Many of us say “thank-you” a number of times during the day. We thank the person who holds the door for us, who serves us our coffee, those who are kind enough to compliment our outfit, or help us with a workload. What do you do when the words “thank you” are not enough? How do you thank someone for your life?
I sit here, contemplating the past year, and giving thanks to one organization, Team Shan. Team Shan was named after a charismatic, beautiful woman, Shanna (Shan) Larsen, a high school friend. Shan was diagnosed late and lost her battle with breast cancer. Shan’s mother saw a need for awareness and created Team Shan.
I was doing breast self-checks, in memory of Shan, when I found a lump in my breast. I was reminded that young women get breast cancer and the importance of self-detection through Facebook posts by Team Shan and billboards on the drive to Northern Ontario, to my hometown for family visits.
I recall clearly the conversation I had with my doctor after his exam of my lump. He expressed that because of my age and lack of family history of breast cancer, there was little to worry about, but he thought it was important that I have an ultrasound to confirm. When he asked how I found the lump, I enthusiastically told him about Shan and Team Shan. Although it is not the case with many doctors, my doctor took me seriously and sent me for further testing.
On May 14, 2014, at the age of 32, I was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma. When all was said and done, I had stage 1 breast cancer. Based on my age, I was treated with a mastectomy and 4 rounds of chemotherapy followed by reconstruction surgery. It was a terrible year, to say the least. However, I was given a 91% chance that I would remain cancer free. I caught my cancer early and given the gift to carry on with my life.
I am terrified to imagine how long it would have gone before I found it if not for self-checks of my breasts! There is no doubt in my mind that without Team Shan I would not have been doing regular checks. My cancer would have progressed and I do not want to think about that reality.
So, reflecting on the past year and the terrible days it brought, there is one organization I thank for my life. My early detection was due to Team Shan. I would not have been checking my breasts had it not been for the loss of Shan and her story. I thank Team Shan for running programs in Shan’s memory, for reminding me that breast cancer is not just a disease of older women. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I have been given the gift of life, a renewal of sorts, and an opportunity to see life as a spectacular gift. How do you say “thank you” for something so precious? You help spread the word that young women do get breast cancer!!
Kaylin, Amy, Shelly, Shanna
Click here to read about Shan’s Story