I can’t wait to introduce you to my guest, Guinn Nexsen. I’ve never had the honor of meeting her in person, but I hope the Lord will make that possible one day. I came to know Guinn in 2015 through facebook. A mutual friend invited me to like a group page, Prayers for Guinny, and I’ve admired her ever since.
Guinn began her journey with cancer in October 2014 when she was given a deadly diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma; she had no risk factors — was only 46 years old and had never smoked or indulged in alcohol. In January 2015, she had an 18 hour surgery to remove the floor of her mouth, most of her tongue, and create a tissue transplant from her back to replace the floor of her mouth.
And then the beast returned.
Guinn has overcome all odds and has baffled her doctors. Even though she is totally dependent on a feeding tube, she is busy living her life to the fullest. Her motto is LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE. Guinn believes that her faith, love of family & friends and her many prayer warriors have helped her overcome cancer.
Don’t you just love her already? Following is Guinn’s testimony of God’s faithfulness throughout her life, and especially through her fierce battle with cancer.
I believe if we love Christ, we love others. Christian love is more than affection, more than the giving of time, energy or things. Christian love allows us to see Christ in our neighbor, even those we don’t really like. The total giving of oneself for another for the love of God is the measure of a person’s human and spiritual development.
I was blessed with a family that opened every door and every window of opportunity for me. Beginning in the second grade I struggled on a daily basis to keep from drowning with multiple learning disabilities and was diagnosed with ADD, way before it became a common thing. I didn’t even learn how to read or spell until I started Trident Academy in Mt. Pleasant, SC in the 8th grade. The student-teacher ratio was 3 to 1, and all the teachers were highly trained to work with kids like me.
You may not realize it but when you’re young and in school, your peers usually judge you based on your smarts or your athletic ability, and I really did not excel at either. I had a few horror stories growing up. Some boys used to chase me to school and tell me that if they caught me and touched me I would turn into a boy! And, I believed them!
One of the greatest loves of my life was going to Camp Harmony every summer, but even camp could be painful because my cabin-mates would do things like put shaving cream in my suitcase. If it had not been for my parents, my sister, and her friends, my church and my Christ, I could have and would have been a very bitter person. But through all those experiences, I became a better person, and I grew in my Christian walk with the help of Sunday school teachers, camp counselors and people who loved me.
THE BATTLE BEGINS
In October 2014 I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth. After numerous biopsies and procedures, my life became a crazy blur because the cancer in my mouth was spreading so rapidly no one knew how to stop it, or even slow it down.
I prepared myself for what I had to face. I was like a warrior preparing for battle. I prayed and oh how I prayed. My friend, Christy Morris, started a facebook page, Prayers for Guinny, so before I had my surgery on January 22, 2015 my prayer warriors were already storming heaven with prayer. My Christian community was as diverse as anything you could imagine — my church, people from the NC pilgrimage community, our Catholic sisters and nuns from all over North America, and even the monks at Mepkin Abbey (a monastery near Moncks Corner, SC). There were hundreds of people in the facebook community — some I know and many I don’t know. The sense of Christian Community is overwhelming.
My surgery lasted 18 hours. One surgeon removed most of my tongue and the bottom of my mouth, and another surgeon transplanted tissue from my back to my mouth. I had a feeding tube, a trach and more tubes than you can imagine. I was a sight to see! But I stared directly at cancer and laughed, “You cannot bring me down!” I often thought about the 23rd Psalm, “Yea though I walk through the valley of death, You God are with me.”
Once my body healed through the first phase of this long and painful recovery, I started treatments. The days were long — the nights were longer. The radiation and chemo were so hard. As the chemicals poured into my frail body, I was zapped of all energy, but somehow the psalm echoed in my mind, “weeping may linger by night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Weak, but certainly not defeated, I finally rang the bell at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) symbolizing the end of my treatments. All I had to do now was rest and let my body heal. The doctors were pleased with my progress and were inspired by my will to fight. They were very confident that there was no more cancer, and that the wild beast was gone. I was learning to swallow and learning to speak with only a part of my tongue. Every day I got stronger. Then it was time for a PET scan just to make sure everything was clear. I was doing so well that no one anticipated the results. They were positive for cancer! Despite the radiation and chemo, the beast had returned.
