Wow. Seven years. Seven years, or 2,557 days since February 7th, 2011 – the day I stepped into CMN Hospital in San Luis Sonora Mexico to fight for my life in a very unconventional way. I chose alternative cancer treatment and turned down chemotherapy. To this day, people reach out to me and tell me they looked me up online to see if I was still alive after seeing my story years ago of how I beat stage 4 breast cancer without chemotherapy.
I was a different person seven years ago. I remember having to raise money to get to CMN Hospital to do holistic treatments. When the money was raised (learn how to raise funds for your cancer treatment at Angels for Shannon) I dealt with a lot of fear. I kept putting off the travel to leave for Mexico. Crossing that border to begin treatment was a huge leap of faith. I didn’t want to go on my birthday, February 4th, so I didn’t. Then I told my girlfriends who raised the money that I didn’t want to go on Valentine’s Day because they were usually happy days for me and I didn’t want to connect those special days with battling for my life and being in the hospital. My girlfriends, my earth angels as I call them, saw right through what I was doing and called me out on it: I was in denial, the delay was my way of treating my situation not so serious. My family, friends and I had raised enough money for treatment, but I just kept hesitating and trying to change the date because I was dealing with fear. With a mental push, shove, and faith, I was finally out the door and about to step foot in the hospital that I chose to help save my life.
Here I am now, seven years later, alive. The death sentence is completely gone. I was given three months to a year left to live back in 2010. This year feels a bit different – seven years. Here I am, much farther away from treatment in Mexico, and I’m looking back on when I first walked into CMN Hospital on February 7th. The meaning of this date changes each year. I spent so many years waiting for that significant five-year mark when cancer survivors can take a deep breath and feel like they are finally out of the woods. That was a relief and a cause to celebrate for sure, but this year, at year seven, I am thinking about how I got here. It was changing perspectives and faith. The choices I made that were based on my God-given intuition.
When I had a recurrence of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in 2010, I was terrified. The fear was overwhelming. What do you do when a UCLA doctor gives you a very short time span to live? I didn’t know which direction to turn.
Hearing someone tell you that you are going to die, and sooner rather than later, is like having a terrible enemy running after you with all of his might, and you are standing there looking at an arsenal of different weapons to choose from. You have been told that nothing will work, but you see a new one in the mix and feel good about it. There will be less collateral damage! It feels right, and even though there is no promise, I have a really good feeling about it! I just have to make a decision and get going! I ended up choosing the weapon that many people have not even heard much about alternative cancer treatment. With my back against the wall with modern medicine in the United States, I turned around and ran across the border to Dr. Payan at CMN Hospital. I remember walking into that hospital like it was yesterday. I felt compassion from the moment I arrived, but I still had that terminal diagnosis in the back of my mind. I looked at Dr. Payan and asked him, “What are my chances of beating this?” He said, “Shannon, I will do my best, but I cannot make you any promises. “I will do my best,” he said. “Only God knows for sure, but let’s try!” I saw his genuine heart and compassion and knew that he was going to try his absolute best. That’s what I wanted hope, good healing treatment and a doctor and medical team with heart.
Here’s the thing: I could have chosen any treatment; I was that sick. I decided to go to CMN Hospital because my body needed “healing,” not to get sicker. I had done radiation, and it failed. The burns were just too much and caused me to get fluid in my lungs, a burned esophagus, and staph infection. So, I decided to do something that would at least be healing, and this felt like common sense to me. Spoiler alert, no one can promise you a cure. No one. But CMN offered me advanced treatments like dendritic cell therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and more… and I knew that those things would at least help me heal, even if they might not cure me. I let the hospital take care of me. Call me old school, but that’s what I was raised to do. Even with my knee replacements, other surgeries, and having babies. This was no different. It was choosing a hospital has been around and treated many patients with cancer that have a good reputation. I made that choice and trusted it faithfully
Today, I recognize that my choices led me to realize that healing is what this journey is all about. Physically, try to heal your body first. Whether or not you do chemotherapy, healing your body is essential. Use alternative therapies to restore your body and strengthen it before or after the chemo. If you do it before doing chemo, you could save your life and may never need the chemotherapy.
