A mother of two from Sylvan Lake, Alta., is baring her physical and emotional scars from a nearly fatal battle with cancer, including an ostomy sac surgically inserted on her abdomen, as part of a powerful boudoir photo shoot.
A Facebook video chronicling the shoot has gone viral online, and features Lindsay Percy, 29, recalling the most difficult battle of her life.
In December 2017 and at eight months pregnant with her second daughter, she knew something was wrong. But her extreme weakness was chalked up to the effects of pregnancy and a Crohn’s disease flare up.
Percy said she got worse, and was induced at Christmas for her daughter to be born. She continued to decline and eventually couldn’t even get up off the couch. Less than three weeks after delivering her daughter, doctors discovered her torso was riddled with cancerous tumours.
She was in her doctor’s office when she collapsed to the floor and passed out. On the ambulance ride to the hospital, Percy slipped into a coma. She said she didn’t wake up until several days later.
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Last night, Wade and I had the talk. The talk about what all happened in the days I was in a coma. January 12 – 16 • On January 12 2018, I had called him from my doctors office and told him I was being taken to the hospital via ambulance. By the time he got there, and saw me it had been 2 hrs. When he saw me, I recognized him and knew who he was, but they had to put some central lines in me to get fluids on board, and in the 45 minutes of them doing that, I didn’t know who he was. (I can only imagine how hard this was for him) • I was so ill, they didn’t know why. My symptoms were all over the place. They put me in a medically induced coma and did all kinds of tests – CT Scan, lumbar puncture and eventually came to Wade to tell him surgery was going to be my only option as they found large masses on my ovaries and in my intestines. At this point, he made the difficult decision for surgery. • After Saturday’s surgery I had dialysis, and was sent in for a second surgery on Sunday to reattach my bowel and close up my abdomen. Monday night, I began bleeding. Severely. I didn’t know it yet as I was still in a coma, they couldn’t keep on top of the bleed, and called Wade at 4am advising him to come to the hospital. My ICU drs did nothing, but wanted to pump me full of prednisone because this was “just a Crohn’s flare up” despite blood literally leaking out my rectum faster than they could replace it, and my surgeon saying I had no active Crohn’s when he went through my bowels to make sure there were no more tumours. I was woken up Tuesday morning, and I remember the blood I was loosing. I knew it meant surgery, I knew something hadn’t worked out. I wasn’t with it fully when I made the decision to have an ostomy, but I knew it would save my life. And it did. That surgery happened on January 16th. My third surgery, my second life saving one. January 17th, my surgeon came in to check in on me, and told us he believed the tumours were Burkitts Lymphoma, but pathology would tell us for sure. He said he was glad it was Burkitts, because it meant I had a fighting chance at beating it, and boy was he right. • More to come as I process it all.
Percy was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma characterized by extremely fast-growing tumours.
“They had found two tumours the size of cantaloupes on each ovary, and tumours riddling my small intestine and small bowel and a small tumour on my liver,” Percy explained.
She had surgery to remove the tumours, along with her ovaries and much of her digestive track. She then went into septic shock and had to undergo dialysis to clean her blood.
Percy began bleeding internally because her reconstructed intestines were falling apart. Surgeons operated again and inserted an ostomy bag to collect waste from her small intestine.
That was followed by four rounds of aggressive chemotherapy. All this, with a newborn and toddler at home.
“At that point, the girls hadn’t really crossed my mind — which pains me to say,” Percy said while choking back tears.
“My only thing at that point was surviving. That’s all I had on my mind.”
She eventually adjusted to having the ostomy bag, saying she has a higher quality of life now because she no long deals with the effects of Crohn’s disease.
Months into recovery, Percy decided to do the boudoir photo shoot to show off the scars that changed her life in such a profound way.
“Now I am working to try and empower those who have ileostomies, and who have gone through or are going through a horrible battle with cancer,” Percy said.
She said working with photographer Erika Fetterly of EFP Studios was instrumental in her emotional healing.
“She helped me see the new me — all of my scars, the stretchmarks, everything,” Percy said.
The photographer thinks documenting scars like this are reminders of what makes her clients so strong.
“No matter what is on your body, it’s still you and that is worth celebration,” Fetterly said.
This is the message Fetterly shares in her online women’s empowerment community of more than 6,000 women who might be struggling with self-image.
Share your story, bare your scars and be proud of your journey.
“No matter what’s going on in your life, whether it be you have an ileostomy, or you’re going through cancer treatments… there’s something you can do to help,” Fetterly said.
The images she provides to her clients are never edited or retouched, and are meant to celebrate the changes to their bodies.
“You’re not finding a new you, because it’s the you that’s always been there,” Fetterly said.
It’s a point of view Percy also hopes will resonate with other women in similar situations.
“My outlook on life has changed because I am here and I am alive,” said the young mother. “Being positive, regardless of what you’re going through, is what’s going to get you through life.”
The video was produced by Wild North Photo and Film.
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News
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