RETURN OF THE BEAST
This time, there were only two real options: either the surgery would be done all over again, and it would be much more aggressive — the rest of my tongue would be removed and my jawbone would be replaced by a titanium bar, and there would be another transplant, OR I could come home and do all the things I wanted to do in life before the cancer killed me. I could live my days checking things off my bucket list.
Of course I chose the surgery even though the chance of survival was only 5% AND THAT IS ASSUMING THAT THEY COULD DO THE SURGERY AT ALL! If things were too bad, they would stop before they really started. The doctors said they would respect and support whatever I chose. Tough decisions had to be made as I faced the reality that my life might be much shorter than I ever expected. My poor body was weary and my soul longed for peace. In my mourning and despair, I called out to God for help.
I have been a fighter my whole life. I had only one more chance to defeat the beast, so of course I took the challenge. While the doctors planned and plotted the next surgery, I planned and plotted through prayer. At this point I could not speak very well and when I did talk, you could not understand me. Since I could not call and ask for prayers, I called out to God. And I called out to you and to others through texting and facebook. So once again my Christian Community started storming heaven with prayers.
EVERY DAY WE MADE SURE SOMETHING HAPPY HAPPENED
I decided to change the doctor’s 5% to my own 95% to live! I’ve always been positive. but just in case, I wanted my friends and family to have some happy and fun memories. Each day in the hospital, my family and friends made sure something happy happened. One day, all my pillows had coca-cola pillow cases (I collect coke stuff). Elissa & Jay Swicord drove all the way to MUSC to decorate my room like a cruise ship because my boyfriend David & I were supposed to be on a cruise celebrating my beating cancer the first time. It looked so much like a Caribbean cruise that my doctors asked when we would have margueritas! One day we had all sorts of party favors — even coconut boobs!
Even though I had tubes everywhere, we laughed till we cried!
So, once again, all I had to do was come home, rest and let my body heal. When we pulled into the driveway, our yard was full of pink flamingos, smiley face balloons, and there was my special prayer group with hats, horns, beads — all dancing to “He Lifts Me UP.” There are so many ways my Christian Community supported me. One person had posters made that said, “It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Another person gave me yellow boxing gloves to help me “fight cancer.
BOY! HAVE I SURPRISED THEM!
Now, I have scans every four months, and I get quite anxious. Each scan I call on all my Christian communities to pray for me. Over a year ago, the speech therapist at MUSC asked me what my goal would be, and I told her that I wanted to be able to talk, so I could come home and share my story. But, it’s not the speech therapist at MUSC who brought me to this point in my journey. It is my very dear friend, Ms. Lou Easterling. She has worked with me since January — often twice a week. She has encouraged me, believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. In May 2016, a prosthetic was made for the roof of my mouth that has majorly helped my speech. You see, the doctors told my parents I would never be able to talk so that you could understand me. Boy! Have I surprised them!
More About Guinn:
Guinn has lived in Kingstree, SC most of her life. She worked for EMS in Williamsburg County for 10 years. Her parents are Nicky and Jean Nexsen, and her sister is Alexa who is married to Drew McClary; they have one daughter, Grace.
Guinn’s boy friend, David Lewis, lives in Myrtle Beach. They dated in high school and then went their separate ways. Five years ago they re-kindled their relationship, and David has been her “rock.”
Would you like to connect with Guinn? The URL for her prayer support group on facebook refers to “GuinnySunshine”. Need I say more? She is a precious sister-in-the-Lord.
If you would like for Guinn to share her testimony at your church, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org