Furthermore, heal your heart and your mind. Mental and emotional therapies are just as important as physical therapies. I have identified my gifts and talents because of all the adversities in my life, and I am using them! So often, women can’t recognize what they have to offer, even when they are sick. Every day is an opportunity for us to help others. We all are an answer to someone’s prayer. We can make someone else smile or laugh. Spread the love; there is an endless supply. Sometimes you won’t get to see the impact you make because you are just planting seeds and someone else will come into their lives and nurture the seed. Because here’s the thing: we were all born to make a difference. It’s not up to you, or to me, to decide how big that difference is. Does it matter if we see the result? Just give your best in every situation.
Seven years ago, I had my head down, scared, but I just wanted to keep moving forward regardless of my pace. I put one foot in front of the other and kept making strides. I knew what my goal was, and I didn’t dare take my eyes off of it. Just… let’s get through today. Ok, now let’s get through tomorrow. Sad to say, but I was afraid to dream too big. But here I am at year seven, and it is pretty amazing to lift my head up and see a bright future.
What I have learned through this journey is how vital our perspective of daily life challenges are. Think about it: have you ever had a bad day that just seemed to get worse and worse? Maybe it was because you kept thinking about every bad thing that happened rather than taking a moment to say, “God, I am so grateful. I’m breathing, and I can still smile. I have people who love me, and I can love others as well.” It can feel ridiculous to stop in the middle of a rainstorm or a car crash to say, “Thank you God for all I have that I might take for granted because I’m focusing on other, more pressing matters.” At year seven, I know how powerful my perspective is regarding the outcome of things in my life. Please don’t mistake my gratitude for living with my blinders on or looking through rose-colored lenses. Living with love and appreciation in the forefront of my mind and leading with my heart changes how I see a situation, and how someone else sees it may be completely different, but one thing is for sure… we’re both right! So maybe I have a habit to see the bright side of things when another sees it a little more negatively. That’s okay. What matters is that I live my life with great intentions and know that we all have a purpose; I lead with my heart when I make a decision, and then follow it all the way through. Hesitation or doing something without giving my all is not acknowledging my soul purpose and can diminish my spirit. We deserve the best, every one of us. How can we reach our best if we aren’t giving situations our all? Perspective is everything.
As much as I advise on how emotional, mental, and physical impact our healing, there are times when I have lost sight of it; my perspective has gotten muddied because I allowed stress to take over. It happens to everyone, but just because we are knocked down does not mean we can’t get back up even stronger and with new insight. Seven years later, I fully understand that this whole life journey is about our soul’s purpose here. Our soul is evolving in these bodies that we have for just a block of time. We don’t know how much time we have, yet we live as we have forever. Now I know for sure that my soul’s purpose is about love and learning how to love better each day. It’s about letting go of ego, which means not needing approval from everyone around me. I cannot please everyone. I have learned how to be independent and yet still serve others. If I make a choice and people frown on it, I’m good with that… and go with my decision all the way. I don’t give up. I see it through to the end. And then, year after year, it just gets better. Being authentic in who we are and being more transparent is valuable. I want my kids and grandkids to learn how to trust themselves.
Today, my faith is stronger, and I listen to my God-given intuition more than ever. I relied heavily on my faith, and that is an integral part of my life journey. CMN Hospital has a chapel where I spent time alone praying. I would also kneel at the end of my hospital bed and pray for healing and courage to get me through each day. How I handled my journey was important to me. I prayed and talked to God daily, and I have only strengthened my faith in these seven years since.
In the last eleven years, I have been helping women as a certified advocate for domestic violence in the past and present as a cancer advocate. It is because of so many women over the years opening up to me and sharing the stories of their journey that I was inspired to start life coaching years ago and January I launched One Wildflower Life Coaching. So many of us women battling and pushing through barriers to come up and out of the dark still bloom with beauty. We have experienced some of the most adverse conditions and made it through the roughest terrains. We are wildflowers growing in the most unexpected ways!
I know now more than ever that I could not have done any of this alone. My support group of friends, family, and loved ones – are my earth angels! They were unconditionally supportive of me throughout the entire journey. It is so tempting to isolate and hide when the going gets tough. Want to know a little secret? Letting people in when we are struggling allows us to see that we have angels with us here on earth. The whole idea that we don’t want to be a burden is wrong. We need one another, and this means humbling ourselves to let them in; allowing them to love us. We can accept their help with a grateful heart. When we have fear and self-pity, we miss out on getting more love and compassion in our lives at a time when we need it most. Self-compassion means knowing we deserve love. Love is what life is all about!