Photography by Becca Wohlwinder Photography
Meet Sammy Jo. She is Beauty Revived.
Hello, my name is Samantha Jo. I am twenty-eight years old and married to my handsome husband, Robert. We currently reside on an air force base in New Mexico with our loving animals. I never thought that I would get to experience this life the way that I am blessed by it now. Just eight years ago, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that would flip my life and change my course.
In 2007, I was getting ready to go back to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Of course, my stress levels were through the roof in anticipation for the new school year. A few weeks before school started, I fell ill. I was faced with making multiple trips to the restroom each hour and unable to rest during the night. I was at a loss because I could not understand how everything could change so quickly. When I finally made it to the doctor, multiple test were ordered including a colonoscopy. I was only twenty and devastated with the thought that I was too young to have that kind of procedure. One week later, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis was not an easy diagnosis to adjust to at the time. I felt dirty and embarrassed when people asked me what was wrong. I felt trapped and alone. Worried, that my classmates would find out about my condition, I mapped out every bathroom on campus. I even packed extra clothing with my books just in case of an accident. Even with the help that my school offered, my disease became too much for my body to handle. I left school to live with my parents.
Hospitals, blood transfusions, and medication became my life but they could only control and not cure my disease. Just when I thought all hope was lost, Robert walked into my life. No matter what physical or emotional toll the flare-ups would take on my body, he taught me to love myself through the pain. The same year we married, the medicine failed to treat my disease. The doctors determined that the colon needed to be removed from my body in order for me to have a chance at being healthy again. On October 4, 2011, I had a total proctocolectomy and fitted with a one-step J-Pouch.
There is no cure for Ulcerative Colitis at the moment and I still deal with symptoms, but my life has improved greatly. Healing started with the incision and worked inward. I realized that I was given a second chance at life. A life worth living and enjoying. It has taken me a while to love myself and understand everything that I endured during those years. Even when I thought that this disease was breaking me down, in hindsight, it was building me into a stronger person.
One thing that my experience has taught me is that I am strong regardless of the obstacles in my journey. It has also taught me that I can endure life because of the pain. The greatest lesson I have learned is that Ulcerative Colitis does not define me. Instead, it has made me beautiful.
About the Photographer
Becca is an award winning children photographer located in New Mexico.