Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As an RN with an oncology background, I should have felt equipped, but I discovered that I had more questions than answers.
I sought out other ovarian cancer survivors, but found no support groups, Gilda’s Clubs, or Facebook groups. I wondered, Are there other survivors?
As I searched for answers, I joined a Christian writing group called Friends of the Pen. I started writing a book for women undergoing chemotherapy — the stories of everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer, concluding each piece with a scripture and a prayer. My hope was to provide others with the help I desired throughout my own ordeal.
I finally met other ovarian cancer survivors at an ovarian cancer camp called 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.
A cancer detour steered me into a new purpose and calling for my life — to advocate for women, to educate regarding ovarian cancer, and to write a book encouraging women undergoing chemotherapy. My book, soon to be released, is titled In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer.
At the time of my cancer diagnosis, I could not imagine how God would rebuild my life. That which began as a winter journey blossomed into a life enriched by the wonderful people I met along the way, including my Christian writing community and my fellow ovarian cancer survivors.
“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV).
You can read more from Joanie by visiting her website and blog: www.joanieshawhan.com.
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