Finding Joy and Strength in the Storm

A testimony from Desiree Montalvo-Holt

From Dena: I’m grateful to share a truly encouraging testimony with you today from a fellow believer who is dealing with health challenges (and has for many years). Thanks to Desiree for sharing her story on the blog!

I am so excited to share my story of joy with you. I am 53 years old and so grateful to still be here, colostomy and all. I am a wife, a mother, and a grandma (nana). Fighting for my health is not only for me. It is for my family. For all those who need to find joy in their health/life storm. 

Like many of you, my life has been quite stormy. In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, stage 3. I endured a gruesome year of radiation (in those days they kind of radiated you to death). Though I was not aware then, I believe the radiation was very taxing on my body, and slowly as years passed I felt the repercussions of it all. Later on, in my life a very badly executed hemorrhoidectomy started the journey full fledge.

Today, I see it all as the journey I needed, to be who I am today. 

In my 30s, I began to experience fissures, skin tags and ultimately was rudely introduced to Mr. Fistula (truly can’t stand these evil things). Did I mention a badly executed hemorrhoidectomy?  After, 13 plus surgeries to correct this very stubborn and embarrassing issue. I later became an owner of an ileostomy. Upon trying a reversal, it failed! Devastated! I made a decision and ended up with a colostomy. Truly, I thought I was going to die when I heard ileostomy and colostomy. I didn’t, I am obviously still here. 

The colostomy has truly been better than the fistulas. I cannot believe I am even saying this, but this is so true. I feel like my life is somewhat normal with the ups and downs that come with an ostomy, though I still have a fistula I am battling with. Guess who is going to win? Me!  Why? In those long days at the hospital when I said to God, “I can’t anymore, this is too much.” I was reminded to trust Him.  My faith was reignited.

Today, I am completely filled with joy knowing this is temporary. I have been given the strength to endure. Do I like what I have been through? Nope! But from this health journey, I have been able to share my story with so many women, write a devotional in two languages, and raise money to provide ostomy supplies and cancer joy bags for those who need to see God’s love and light in the storm.

My prayer is that one day there is a cure for my now newly diagnosed Crohn’s colitis/ulcerative colitis (they cannot figure this out). I am grateful for the opportunity to live a good life because of an ostomy and I truly want every woman out there to feel the same. My passion is in helping women walk in their storms not believing the lie that they were meant to live in misery.

The story in me was meant to spread joy and that is exactly what I intend to do! 

Join me at @makingjoycontagious as we spread joy together and learn to live with joy, regardless of the diagnosis. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share.

Bio: Desiree Montalvo-Holt has survived Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and over ten fistula surgeries along with continued chronic illness. Yet, she’s filled with limitless joy. Desiree draws her greatest pleasure from sharing the freedom of walking in God’s life-giving joy. An educator for over 20 years, Desiree and her husband live in South Florida and are the proud parents of four amazing young adults. To learn more about Desiree and her ministry, visit or @makingjoycontagious on Instagram.


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