Jearlean Taylor: Finding Healing by Revealing Her Secrets
Author, motivational speaker and model Jearlean Taylor rocks a runway with finesse and style—not to mention a fierce and confident demeanor. Modeling comes naturally to Taylor. When she first started, it really brought out her personality and boosted her self-esteem. She was easily directed and could shine in basically any atmosphere or photo shoot—except for one: when she was required to wear a swimsuit. It wasn’t because she didn’t have the hourglass figure. It was because of her once closely guarded secret.
When Jearlean was just two years old, she was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma—an extremely rare, predominantly childhood cancer that develops into skeletal muscles and can attack nearly anywhere in the body. After a 12-month cycle of chemotherapy and other treatments, Taylor was cancer-free. Nevertheless, the trauma the cancer inflicted upon her small body caused irreversible damage.
As a result, Taylor has two permanent ostomy bags—a colostomy and urostomy bag—located on both sides of her body. The bags function as her bladder and bowls.
“Because I had vaginal cancer, that part of my body was damaged,” Taylor said. “I had to have surgical openings in my body for the discharge of waste. Probably over 90 percent of the time, I have no idea I’m even going to the bathroom because I have no use or control of those muscles. It all stems from the cancer.”
At 47 years old, Taylor has lived with the ostomy bags for 44 years. They are a part of her everyday life—a not so new normal. She has finally gotten to the point where she recognizes it as part of the purpose God has in store for her. However, she didn’t always look at her situation with such positivity. Only through developing her spiritual relationship has she been able to accept and excel through her physical limitations. “I admit I have had plenty of bad days, but each day I am still alive to worship God,” she said. “I knew I had a purpose on this earth. My struggles gave me strength and endurance to handle what we call life.”
Her handicap is invisible to the world. Only family and close friends were given access to her reality. She thought discussing her physical predicament might elicit questions, comments or even isolation that she wasn’t ready to deal with from people who couldn’t possibly understand.
Taylor learned to deal with her physical situation, but her mental and emotional state was a bit more daunting. She still retained the numerous hurts and embarrassments she endured as a little girl when kids teased her and said she smelled when she was still learning the delicate balance between knowing when to empty or change her bags. The day her bag burst while she was on a school bus is forever etched in her mind.
How could she forget the countless years she spent as a teenager and young lady doubting her self-worth and wondering if she would ever have a boyfriend? She contemplated suicide. Would anyone ever love her as she was, with her flaws and all? Eventually, she would marry, but her divorce 14 years later left unanswered questions, as well.
Family and faith were her sustaining graces. Her family treated her like everyone else, and when she was introduced to the love of God, she found healing in His arms.
“Looks can be so deceiving,” she said. “But it is because of the goodness of the Lord that I do not look like what I have been through.”
Journaling became an everyday part of Taylor’s life. She wrote about all of the feelings she had and about how others felt about her, especially her siblings and how they supported her in her illness. But mostly, she wrote about her pretty girl blues. Without even trying, Taylor’s journal evolved into her autobiography, Pretty Girl Blues.
“Pretty Girl Blues is how I felt most of my life: a pretty girl on the outside, but feeling blue and down and hiding something on the inside,” she said. “It’s my story, and I discovered it to be very therapeutic. It doesn’t end sad. It ends encouraging. My story is no longer for me to keep to myself. It’s for someone else to be encouraged and empowered—not just people with ostomy bags. Everybody has a story to tell.”
As an overcomer, Taylor continues to model and speak about her life. She also established her own modeling agency, J & Company Christian Modeling. Her passion has shifted a bit to include helping other women and young ladies adjust to life (and everything it brings) with an ostomy bag. Thus, she founded the support group Osto Beauties for women with ostomies.
“I just want people to understand that miracles still happen, and no matter the situation in life…it doesn’t have to dictate your future,” Taylor said. “I believe all things are possible. Sometimes you have to adjust here and there, but anything is still possible.”