The journey of one woman's pursuit in finding her purpose.
Have you ever wondered how you would respond in the face of adversity? Stormie Childer’s has had a long road to overcoming the lemons life has thrown at her, and she’s turning every one of them into the best lemonade on the market. In April of 2020, at the beginning of a pandemic, she started experiencing bowel issues and stomach pain. With a family history of colon cancer, she immediately scheduled an appointment to see her PCP, who dismissed her symptoms.
For five months she made countless ER visits, each one leaving her without answers or lasting solutions. As exhausting as the hunt for answers was, Stormie fought for herself and her family to find out what was plaguing her body. By the end of August, she was in so much pain she could barely walk and was finally able to be referred to a GI specialist. It was then that the confirmation came through of what she’d always suspected, cancer. Stage III C poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma with signet ring cell, to be exact. We sat down to chat with Stormie about this very rare and aggressive form of colon cancer and how her life has changed since her diagnosis.
What were some of the symptoms you had that led you to start seeking help?
“I started noticing things right after the beginning of 2020 and I had been dealing with GI issues for a long time. I explained to my PCP that because of my family history I wanted to have a colonoscopy done. I was dismissed and she told me that because I didn’t have blood in my stool, it wasn’t a cause for concern; but throughout this entire process, I never had blood in my stool. I’ve always been very in tune with my body and medically I’ve been failed through so many things. I really felt like something was wrong, but at the time my cramps and pain weren’t terrible.
Then things moved very quickly, and within a month I went from not feeling too bad to having days where I was so bloated that I looked like I was about to have a baby. I felt uncomfortable and so I wouldn’t eat the whole day and just drank water, and then two days later my stomach would go back down. I’ve always dealt with constipation, so it was a regular thing for me to have issues, and so I kind of knew what to do about it. After a few weeks, I’d started to lose weight and it was almost summertime, so I was like ok I like this! But I was losing the weight fast, and it also got to the point where I was driving to see family and having to make multiple stops to use the restrooms and I was hurting so bad. I finally went to an urgent care and was given antibiotics and I would feel ok for a few days, but then it would just start all over again. I cut out meat and bread because I was hurting so bad and I was just trying to think of anything to make it stop, I was almost on a soft diet.
I knew something was truly wrong when my stomach became more bloated than ever, and I felt like I was having labor contractions. They were coming every 15-20 minutes and lasted all through the day, night and next day. I visited a small hospital ER back home and they didn’t have any beds available, so the next day my sister took me to a hospital in Paris.
From April to August, I had many visits to the ER and Doctors’ offices. They could see I was in pain, and I was prescribed antibiotics and pain medication, I was referred for CT scans, I was even diagnosed with Colitis, but nobody would listen to me. I was in so much pain I could barely walk, and I lost my job because I was unable to work. I had been referred to a GI specialist, so I called them frequently until I got an appointment for a colonoscopy on August 31st, 2020.
Do you remember the day you were diagnosed and how quickly were you able to start taking action with your doctors?
“After my colonoscopy I waited with my foster mom. The doctor came in and said that he had never seen anything like it before. He said he’s done thousands of colonoscopies, and he’s never seen anything like this. I had such a small amount of room in my colon from where the tumor was. He took a lot of biopsies and blood drawls and put a rush on it. They then called me to come in and I was told on September 9th that I had poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma with signet ring cell features, and by September 15th, 2020, I had my surgery to remove it. I have positive margins and they said there is a 75% chance that it will return. Most people don’t live past 15 months, I have exceeded that. I say I have ninja cancer since my cancer is undetectable, and in blood work it will never show up. That means that the hormone that detects cancer doesn’t detect mine. I get scans every 3 months to keep an eye on everything!”
What was your initial reaction to your diagnosis?
“I literally laughed! I have had to fight fight fight to survive life since I was little. So, when they told me this I laughed because I was like ‘Of course I have colon cancer at 27 years old, because who would not’. They looked at me crazy, they were just shocked at my attitude.”
Cancer puts your life on hold, was there a moment during your journey that this realization set in?
