Vanda Edmondson is a wife, a mother who home schools her children, a friend, a small business owner, rancher, colon cancer survivor, and triathlete. I know, those last two don’t actually flow with the rest of the titles, but it just goes to show that no one is immune to colon cancer regardless of your age or gender.
With no prior history of colon cancer in her immediate family, everyone was a little shocked by the diagnosis, especially at the age of 36. Vandaresides in Oklahoma with her husband, Mike, their two children, a loyal Labrador Retriever, herd of cattle and enough love, laughter, friendships, healthy food, and exercise to last a lifetime. Read her story and be encouraged by the fact that cancer saved her life.
Cancer Survivor? You? Really? But you are young, was it breast cancer? Nope, Colon Cancer! Actually, not all that long ago I was lying in a hospital bed being told I was serving as “hostess with the mostess” to a tumor that was completely filling the circumference of my colon, and had decided to grow through the wall to try and explore the rest of my body. Now, while this news terrified those around me, for some reason I was the only one on the receiving end of this diagnosis who was never frightened by what the doctors told me. I always had my family, my friends, and my God right there with me. On many occasions, I found myself comforting and encouraging the people around me saying “Everything was going to be just the way it’s supposed to be.” The experience changed my life for the better. I can honestly say that a time which most people would consider to be a horrifying experience has turned out to be the best eye opener in my life!
I realized when I heard the doc say, “The tumor is malignant.” that life as I knew it, was over. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just knew that I was going to have to change some things. Who am I kidding? Not some things…. I was going to have to change MOST things. When doctors removed part of my colon along with that malignant tumor, I decided to do some housekeeping of my own. I decided to remove many of the negative things I’d been focusing on in my life, and trust me the list was a long one! If they couldn’t be removed, at the very least, I was going to change the way I dealt with difficult situations. After much research, I found it was also going to be very important to change my unhealthy diet and begin doing some kind of exercise program. I ran across this one day and thought it was worth putting some thought into, ”The food you eat can be the safest & most powerful form of medicine or a slow form of poison.”
Two weeks after the last chemo treatment, I began an exercise program; if that’s what you want to call it. It was a walk/run program where I could barely run a couple hundred feet before I felt like my lungs were going to explode! I faithfully stuck with the program and was able to complete a half marathon in April of 2011. I also felt honored to run in the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K in Ft. Worth, TX as a survivor. It was an inspiration to see all the other survivors and their supporters out there beating the pavement on a hot, Texas morning. I am currently training six days a week for a half Ironman which I will complete the day after turning the big FOUR-O! I also have the distinction of wearing the “Colon Cancer Coalition’s” and the “Get Your Rear In Gear” logos on my triathalon suit. We are so grateful for all the work these organizations are doing to raise awareness, lend helping hands of encouragement, and support they offer to all the communities that they reaching. Finally, I am determined to complete a full Ironman race. Yep, swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles. Now that’s what “Get Your Rear In Gear” means to me!
I am a true believer in “attitude is (almost) everything,” so I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage others who have been diagnosed to seize the moment, get positive and stay that way no matter what. Having a paradigm shift to the positive may not fix EVERYTHING, but I can promise you, it doesn’t hurt ANYTHING! NEVER claim to own the disease. You may refer to it as cancer, but NEVER EVER call it “MY” or “YOUR” cancer. Who wants to own it, or refer to it as we refer to our children, spouse, or family pet? It’s NOT yours, you want it to be gone, not hang around your waist like your favorite pair of blue jeans!
One of the best things cancer did for me was led me to relationships with people, that otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to know. It brought people from my past back into my life, strengthened relationships that I already had, and also forged new friendships that will last a lifetime. I feel so fortunate to have all of these people in my life. I believe that nurturing these relationships with people is the BEST coping mechanism that we have at our disposal during and after the battle. I am determined be a good example for my family, friends, and friends-to-be. I want to be a warrior who inspires people to be happy, healthy and live life to the fullest. “A merry heart does good like a medicine,” and it doesn’t have the side effects that chemo has. Set your goals high, never give up, and believe.
“Success occurs when your dreams get bigger than your excuses.”