This is the true story and lessons learned from a cancer survivor. It’s an inspirational and remarkable story of surviving cancer not once but twice. And it that isn’t enough, it’s also a story of being the victim of domestic violence and living in shelters with young children. Shannon Turner is able to share her story today because of hard-learned lessons about the healthcare system, self-advocacy, and her support system. It’s an amazing story of determination and resilience as well as support and faith. Today, Shannon is cancer free and making a difference in the lives of others struggling with all sorts of challenges. But for now, here is her story. . .
“I insisted I needed to be checked further. . .”
It all started in 2006. Shannon experienced a racing heart rate followed by a noticeable slow-down. She was often exhausted and the lack of energy made her feel that her body was slowly shutting off. Then she found a small lump on the right side of her neck. Her doctors told her they couldn’t diagnose anything because all the test results were coming back normal. “They told me the lump was probably just a nodule and not to be really concerned.” But Shannon felt that something was wrong. “I Insisted that I needed to be checked out further so they sent me to an endocrinologist. During an ultrasound, I noticed the were checking both sides of my neck. I knew that could not be a good sign.” Shannon was right. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, even though blood tests for thyroid cancer came back normal.
Kept Away From Her Children
Shannon’s doctors removed her thyroid and she went through the normal prescribed treatment for cancer including iodine radiation. Normally, this should have been the end of the story, but as you are about to find out, nothing is normal about Shannon’s story. In 2007 she fled domestic violence with her three small children. During the time they were living in an abuse shelter she became very sick and her doctors discovered cancer cells again.
This was treated with more radiation in 2008 and in 2009 thyroid cancer cells were found again. She started another round of radiation. Each new round of radiation was stronger than the last. Each round involved iodine radiation and required a 5-7 day quarantine in the hospital. As a single mother, it was very hard. During this time she could not any contact with her children and her mother took care of them. Ultimately the cancer cells were destroyed and the quarantine periods ended.
Just when she thought it was over. . .
Shannon’s story of a cancer survivor didn’t end there. A few months later, Shannon had trouble breathing went to the emergency room. While they found nothing on her lungs, they did see something on one of her kidneys. The DR thought it was just a cyst. “For months I went to several doctors looking for a cyst but they couldn’t find one. We thought it had dissolved.” She thought she was in the clear, but she wasn’t.
In late 2009 a mass was found and Shannon was diagnosed with kidney cancer just weeks before Christmas. “Over a period of four months, I looked for a doctor that would take my insurance but couldn’t find one. My side began hurting so I went back to the ER, this time at another hospital. When that hospital heard my story they expedited my case up to their head urologist and he took me on as a patient. This time, half of my kidney was removed but at least I was done with kidney cancer.”
Shannon has been cancer-free for almost 10 years. During that time she remarried and her children are all doing well. And while her battle with cancer is over, her story of a cancer survivor is not. She has published 10 books and has developed 4 coaching programs based on the lessons learned during her five-year battle with cancer and domestic violence.
Strong Support Helps
Shannon’s story is remarkable for many reasons. “It was a real journey, often unpredictable. The most challenging part was learning to let go of what I thought the outcome should be and learn how to embrace the journey. I had to just trust God through each and every turn.” When asked what helped her the most during her journey she said, “My faith, family, friends, and knowing it would all mean something one day.” She credits her mother, who often took care of her and her children, as “my rock and with me every step of the way.” Shannon’s support system may have saved her life. In fact, according to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, “If you are a cancer patient, telling your friends, family, and coworkers that you have cancer and having a good support system during treatment can be extremely helpful. It can even improve cancer outcomes.”
Shannon adds, “It’s normal to be scared after a doctor’s appointment and I suggest bringing a support friend with you if needed. By trying to tough it out and not admit that doctors make you a little nervous you’re not acknowledging the fact that you need additional support. It will show up later. It’s ok to ask for help.”
Self Advocacy Empowers You
Another thing Shannon learned from her cancer experience is to be a strong self-advocate. “Always, always, always be your own advocate by getting your medical records and speaking up for yourself.” This may be another factor in her survival. US News and World Report says that by being involved in your own health advocacy, you not only gain a greater sense of control, but also increased confidence over your decisions, greater medical literacy, better treatment adherence, and even better health outcomes. You don’t need to feel intimidated by your medical providers. They work for you, not the other way around. And when the common ground in these relationships is your health, it’s in your best interest to be as empowered as possible.
A lot of cancer survivors report a stronger relationship with God or a stronger faith in a higher power as a result of surviving cancer. In addition, research shows that a strong support team and self advocacy are keys to better outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease. But to hear the true story and lessons learned from a cancer survivor like Shannon can be life-changing. No one ever chooses this journey but any one of us can find ourselves on the same path. To hear more from Shannon, visit her website. There you can find some inspirational books like Fat Girl Chronicals and others. You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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