I’d like to introduce you to Shannon Zeeman. Living a hectic and happy life with her husband and two boys, Shannon, like many other women, found her world turned upside down in a matter of minutes.
She has given us a peek inside her journey and provided some amazing pictures of her and her family along the way. I am so touched by Shannon's courage and bravery and am grateful for her sharing her story.
What was your first reaction when you were told you had breast cancer?
I can remember feeling numb, and when I heard the word “cancer,” the doctor’s voice turned into the adult from Charlie Brown’s cartoon, “Wawa Wawa Wawa”. It was extremely hard to believe that it was true, and I continued to feel that they had mixed up my labs until I met with my oncologist surgeon, and she confirmed that it was truly my pathology report.
What kind of treatment did you have to undergo?
I had a double mastectomy on November 2, 2016, where they not only found my original tumor, DCIS triple negative, but also found a secondary tumor that had already started to spread and was HER2 positive.
They were not able to put in the expanders until after my pathology report came back. So four weeks later I had another surgery to take more breast tissue for clear margins and to put in my expanders.
Two weeks after that I had my Port-A-Cath placed in. On December 19, 2016, I started six months of intense chemo treatment. That was followed by Herceptin chemo every three weeks through 2017. My last chemo was December 20!
How did you find the strength to go through the treatments?
I had two boys, ages 9 and 13, an amazing husband, and supportive parents that gave everything they had to help me kick cancer’s butt. Every day I woke up with this disease on my mind, but I would not let it hold me down because I had an amazing life to live.
What was the hardest part in going through the treatments?
The hardest part was watching my loved ones take care of me and not being able to take care of them in return. I knew how hard it was for them to watch me suffer and not know how to fix me.
How has this taken a toll on you emotionally?
Emotionally this has left me feeling alone and sad. My loved ones still don’t know how to treat me or what to expect from me. I am trying to begin finding my “new normal.” I hate that phrase, but they are afraid that I will do too much. I continue to tell everyone that I am feeling good, when I am really hurting emotionally and physically inside, in hopes that they will begin to stop treating me like I am broken. Who wants to continually listen to someone talk about their problems?
What did friends or family members do that meant the most to you?
I had such an amazing outpouring of love and support! Besides the cards & gifts that brought me so much joy, the messages that I received on a regular basis, just checking in & letting me know that someone was thinking of me, filled my heart. Also when they would take my kids, husband or mom out of the house to have fun, it made me feel less guilty for not being able to.
What would you say has been the most difficult part of this for your family and friends?
Every step of this journey has been really tough while we were going through it, but I think the change in my memory and energy has been the hardest because it has continued the longest.
When did you want friends and family close and when did you want them at a distance?
I always wanted people around. I loved the friends that would show up with a book or something to keep them busy and allow me to drift off to sleep. The only exception was on my bad days of chemotherapy. Those days were the best for messages of love and support.
What do you wish people would not have said to you?
I hate when anyone talks about my “new normal” or when people comment that I get a “new boob job.”
What did doctors say and do that meant the most to you?
When my doctors would sit down with me and talk to me about my questions & feelings. They made me feel like I was as important as their family member and not just another file.
Is there anything you wish doctors would not have said to you?
Nothing that they said, but if they didn’t take time to listen and truly see me.
What do you think has been the most valuable insight you’ve gained from this experience?
That cancer doesn’t discriminate. You can be young or old, healthy or not, wealthy or poor. Cancer affects everyone in the patient’s life, and everyone needs support.
This is from my trip to Europe two weeks before my first surgery 10/16.
This was the amazing group of loved ones who came to support me when I shaved my hair off on 1/8/17.
This was a fundraiser photo shoot my girlfriends put together for me. We raised $1500 for the American Cancer Society, February 2017.
This is my husband and me last September at the Susan G. Komen walk in Newport Beach, CA.
Thanksgiving with my family - 2017
If you would like to share your experience battling cancer, please drop me a note here. I'd love to hear from you!.