Those who have had ostomy surgeries know there’s nothing glamorous about the medical procedure, but one Baltimore fashion model is defying perceptions of what it means to live with bags supporting her bladder and bowel functions.
Jearlean Taylor, now 51, has been living with two ostomy bags – colostomy and urstomy – since she was just a few years old.
“I grew up a child, a teenager, adult, just dealing with having an ostomy and wondering what would my life be,” she told InsideEdition.com. “I had to grow up learning how to change my bags, learning when to change my bags.”
Taylor explained that getting the ostomy bags saved her life after being diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that developed in her vaginal tissue, when she was just 3 years old.
“The cancer never came back, thank god,” she said. “It was pretty rough for my parents just to know that their 3-year-old daughter had cancer but yet she would be left with ostomy bags for the rest of her life.”
Thanks to her parents, doctors and nurses, she learned to care for her ostomy bags pretty quickly, but she said she still encountered several embarrassing accidents at school, including getting teased for smelling like urine.
“Kids are going to be kids, and kids teased me,” she said. “Could I blame them? Maybe not. Maybe they can’t understand.”
She was self-conscious about the bag for years, until a modeling scout approached her at the mall and asked if she was interested in joining a workshop.
One class turned into several, and soon the instructors saw her talent and insisted on having her walk the runway on real shows.
“I’m still thinking ‘Oh my gosh, fashions shows, ostomy bags, how do I explain to them?’ Taylor recalled. “And in the beginning, I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone. It was like my secret and I was going to keep it to myself.”
Taylor figured out tips and tricks to hiding her ostomy bag, including making sure to empty them before fittings and positioning them in ways so they stay in place and not show through the clothes.
As she started to do better in modeling, her confidence grew and she realized there was no reason to hide her ostomy bags since they never took away from her talent.
Taylor started posing for photos with her ostomy bags peeping out of her clothes in hopes that other little girls don’t let their bags hold them back from their dreams.
“It doesn’t stop us from dreaming and being great and being the person that god wants us to be,” she said. “Having an ostomy helped save my life, but I’m determined that It wouldn’t run my life.”