More From Joanie Shawhan

July 22, 2021 by Joanie Shawhan (Wisconsin, USA)

I had never planned on becoming a writer. But then again, I never planned to get cancer. Somehow my diagnosis of ovarian cancer collided with the pen. Together they transported me along a path ordained by God and beyond my wildest dreams.

This journey began in 2006 when I rolled over in bed and felt a mass in my abdomen—ovarian cancer. After surgery, I endured five months of chemotherapy that not only attacked the cancer, but pummeled my body with severe pain, fatigue, and hair loss.

As a nurse with an oncology background, I should have felt prepared, but I discovered I had more questions than answers. I longed for a camaraderie with others that offered support and validation of my cancer experience. But there were no support groups available. I felt alone.

After struggling through treatment, I realized I had a message to share with other women who also felt alone in their cancer journeys. So I started writing my cancer story as well as the stories of eleven other women with various cancers. My book became the lifeline I desired when I was going through chemotherapy because it was filled with helpful tips and short vignettes that conclude with a scripture and a prayer.

During my writing process, I met other ovarian cancer survivors at Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana. We shared our stories, tackled physical challenges like zip-lining, and celebrated with a superheroes theme night. 

I also met survivors at camp who shared their stories with medical students in the Survivors Teach Students program. Their testimonies spurred me on to be a part of this program, and I joined the team of presenters. We share our personal risk factors, symptoms, tests, surgery, chemotherapy, and status. We hope these future doctors will diagnose women in the earlier stages to increase the chances of survival.

Several of us presenters started a local ovarian cancer social club, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side Up. We sponsor speakers of interest, plan fun outings, participate in fundraisers for ovarian cancer, and promote advocacy by meeting with our representatives at the Capitol.

I continue to write encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. To hone my skill, I attended various writer’s conferences and joined a writing critique group and a Christian writing community for women.

This past year, I had the privilege of being a contributing author to four compilation books. These books, along with the book I wrote, are available on Amazon.

Cancer initiated my writing journey, but God expanded my writing to include devotions and other topics along the road of life. Through my book and cancer journey, God has opened doors to speaking opportunities and media interviews. These links as well as my blog are on my website:

Currently, I am in the process of writing a book about lessons I learned from my spiritual mentor. I continue to contribute to devotionals and compilation books as the Lord leads.

I am thankful I remain cancer-free and grateful for the opportunity to share my story with my The Upper Room friends.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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