Life After Ovarian Cancer
I could’ve never imagined the path God had planned for me after I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
In 2006, I rolled over in bed and felt a grapefruit-size mass in my abdomen—ovarian cancer. Being an RN with a background in oncology, I should’ve felt prepared, but I had more questions than answers. I wanted to connect and share with other women who could validate my cancer experience. But there were no Gilda’s Clubs or support groups available. Were there other ovarian cancer survivors?
Ovarian cancer changed the direction of my life. As a survivor, how could I help others with the support I desired when I was going through chemotherapy?
I began to journal my ovarian cancer story, eventually writing encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy.
Nine years after my diagnosis, I finally met other ovarian cancer survivors. Through an ovarian cancer Facebook group, I learned about an ovarian cancer camp in Missoula, MT, free of charge for ovarian cancer survivors. At camp, I met survivors who shared their ovarian cancer stories with medical students in a program called Survivors Teaching Students (STS). I am delighted to be involved with our local STS group.
A few of us STS presenters decided to start an ovarian cancer social group. We sponsor speakers of interest, plan fun outings, and participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer. We are The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up.
Finally, after years of interviewing other women with cancer and writing their stories, I was thrilled when a publishing house offered me a contract for my book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. The book highlights the stories of everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer—our challenges, heartbreaks, questions, and triumphs. New doors have opened for me including media appearances and speaking engagements.
My message? Cancer is hard, but you are not alone.
Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor, registered nurse, Selah Awards Finalist for In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, speaker, and radio and television guest. She speaks to medical students about ovarian cancer in the Survivors Teaching Students program. She belongs to an ovarian cancer group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up. You can contact her at www.joanieshawhan.com.