The last time I wrote a blog post, everything in my life changed. And quite quickly.
It was just another normal morning for me, but I remember feeling like I needed to take the week off. I had just finished teaching a successful workshop that weekend and I gave so much energy to it. I am an empath, meaning I can easily feel, read and absorb other people’s emotions. I am trying to get better about handling it, although it is something I feel more and more the older I get. I have a tendency to attract people who need to be uplifted and loved, and I feel it is a huge gift for me when I am able to give words of encouragement to those that I meet.
Needless to say, I knew I needed to take a break. I had just had some incredible things happening with my work. (See last post) But basically the artwork at IKEA had already broke the records in 2 quarters for the sales we predicted for the entire year. I was also preparing for an artist in residency in Bermuda for the end of the next month with Hamilton Princess, and my artwork would be in June’s British Vogue and I was literally finalizing the proof they wrote about me that morning. I almost felt…like I could not process all of it.
It was around 12:30 in the afternoon when everything changed. I went to the bathroom and saw that I had passed blood. I didn’t want to freak out, but I knew what it meant. As some of you know, in 2016 I suffered a blood clot in my lungs as well as a GI bleed that we never really found out the direct cause of. So I instantly was transported back to a very scary time in my life. I wanted to remain calm and not assume the worst. But somehow what I have learned in these experiences is…there is a difference between anxiety and really knowing when something is wrong. You usually know it in your gut. And for me…that is how I literally felt. I knew it was going to take time to find out what was wrong even before the 1st test. I had to go in knowing, that whatever was coming my way I was prepared for. And accepting this whole experience would make my life easier.
I’ll spare you a long lengthy story, and pretty dark details here, but we went to the ER and I proceeded to lose about half my blood in the space of 24 hours while we awaited various test results. Test after test, day after day I was so blessed to have the support of Brandon, my in-laws, Michelle Armas my best friend here in Georgia, and so many countless others who sent me messages from near and far. My Instagram is like my family, so feeling that rally of support was so vital for me. I received 3 blood transfusions, but I knew I still had lost a lot of energy that I would need to gain back at home in time. Finally some results came in through a pill cam test, they spotted a “nodule” in my small intestines and some ulcers. They needed to biopsy the nodule so I had to schedule that out for about a week away. I went home, still at risk to bleed at any time. So what did I do….I watched about 3 seasons of Golden Girls, ate what the doctors suggested and did a little bit of walking everyday to rebuild the energy I lost from being in the hospital and becoming anemic.
Being at home, not knowing if you have something very seriously wrong with you, is one of the hardest places to be. You live in your head, and it can take you to dark places. The easiest thing for me to do was to take a deep breath, and say “You are OKAY RIGHT NOW. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Right now you are healthy enough to walk, talk, eat, laugh and be still.” I began implementing some seriously deep meditation and healing mantras into my routine. I purposely didn’t paint, as I didn’t want to do anything that might make me feel critical of myself. I needed to only let in GOODNESS and LIGHT. I was working on being very very gentle and kind to myself. Soon enough I had another test to get that biopsy, and when I awoke the Dr. told me it was a tumor the size of a golf ball and they did not biopsy it because it could likely start bleeding again if they did.
The Dr. immediately recommended me to a surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive surgeries for my situation. 2 days later I was seeing Dr. Thomas Wood and he immediately made me feel relief. He seemed so confident, direct and made me feel at ease. He suspected that what I had was a GIST. And that we needed to get it out quickly and biopsy the lymph-nodes around it. He told me if it was cancer, the cancer in this situation is very rare, and that there are now pills that liquify tumors in the small intestines. It was a lot to take in. And it was so hard to wait. I prayed that they could get me in ASAP for the surgery. And they did! Monday morning 7:30AM and I WAS READY TO ROLL!!
I had a comfortable weekend at home before the surgery, and had to once again focus on the fact that I wasn’t bleeding and I was okay now. I surrendered to it all…I thought about every outcome and I accepted it. And let me tell you…that is no easy feat. But my personality has always been that way. I trusted that this experience was here to teach me something. To guide me down a new road. That perhaps I needed this to show me, once again, that life is fragile and I know I am here to do great, beautiful things. And every day should be one that I focus on putting goodness and love out there. I also focused on the fact that for 37 years 98% of the time I have been here, in this body I have been heathy and pain free. And I knew my body was ready to fight for me. I knew it wanted to heal quickly. It was here to show me something.
Surgery was successful, but we still had to wait 4 loooong days while I was under close watch at the hospital to find out my results. Oddly enough, I felt calm. Because I knew the tumor was gone. And I knew that I was in GOOD HANDS. From family, doctors, nurses, even the food service ladies who I bonded with…all made me feel like I was going to be okay. Thursday morning my Dr. came in and told me that none of the lymph nodes had cancer in them. And he told me, what I had is so rare that it’s like getting struck by lightning and it’s not genetic either. He told me I should expect to be back to normal in a couple weeks, and that I should be fine to travel to Bermuda. I’m going to follow up with my blood specialist, and GI doctors to make sure that I am on top of my health. Because of my last incident, I learned so much about my blood and my body that I felt empowered going into this situation. So I know now, it’s my responsibility to continue to take the time to be on top of regular visits, and continuing to find peace in the now.
I came home, and it felt like a miracle. Every day I could walk a little more. Every day I felt more energy coming to me. I also lost weight and was happy to get to eat 2 hamburgers in one day on brioche buns babyyyyy!! Everyday I felt less pain. And every day I felt so much closer to my God, my family, my friends and my SPIRIT. I’m still wrapping my head around this. I know I will suffer from bouts of PTSD from this. And it’s okay. Meditating and creating healthy mind set mantras that connect me to my inner most self have brought me so much comfort.
And then came Bermuda….we left exactly 3 weeks after my surgery. A 2.5 hour flight and we had made to to PARADISE!!! I want to create a separate post about it all. But for now, I’ll share some photos. Thank you to Hamilton Princess for giving me this gift. I trusted the timing in all this. That is exactly what I needed to experience play by play. Thank you to Madison for booking and hosting us! And thank you to an organization that INVESTS in artist’s. I felt pampered. Truly! And being near those healing ocean waters was the BEST THING EVER! I also got to teach a watercolor class at a local middle school. And one student in particular really touched my heart. Destiny suffers from hand tremors and she was afraid to paint because she thought it would be messy. As I reached over to help guide her hands, I told her, “You can paint outside the lines and make drips and splatters because I do it all the time! It makes it beautiful!” She proceeded to get the biggest smile on her face and told me how much she loved her painting and gave me numerous hugs. THAT MOMENT WAS WORTH THE ENTIRE TRIP TO BERMUDA!!
I could go on and on, but let’s leave it at that for now. My blog is truly here as an open diary and it’s far from perfect but it’s my truth. And I hope in sharing this with you you feel uplifted and peaceful. I can’t wait to create artwork based off all these experiences. I’m grateful for it all. The tumor. The scary moments. Because without those moments maybe I would not be as thankful for the light, grace and goodness and mercy God and everyone here has given me. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!