Jearlean Taylor is a woman with a powerful story of survival and hope. The Baltimore native has made a name for herself as an author, motivational speaker and fashion model, but when she was just a baby she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has inspired her on every step of the journey. The illness helped lead to her penning the book, Pretty Girl Blues. With the book, Jearlean has been able to inspire others to overcome any obstacle in life. She has also founded Osto Beauties, which spreads messages of inspirational hope to others. Jearlean made time to sit down with Parlé Magazine to discuss her battle with cancer, her book and how her life has been impacted. Read all about it here…
Parlé Magazine: For those who are unfamiliar with your story, can you give them a bout of background about yourself?
Jearlean: I am an author, fashion model, motivational speaker and cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with form of cancer called Rhabdomysarcoma when I was three years old. It’s a very rare form of childhood cancer that can effect children from the ages of 3-10. The cancer develops from tissue in muscles, fat, organs and bones. I wanted to write a book so that I would be able to tell my story to help motivate others and let them know that anything is possible.
Parlé: Being diagnosed at such a young age, how old do you remember being when you were able to understand what was going on?
Jearlean: I was just three years old when I developed the cancer. I don’t remember too much at that young age even with going through the chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. I only have the stories to go on that my family have told me about what was going on with me during that time. It wasn’t until I was much older and by then I had beaten the cancer but something else had came back in its place and I had to readjust my life to deal with that.
Parlé: What came back in its place?
Jearlean: Because of the type of cancer it came in the form of vaginal cancer that spread amongst those organs. Although they were able to get rid of the cancer, they also had to remove the organs as well. As a result of that, I had to have an ostomy bag.
Parlé: What is an ostomy bag?
Jearlean: It’s a surgical opening in the body which allows me to use the bathroom. I had to use to two of them. I’ve been wearing an ostomy bag since the age of 3 and I’m in my late 40s as of now so it’s been close to over 40s of me having to live with this. I was cured of the cancer but left with the aftermath that it had caused.
Parlé: How has all this affected your life as an adult?
Jearlean: Now that I’m older, it hasn’t ’t been too bad for me. I’ve been able to adapt to it. As an adult now, I know what I can and can’t do, what I need to do if something happens as well as knowing how to handle it. It also helps that I have the support of my family, friends and my faith in God that helps see me through the worst of times. I was married for 14 years but now I’m a divorcee. My health had nothing to do with it. I’m single right now but I have been dating, just nothing serious as of yet.
Parlé: What motivated you to want to tell your story through this book?
Jearlean Taylor: It started off with me just keeping a journal. I started writing about everything I ever felt about my sickness; the ups, downs, the depression and everything that came along with it. I decided to put on paper. The journal has turned into a book, Pretty Girl Blues.
Parlé: What can readers expect to get from the book?
Jearlean: I talk about how this whole experience has effected my life with my family, relationships, with my marriage, work, home and pretty much every aspect of my life. I talk about my life as a fashion model, I’ve been doing that for 17 years, I talk about how I got into it and how I persevered through that. My story is very transparent, sometimes someone will tell you only parts of a story or they’ll skip some parts, I put everything down because it’s all a part of my struggle and I want to show the world and to motivate and educate others.
Parlé: You have credited your family for your success , can you tell us about them?
Jearlean: They were my support. I have older and younger siblings but for the most part, I was treated normally. I never asked them how they felt about all this or how it effected them until I interviewed them for this book. To this very day, they’ve been my biggest support. When I got around to writing this book, my mother had dementia and she has since passed, so she wasn’t able to tell me as much but she has been the inspiration in my life because without her there would be no book.
Parlé: Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout all of this?
Jearlean: My family. About 10/11 years ago, my mother told me that I would have to tell my story. For the longest time, I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t anyone’s fault with what happened to me, but at the same time I felt ashamed to share. When I started writing I felt that sharing all this by writing it down was helping me deal with what was going on in my life. I felt there was a purpose through my pain and it became Pretty Girl Blues. My faith in God has been a big inspiration to me as well. I feel like He’s led me on this path to inspire others and tell my story.
Parlé: How long did it take you to get everything together with this book?
Jearlean: It took me about five years, on and off. Because I was so young when everything happened I didn’t know a lot about my medical background so I had to send for them. Even when I received them, I didn’t understand a lot of the medical terminology but there were things in there that I needed to see and wanted to see.
Parlé: Where can people purchase your book, Pretty Girl Blues?
Jearlean: They can buy it on my website directly www.prettygirlblues.com and they can buy it on Amazon as well.
Parlé: You’re also one of the founders of Osto Beauties, can you tell us about that?
Jearlean: We’re not quite a year old yet. They actually found me and I am thankful to be a part of this. There’s four of us, one of which I met through a friend and the other two reached out to me via social media and wanted to share their story. All four of us have an ostomy, three of us because of cancer and one of the young ladies has dealt with stomach problems throughout her life. We’re like a support group for ourselves and others who have an ostomy or are cancer survivors. We want to inspire people by telling our story in hopes that they’ll want to tell theirs. We go around to different hospitals telling our story and giving support to those in need.
Parlé: This is an off topic question but being a resident of Baltimore, MD in the wake of the Freddie Gray riots, how have you been coping with that?
Jearlean: We’re dealing with it as best as we can. We don’t want this young man’s death to be in vain. We want answers, we want justice and we want change. It’s been a beauty to see the people of my city come together peacefully to protest this injustice, regardless of the fact that some, a very small percent wanted to take advantage of this situation to incite violence, riot and loot. I do wish to send my condolences to Freddie Gray’s friends, family and loved ones.
Parlé: Are you connected to social media?
Jearlean: Oh Yeah, I am a social media butterfly. Twitter @jearleanpgb, Facebook.com/jearlean.taylor be sure it says Jearlean Book Author Taylor. Instagram @MsJearleanTaylor. They can go to www.prettygirlblues.com to order the book and know more about me and they can go to www.ostobeauties.weebly.com for more information about Osto Beauties.
Parlé: Any final words you would like to share with our readers?
Jearlean: I’d just tell them to hold onto to their faith and believe that their situation or circumstance doesn’t dictate their future. Life happens to all of us but if you stay steadfast, have faith and believe, then it can change. You will be well with a positive mindset, that’s where it all starts.