Joanie

Shawhan

In Her Shoes

Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer

A Life Rebuilt—After Ovarian Cancer

 

 

 

In Wisconsin, we have two seasons—winter and construction.

 

For me, a diagnosis of ovarian cancer hurled me into a winter season. Cancer raised a stop sign, interrupting my life. But when I merged into life after cancer, I faced a new challenge. What do I do now? Who am I as an ovarian cancer survivor? How do I rebuild my life?

 

I sought out other ovarian cancer survivors, but found no support groups, Gilda’s Clubs or Facebook groups. Were there other survivors? As I searched for answers, I decided to chronicle my journey so other women would not run into the same roadblocks I did in search of support.

 

After I completed my story, it dawned on me there were other women with their own unique cancer stories waiting to be shared—everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer. So I wrote a book documenting our journeys through various cancers. I hoped our experiences would benefit other women whose lives had been disrupted by cancer.

 

I finally met other ovarian survivors at an ovarian cancer camp in Missoula Montana—Camp Mak-A-Dream. Some of these survivors were involved in a program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS) in which they shared their stories with medical students and other health care providers These presentations raise awareness for ovarian cancer in hopes of earlier detection, thus saving women’s lives. As a nurse and an ovarian cancer survivor, I was excited about joining the STS volunteer team.

 

While participating in STS, I met local ovarian cancer survivors. We formed an ovarian cancer group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny Side Up. We meet monthly, sponsor speakers, plan fun outings and participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer.

 

At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t imagine how God would rebuild my life. What began as a winter journey blossomed into a life enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way, including my writing community and my fellow ovarian cancer survivors.

 

My cancer detour steered me into a new purpose and calling for my life—to write a book and articles encouraging women undergoing chemotherapy, to advocate for women and educate regarding ovarian cancer.

 

June is Rebuild Your Life Month. How have you experienced new construction in your life after a winter season?

 

 

 

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