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The Silence of Cancer - Everyday Heroes

The Silence of Cancer  - Everyday Heroes

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.

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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. 

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This is from my trip to Europe two weeks before my first surgery 10/16. 

 

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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.

 

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This is my husband and me last September at the Susan G. Komen walk in Newport Beach, CA. 

 

 Shannon_breast_cancer

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!. 

 

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The Silence of Cancer - Everyday Heroes

The Silence of Cancer - Everyday Heroes

My sister, Nancy White, is my best friend.  As opposite as we are in many ways, I couldn't love her more.  She has made my life so much richer and beautiful.  I cannot imagine a world where I can't turn to her for help, to laugh ridiculously out loud over something funny, or to share just everyday stuff.  

Her diagnosis of breast cancer sent our family into a tailspin. How could it happen to somebody so good and kind and loving?  But cancer doesn't discriminate.  

I believe there is an extra burden placed on cancer patients because they often suffer in silence.  Not only are they dealing with their own emotional and physical pain, but they are keenly aware of the impact their actions have on those who love them, who are also so frightened, and who can't bear to see them suffer.   I am so in awe and humbled by the courage and strength of my sister.   She, like millions of others, are the everyday heroes.

I'm starting a blog series that allows women to share their feelings on dealing with cancer.  My sister's diagnosis was really the push for me to start Laurmé. It's too easy to let everyday life quash our hopes and dreams. Ultimately, for most of us, there is no perfect time to pursue our dreams - no time like the present.

So for obvious reasons I chose my sister as the first person whose story I want to share.

What was your first reaction when you were told you had breast cancer?

I started to cry and asked if I was going to die. Fear.  Disbelief. 

What kind of treatment did you have to undergo?

Bilateral mastectomy, chemo, radiation, expander fills, repeat reconstructive surgeries due to complications.

How did you find the strength to go through the treatments?

Family support was huge, but I have always been a positive person. Thinking of my husband and kids pushed me through some really dark times. 

What was the hardest part in going through the treatments?

Sometimes it was hard getting through the day, feeling crappy, fatigue, some pain, burning from the radiation.  Losing my fingernails was tough.  I hadn’t anticipated that.  Running water was unbearable.  It burned and stung.  Something simple like opening a Splenda packet was painful and frustrating.

When my hair started coming out in chunks, I asked my daughter, who is a hair stylist, to cut it all off.  That was really hard.  And losing my eyebrows and eyelashes really threw me for a loop.  

There were a lot of complications from surgeries because my skin was so compromised from the radiation.  So from beginning to end, it was two years of treatment.  Some days I really felt beat down.

How has this taken a toll on you emotionally?

Even though it’s been 5 years, there is a daily reminder I had cancer. Mostly side effects from medication and, of course, the obvious physical scars and reminders. I also have some memory problems, “chemo brain.”  I still see my oncologist every 6 months and get a little anxiety before the visit, hoping my markers are good from the blood work. But for the most part, I’m just enjoying life to its fullest.

What did friends or family members do that meant the most to you?

They stood by me every step of the way, took care of me after surgeries, went to doctors’ visits with me, brought me my favorite foods.  A dear friend set up a meal chain with different people bringing dinners at different times.  I’m not very good at being on the receiving end of help, but I couldn’t have asked for more and was overwhelmed with the love and support.

What would you say has been the most difficult part of this for your family and friends?

Sometimes I think the cancer was harder for my family. They felt so helpless at times.  It was hard for them to see me in pain, all the issues with chemo and radiation. And it seemed like every time we turned around, there was another surgery.  It’s emotionally draining on family members too.

When did you want friends and family close and when did you want them at a distance?

When I was in pain or sick, I just wanted to be by myself. I’m a pretty positive person, but there were days that had me feeling low, and I just didn’t want a pep talk.

What do you wish people would not have said to you?

I knew someone who was also going through chemo the same time I was, and after I lost my hair, she said “See, It’s no big deal losing your hair.”  It was a huge deal for me, and her words made me feel bad for being sad that I lost my hair.   It’s different for everyone.

What did doctors say and do that meant the most to you?

They were great, told me I was going to be fine, that I was brave, strong and special. They never sugarcoated anything, but it for sure wasn’t all doom and gloom.  They took time with me to answer my questions.  I know they were really busy, but I never felt rushed. 

What do you think has been the most valuable insight you’ve gained from this experience?

I think just to appreciate time with family and friends.  Enjoy life, appreciate it, and if the house doesn’t get cleaned on the weekend, oh well.

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