“I became a mom at 16, so I’ve always been a go-getter and independent. So, my whole attitude when I was diagnosed was to put a plan together and problem-solve to make sure my girls were taken care of. I just started thinking ok step 1, step 2, step 3. After about my second chemo treatment I was so sick I had to be taken care of, and that’s not something I’ve ever been used to. I lost my independence; it was terrible honestly. I had no control over my life, it was in God’s hands if He wants to keep me or not. I thought about my kids, they have two different dads and I thought what if I don’t make it, they will lose their mom and have to be split up. I was sent into a major depression and then I told myself, Stormie you can’t do this you still have to be a momma.”
What kept your spirits up throughout this whole journey?
“I’m a crafty person so I started making wreaths and personalized signs to raise money and I even started a YouTube channel and Facebook page to share awareness. I started a fundraiser as well and had support with that and tried to spread the word. I had this huge feeling; I was overcome with this feeling that I have a purpose. That purpose is to share my story and to make people aware and help people understand they have to advocate for themselves when something is wrong. You have to be able to fight for yourself or it could cost you your life.”
You’ve been in the medical field for many years, do you feel that being on the other side of the curtain so to speak, as not only a patient but now a cancer survivor, has helped you become an even better medical professional?
“I was a CNA before and was going to school to become a nurse, but all of that was constantly put on hold; it’s still a goal of mine! I started my classes to become a Medical Assistant my last cancer treatment. When I’m in the room with a patient I ask questions. I go into detail instead of just hearing them say I have this, this, and this. Especially anyone with GI issues because I’m more aware. I don’t share my experience, I just ask the questions, and I think our patients very much appreciate it.”
How has becoming a cancer survivor changed your outlook on life and the future?
“My whole attitude was ‘God, you gave me all this extra time, tell me what I need to do with it; I’m listening to you’. Every move I’ve made since then, even working with HealthCARE Express, something told me this is where I’m supposed to be. I even said that during my interview! I don’t take my experience for granted and I don’t use it as a crutch. I use it to my advantage to be honest. I was given this, I lived through it, I’m doing ok and I’m thankful. I’ve definitely been able to grow from the experience. It’s given me not just a whole new outlook on life but a whole new purpose. I’m a whole new person!”
You seem to have such an amazing attitude and you’re mentally tough, what advice would you give to someone who is currently battling colon cancer?
“Honestly, the biggest thing I had to do was go through the 5 stages of grief, but afterwards, you have to put your focus on positivity. Find an outlet and make sure you do it every day. Today we are taking a walk, today we are reading, you have to keep going. I told myself so many times that if I stop, I will not be able to get back up. In order to keep going, you literally have to keep going. Thinking of what the future may or may not have for you is not beneficial. Make the best of the day you are in and don’t worry about what the next day will bring.”
What’s next for you? What goals are you looking forward to crushing next?
“I’ve made my peace; I’ve accepted all of this. I’ve got my life and my kids; I’ve got all of that done. I know that I have a purpose, I know that God has blessed me with this extra time because he’s given me a task. I know that! All this is extra time, and I’m thankful for it and I’m making the most of it. Anytime that I can help someone else with my life experience I do that. Anytime I can help anyone with anything I do it because I’ve already been given so much, not financially, but I’ve been given more time with my kids. I’ve been given time to not just survive, but live. And I’m doing that through healthcare.”
Stormie is not just a cancer survivor, she’s a mother of two beautiful girls, Aleea who is 13 and Serenity who is 4. She also happens to be a part of the Healthcare Express family as a Certified Medical Assistant. We admire her dedication to not only her dreams, but her work at HealthCARE Express and the unwavering care she shows her patients. She truly embodies what it means to be all in. Her journey isn’t over yet, but we have every confidence that no matter what life has in store next, she will persevere.
You can learn more about Stormie’s story on her Facebook group, Stormie’s Journey, where she shares her progress, encourages colonoscopies, and educates others on colon cancer.
If you would like to send love and support to Stormie and her family, you can do so below.
Cash App: $StormiesJourney