Pretty girl blues. Was this a label I put on myself or allowed others to give me? Why did I allow myself to hide deep in my pain? I hid behind my outer beauty, clothes, and the truth within. I displayed outer beauty, but was suffering on the inside with low self-esteem, pity, and unhappiness. Could my beauty cover up my hurt? I desperately wanted to be accepted. Yes, I had a darling personality and nobody could take that away, but was it enough to mend the hurt and internal pain? My parents sacrificed for all my brothers and sisters, but would they anticipate one of their children developing cancer at the age of 2. We are familiar with several types of cancer, but a baby developing this type (Rhabdomyosarcoma) was unheard of. This was such a rare form of cancer the doctors thought I would not live to celebrate my 3rd birthday. How could this be and why? Most importantly, how would doctors care for me? My care began at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, but my family was later advised to seek a second opinion. It would be my parents’ decision for continue medical care at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The majority of my childhood and adolescent years are spent in New York City. I remember dad taking me and mom back and forth up interstate 95.
At Sloan-Kettering, I would have countless surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. Because of the rare cancer diagnosis and where it was located (vaginal area), I have urostomy and colostomy to aid my bladder and bowel function that forces me to wear ostomy bags for the rest of my life. Even after that the surgeries seemed to never stop. Imagine growing up wearing two bags, being teased and set aside because you cannot tell if it is time to change your bags. “Hey what is that smell,” they would say. I had incidents in school and when I did not know how to handle these situations it really caused my low self-esteem. It was my heart’s desire to be like other children. To be teased by my peers was heart breaking.
Becoming a teenager and maturing into a young adult were difficult years. Later I found interest in having a boyfriend, but when he got close I would break it off, fearing he would not understand. I would continue my interest in boys, but still having that fear of rejection. I had a method of trying to hide “the secret” (my ostomy bags). I longed for someone to understand. It seem like no one did, what a fool I felt like. Continuing to hide behind my family, friends, and pretty looks, I developed the craft of covering and dressing up the outside. This disease causes me to hide deep in my pain. Questions would arise. How would I cope? How would I handle what life had dealt me? Can I continue to hide “the secret”? So I asked myself, “Why do I feel so blue and how can I change the way I am feeling?”
Surely, there was an answer. I could not imagine, but God would change my life. He healed me from cancer. I am thankful for that spiritual process which took place within me. My insecurities did not change overnight, but I learned how to be a survivor. The question was not “why me,” but “Why Not Me?” This “secret” would no longer be a secret, but a triumphant story. This journey has taught me so much and I will use this experience for my aspirations in life. I am grateful to wonderful doctors and nurses at University of Maryland Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.
My desires, dreams, and passion of becoming a fashion model have come true in spite of the “standards” of the modeling industry. My situation may seem unusual in this modeling industry. How do you explain 16 years as runway and editorial model, two magazine covers, and seven magazines features?
To see the outer beauty you could never tell I live with these adversities. After all I have gone through, who would have thought becoming of a fashion model, inspirational writer, motivational speaker, owner of J & Company Christian Modeling, and now author of Pretty Girl Blues? However it does not stop; there is so much more to come. This story may seem personal, but because of my adversities in life I will continue to reach out, encourage, uplift, listen, understand, and help those in need. My faith and trust in God makes all the difference. I am thankful for my family, friends, and most of all angels that watch over me.
Today, at 46 years old, I am truly blessed. I am very thankful for this journey. I am a fashion model – WOW! Sometimes I cannot believe it. As I look back over my life, I would not change anything. My light will continue to shine so others can witness and know they can overcome obstacles. Do not be ashamed or afraid to tell your story because you never know how someone may feel. I can and will live a full and vibrant life.
I am thankful to my oncology specialty doctor, Dr. Fouad Abbass, and staff at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. It’s been 25 over years under his care. I give special thank you to my parents Nellie & (late) Harry Alston Sr., my siblings, friends, and remaining family for their support and love.
If you or a loved one has been impacted by sarcoma cancer, we encourage you to share your story. Sharing your story can be such an inspiration to others who are dealing with sarcoma in their own life and remind us all of the urgency to find better treatments in order to make an impact on the devastation that sarcoma cancer brings. Let your experiences help others become involved with raising awareness!