Elly Brown was a professional singer, actress, on camera host and model until oral cancer took half of her tongue in 2018. Doctors removed her tumour and rebuilt her tongue and jaw out of bone and muscle from her leg.
A year later they told Elly she has bilateral breast cancer too. This second diagnosis came the same week that she lost her father to pancreatic cancer.
But listen to how Elly describes her ordeal: "Cancer is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life. Cancer comes in an ugly box. But when you unwrap it, the gifts are overwhelming."
In a beautiful clip on Youtube, she sings the famous hymn It is well with my soul. Although she has a scar through her lip and down her neck, her jaw doesn't move like it used to, and her range has been affected by radiation treatment, Elly still sings a whole lot better than most of us could.
"At the end of the last surgical procedure, I couldn't really breathe on my own, I couldn't walk on my own and I couldn't eat on my own," she said. How incredible that she has relearnt not only to swallow and talk again but to sing!
In the subtitles of her post, she explains her astonishing perspective on all she has been through.
"Cancer deepens friendships. Reveals priorities. Clears out people and things that don't belong. And while it certainly causes loss and heartache, it can also teach us about true beauty and love.
"And while life is never without problems, we can look at our problems through the expectation that they are valuable gifts. What if every problem was a gift? A carefully chosen, perfect-for-you gift given from the heart of God ... it is life changing!
"Cancer has brought the most amazing people into my life. It's taught me how to take better care of myself, and how to turn my fear into peace. Cancer forces me to slow down and enjoy every beautiful thing, from food to friends.
"And best of all, cancer teaches me true gratitude for every breath, every moment of being alive.
"There is still crying and sadness, and mourning of what once was. But never a wish to go back. What we get in return is worth more than diamonds.
"There are new friends, a new perspective, new understanding, a new way to relate to people, a chance to help others and be their light, a chance to make a difference in my community and help others feel a bit less lonely.
"It was a lot [to deal with]," she said, describing her recovery. "But there was never a question in my mind that I would recover. I just knew I would. I had the Holy Spirit [invisible presence of God] in my ear every single day saying, 'Look, I know today is tough but just wait. Wait and see.'
"I'm grateful for that period of time too because that's when you put yourself firmly in the palm of the Lord," she said.
She says singing the hymn is her way of thanking God for "reshaping my life through cancer". And ends with a hope that "if you or a loved one has cancer, I pray that you can remove the lid and see the treasures." In another clip, Elly movingly sings another well-known hymn, How Great Thou Art.
Singing was instrumental in introducing Elly to Jesus as a young child too. She grew up hearing the great truths of the Bible through song at church.
"I found that whenever I felt lost, music would bring me back to God. I found that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit reside inside every perfect chord created when a group of people lift up their voices together," she shares.
"When I found out I had tongue cancer, I kept thinking about how every experience we get from God is a gift and even though this was not my plan or my choice, I could use this gift to become closer to Him and the things that matter the most.
"If I could tell people anything, I'd say trust in God to give you the thing you need at the time you need it most. Sometimes the biggest gifts come disguised as a disaster, when it's really God hitting the re-set button and asking you to put your faith in Him."
The lump found in Elly's left breast has proved not to be cancer and, since her genetic tests have come back negative, she elected to have a lumpectomy and possible radiation.
"I'm putting it all in God's hands!" she told Challenge before her successful surgery, which took place on August 27th.
The 41-year-old is engaged to author, magician and entertainer Rick Lax.
Check out her inspiring, light-hearted yet achingly honest website at www.realellybrown.com or her social media presence on Instagram and Facebook, where her tagline reads "Your scars are your superpower."•