Jearlean Taylor was three years old when her sister noticed blood running down her leg as they played outside.
A trip to the hospital revealed that she was suffering from a rare from of vaginal cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Doctors gave Jearlean a poor prognosis, but she was able to eventually beat the awful disease by undergoing several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries.
While Jearlean was too young to remember that difficult time in her life, she has two permanent ostomy bags to remind her of the battle.
For decades, the model has had to live with a colostomy and urstomy bag, which are surgically attached to the body to help with bladder and bowel movements; they change the way urine and stool exists the body.
Growing up with these bags was a struggle for Jearlean. She felt like they made her different from the other kids, especially as she hit puberty.
While speaking with CBS News, she recalled an embarrassing incident on a school bus that stayed with her for a long time.
“The bus driver was like, ‘What’s going on? Who threw a stink bomb on the bus?’” Jearlean recalled.
This was just one of many incidents that made her doubt herself every time she wanted to go out and chase her dreams.
“Growing up you have dreams and aspirations and things you want to do, but I just thought I was limited to what I could do,” said Jearlean.
But when she was scouted by an modeling agent at the age of 20, Jearlean felt that she could not only pursue her dream, she would be able to use her platform to make a difference.
“So, I explained I was a cancer survivor. I explained I have a lot of surgical scars. I have an ostomy bag. Next thing was like (the modeling scout saying), ‘Okay, let me see you walk,’” she recalled.
Now at the age of 51, Jearlean has spent more than 30 years working in the fashion industry, taking over runways, magazines, and billboards. She has also been using her experience and voice to inspire and empower other survivors.
Instead of keeping her bags concealed, Jearlean proudly and confidently lets them show whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Jearlean wants people to understand that they too can prevent their circumstances from dictating their future.
“My desire is to show others, especially in the ostomy community we can be, do and live,” she told CBS News. “We don’t have to be defined by our circumstances. I encourage others to live your life on purpose … with a purpose … for a purpose.”
In 2013, Jearlean shared her journey with the world by writing a personal memoir called Pretty Girl Blues, and but now, she wants her story to spread even further. She has plans to co-produce a mini-documentary called Pieces of Me.
The model's story comes just a few days after Seven Bridges, a 10-year-old from Kentucky, allegedly committed suicide after being constantly bullied over his colostomy bag.
“Twenty-six surgeries from the day my son was born. Twenty-six surgeries,” Seven’s mother, Tami Charles, told WHAS11. “He just wanted to be normal, that’s all.”