Shannon Mannke The fight of her life

I remember the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer like it was yesterday. It was 10 days before my favorite holiday, Christmas. I was alone in my office at work patiently awaiting the results from my biopsy. When the doctor told me that it was cancer, my life flashed before my eyes. I was only 26 years old; how could this be? Immediately, I thought of death and wondered if I was going to die. Surprisingly, my attitude was very positive from the beginning. I thought, “Well, these were the cards I was dealt; now it’s time for the fight of my life.”

After my lumpectomy, I was happy to learn that I had zero node involvement. However, because of my family history, my age and because my tumor was aggressive, I began chemotherapy. I had four treatments of AC, followed by 12 weeks of Taxol; now I’m dealing with 6 1/2 weeks of radiation. I went into every unknown situation like I’ve been there before. I managed to stay positive throughout each treatment and owe that to the team of health professionals at Dana-Farber who helped me deal with this terrible disease. I won’t lie, it was the worst experience of my life, but I did it. I tried to make the best out of every situation. Following my first infusion of AC I had a head shaving party before any of my hair fell out. My brother and boyfriend shaved their heads with me. It was important to me to try to maintain some type of control over my life, since cancer was starting to take control of all of the things I loved. Losing my hair was hard, and I can’t wait until the day when I no longer have to wear a bandanna in public. I’m not a vain person, but it was very difficult for me to consider myself attractive or feel comfortable in my own skin while going through treatment.

Breast cancer has changed my life immensely. In the blink of an eye, I felt like I went from being a 26-year-old woman with everyday regular problems to a 26-year-old woman dealing with the effects of chemotherapy. There were times when I didn’t think I could take one more treatment and days that I thanked the stars above that I found the lump when I did. While going through treatment I learned that I needed to fight cancer head on, and I was able to do that with every ounce of energy I had. I’ve never cried as much as I have in my entire life while fighting cancer. It is an experience that I never want to live again, but it has made me a stronger person. I now have a better appreciation for life. This was a small chapter of many in my life. I will slowly gain my life back and look back at this experience with a sense of triumph because I was capable of doing something I never thought I could…beat cancer!

Courtesy of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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