have seen numerous psychiatrists and have even been labeled as ”treatment resistant.”

But my story doesn’t end there. In November 2015 I started experience neurological symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, server itching, burning, vertigo, and widespread pain. I was miserable, to say the least. I was hospitalized shortly after and was checked for MS, but everything came back fine. Everything kept coming back fine. I kept seeing doctor after doctor trying to find answers. I didn’t know what was happening to my body. People told me it was all in my head and to try to forget about it. But I couldn’t. I experienced this symptom everyday for 6 months. I felt so alone. No one would take me seriously. It was during this time I became addicted to Ativan. It was the only thing that helped me function enough to work and to take care of my son.

One day I finally broke down. I remember the day like it was yesterday. Before I was to go work, I impulsively took an entire bottle of Ativan. 59 pills to be exact. I was immediately hospitalized and quickly watch my life spin out of control. I was cut from Ativan cold turkey an experienced severe withdraw symptoms for months. It sent me into a major depression. I couldn’t eat, sleep, work… function. I was depressed and anxious constantly. Every day. I wished for God to let me die. That I would go to sleep and never wake up. I held my son. Every time I thought about wanting to die, I would think about him. I could never leave him.

I started counseling and saw a psychiatrist regularly. I did partial hospitalization at Ohio State University for a month. I went to the Cleveland Clinic and was diagnosed with vestibular nerve damage and neuropathology I saw a Rheumatologist at OSU and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Slowly, I got better. I started to have feelings of happiness again. I started working again. My medications were switched and the suicidal thought stopped. Now, some days are better than others, and every day is a challenge, but I am proud of myself. I push through every day. I am a great mom and wife. I got to work every day. I practice self care. I am no longer addicted to Ativan. My little boy, Ian, is my entire world. I stay strong for him. I will continue to fight. I am 1 in 4. I am a survivor.”

-Stephanie Brewer

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