Deondre William’s path with CRC began in 2017 when he was diagnosed with stage II colon cancer. He didn’t experience any symptoms other than blood in his stool, which he originally self-diagnosed as hemorrhoids. Now a Life Coach and Speaker, Deondre uses his story to teach others how to heal trauma.
Deondre believes in the power of positivity, education, living a healthy lifestyle, and the ability to move through the curveballs that life throws at us. Through advocacy and community engagement, he brings powerful purpose to his now cancer-free life.
It Started With Denial
Deondre knows that no two trauma stories are the same. For him, it was evident that his colon cancer experience began with denial.
“When it comes down to a disease of this magnitude – cancer – you don’t want it to be this diagnosis,” Deondre said. “So instead of going to a doctor, I went to Google university. I stopped doing physical labor and thought I had healed myself because the blood in my stool went away. But when I started back with my regular routine, the blood returned and sparked even more fear.”
Ultimately, it took some encouragement from his wife in order to get seen by a doctor. The news he received would quickly turn his denial into full-blown anger, fear, frustration, and depression.
Deondre’s life was turned upside down in a matter of moments. Not only did he discover he had multiple cancerous polyps, but he also suffered an abrasion left during the polyp removal process – a rare, but unfortunate occurrence. The abrasion led to an infection, and within a matter of days, he was back in the hospital with a 105-degree fever.
The Grief of Loss and Two Cancer Diagnoses
While extremely traumatizing at the time, Deondre now sees this medically-caused complication as a blessing in disguise. If he hadn’t gone to the hospital when he did, he wouldn’t have found out that he also had a carcinoma tumor near his lungs. Just 35 years old, Deondre was facing two cancer diagnoses in the same month and wasn’t going home anytime soon.
“This experience created a dark space for me mentally,” Deondre said. “I had just lost my sister, my mom, and my grandma all in the same year. I’d been diagnosed with two different cancers, and then I was suddenly told I was going to have to stay in the hospital longer than I expected. I was angry and started acting out towards the hospital staff. Who wants to be sitting in a hospital with cancer?”
Deondre had lost so much hope that he began losing faith in his higher power, as well.
“I was so frustrated with the doctors, with God, with losing family members, and with losing my health,” Deondre said. “I wasn’t focused on healing – I’d given up mentally and was apathetic about the outcome.”
A Birthday Baby Leads To Hope and Healing
At the same time, Deondre’s wife was pregnant with his youngest daughter. Interestingly, she decided to make an earthside appearance on Deondre’s birthday. He described this as a pivotal turning point in his trauma-healing journey.
“I realized there was a reason I needed to be here,” Deondre said. “I wanted to help my wife raise our kids, so I decided to keep fighting. My family and my faith were really what got me through.”
With whispers of hope, Deondre’s perspective began to shift. He was no longer in denial and was beginning to find the courage to face what was in front of him.
“When you’re facing a traumatic experience, you’ve got all these things going through your head. If you try to cope with it alone, you’re going to lose the battle,” Deondre said.
Deondre realized he wasn’t alone, so he leaned into the support of family, friends, and his relationship with God to start the arduous healing process.
Deondre on the Emotional Aspects of Trauma Healing
Deondre resources this painful, yet powerful time in his life to help others find perspective and guidance during the difficult periods in theirs. He doesn’t discourage people from sitting with their negative emotions. Rather, he encourages them to continue pushing through the emotional process, as opposed to getting stuck in one feeling for too long.
“You need to let the process be what it’s going to be,” Deondre said. “We all go through emotions when we’re dealing with adversity. It’s natural, and we need to face it in order to get past it. But don’t give up. Keep fighting. Lean on your family and friends.”
As the famous Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Deondre teaches similar principles when helping others heal their trauma.
“You can’t change it right now. You might think, ‘What am I going to do about my family, about my job?’” Deondre said. “All these things hit you, but it’s not the first thing you need to be thinking about. It’s a natural human response, but once you get out of that emotional breakdown, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to do for yourself. We can’t be so focused on what happened. The more we sit in it, the more it becomes a detriment to our life. We can all take that and use it in some aspect of our lives.”
Deondre’s Passion for CRC Prevention: Healthy Living & Screening
While Deondre works with people healing trauma for a variety of reasons – not just CRC related – he is particularly passionate about sharing his story and educating others on the importance of healthy living as a preventative measure for the disease.
“I believe we need to be more mindful of what we’re eating,” Deondre said. “If it makes you feel bad, listen to that. The number of young people with CRC is rising. We need to educate ourselves about the food industry and the role that it plays in this disease. Health and fitness is a part of healing.”
Still, that’s not the only piece to the puzzle. Deondre’s father had colorectal cancer at age 25, yet Deondre had no idea he was supposed to get checked due to his family history. If he had, it could have been an entirely different outcome for him.
“Colon cancer is not talked about enough,” Deondre said. “Go get screened – it’s not as bad as it seems.”
Deondre describes himself as a community man. He teaches little league football and track. He loves connecting and communicating with others, which makes him a natural leader in CRC outreach and prevention.
“People need help,” Deondre said. “If you don’t know, you don’t know. When it comes down to talking about health, we’re not having the conversations enough. That’s why people are lacking information. We just gotta’ have the conversation more.”
Deondre’s Involvement With the Alliance
After being released from the hospital in 2017, Deondre was referred to the Alliance by some of his home health nurses. He has since become so intertwined with the organization and its mission, he can’t imagine a world separate from the cause.
“The Alliance welcomed me with open arms,” Deondre said. “From then to now, the Alliance has grown so much. They have so many different resources and ways to get involved that I don’t think you can go wrong.”
Deondre is a member of the Alliance’s Ally to Ally program and a spokesperson for the men’s group. He encourages men to be more vulnerable and open up about their experiences with CRC.
“I just want to be of value,” Deondre said. “I want people to leave their interactions with me knowing they got something out of the experience and able to get back to their life with their head up.”
Key Takeaways From Deondre’s Story
There are so many transformative lessons to take away from Deondre’s story – regardless of whether or not you have CRC. We all go through difficult times in our lives, but it’s how we deal with those adversities that shapes who we become.
“Sometimes I feel good. Sometimes I don’t,” Deondre said. “Trauma forces us to disconnect until we address what we’re going through. That’s why I speak with so much passion now. It’s not just about the trauma – it’s about the mental breakdown that it puts you through.”
When it comes to CRC, Deondre believes in the power of community outreach, education, and the impact the Alliance can have on a patient, caregiver, or survivor's outcome. When it comes to healing trauma, Deondre has cracked the code on the steps to healing.
“Healing from trauma, or cancer, or whatever you’re going through starts at the root – the base. The base is recognizing and accepting what you’re dealing with. Everything else comes after that,” Deondre said.
Deondre’s story provides powerful takeaways, regardless of who you are or what you’re dealing with. Let it be a reminder to keep pushing through when times are tough, lean on support systems when needed, and lead healthier, more robust lives. By healing from our struggles, we make space for greater fulfillment and purpose than we could have ever imagined.
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