The abundance of joy that Brigitte Coles exudes might lead you to assume she’s had a trouble-free life.
In reality, Coles, 48, of Ontario, has experienced hardship that would leave many feeling defeated. Despite the obstacles that have come her way, she perseveres — with a smile on her face, to boot.
The message of perseverance is something she hopes to convey to readers of the new book, “Women of Courage Volume II,” co-authored by Coles and designed by Linda Ellis Eastman, CEO of The Professional Woman Network.
This powerful book contains stories of overcoming in spite of the odds. The 19 contributing authors are authentic and transparent about widowhood, living with chronic illness, cancer, low self-esteem, grief, finding joy and happiness, and other issues women face on a global basis. A must-read for women who need encouragement and hope.
Coles, a former WMFD news anchor and Mansfield native, shares her story of battling histoplasmosis and a malignant tumor and the effect it has had on her life.
In August 2016, Coles was diagnosed with histoplasmosis, an infection caused by a fungus which affected her lungs. Three months following this diagnosis, she was diagnosed with a malignant tumor. Shortly thereafter she began five weeks of radiation therapy (25 treatments total).
The location of the tumor (situated between her aorta and pulmonary arteries) was extremely rare, affecting 1 in 5 million people, according to her physician.
On Jan 25, 2017, Coles underwent open heart surgery to have the tumor, which was the size of a tennis ball, removed. Following the surgery her left vocal cord was paralyzed. She also experienced difficulty swallowing and breathing, which she had to relearn how to do during speech, occupational and physical therapy.
“It was a long journey,” Coles said. And one that was difficult condensing and capturing in just 14 pages, she added with a laugh.
She hopes readers of her story are inspired to press on despite whatever obstacle they’re up against.
“We all experience situations that could shake us mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally, but we just have to hang on,” she said.
She also hopes to empower readers to be their own health advocate.
When Coles was diagnosed with histoplasmosis, she said she felt relieved because she feared she had cancer.
“Later on when they did do a biopsy and found that the mass was cancerous, I think more than anything I was saddened because I felt like all this time when I had asked, more or less, for the physicians to dig a little deeper just to try get a second opinion, I felt like I wasn't listened to,” she said.
Coles urges people to take control of their health because “your life is precious.”
Coles, who currently works as the community engagement specialist for Richland County Children Services, said since the surgery her scans have come back clear, not showing any tumors.
While she may not be able to move at quite the same speed as before, Coles said she’s thankful for where she’s at.
She’s especially thankful for the love and support she’s received from family, friends and the community.
“I know without that I wouldn’t be here,” she said.
She voiced her appreciation for her mother, who never left her side.
“She stayed there with me the whole time,” Coles said.
“I'm just so thankful for this life and I just want to give back because I feel like so many people gave so much to me, praying for me, and then God saving my life and my doctor saving my life, all that love and compassion that was given to me — I just want to give it back,” she said.
Coles invites the community to her book launch Saturday, May 25 at Main Street Books (where the book is available for purchase) from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information about purchasing advance copies of “Women of Courage Vol II” contact email@example.com.
Coles wants to give a special thank-you to Linda Ellis Eastman, Nicole Brown-Horston, Anne Miller, Tim Holt and Bash Holt, Tim Thornton, as well as her family, friends and community: “this (story) is for them,” she said.