“Take it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time if that’s all you can do. Don’t apologize for crying, needing time alone, needing help, talking about your child’s journey too much, etc. Your true friends will be there.” - Shannon’s mom
In the fall of 2014, Shannon, who was 13, had a tiny red spot on her head that would not heal. It looked like an irritated bug bite, so her mom pointed it out during a regular check up with her pediatrician. While not alarmed, her pediatrician did agree that it should be looked at by a dermatologist. The family was able to get an appointment a few weeks later, at which a punch biopsy was done. The dermatologist was also not overly concerned, but did concur that the removal of the spot was best, since it was growing rapidly. Two weeks later the dermatologist’s office called and said the results of Shannon’s biopsy came back “strange”, but the pathology report stopped short of saying the spot was cancer. The family was also notified that a surgeon would need to remove it because it was so vascular. About six weeks later, the surgeon removed half of the spot to get a good sample for testing, so they would know exactly what they were dealing with. In the few months since Shannon first discovered the spot, it had grown to almost the size of a half dollar. The surgeon called with the pathology results the following week and unfortunately, it was melanoma. He shared that he had never seen anything like this before and the prognosis was not good. After the spot was completely removed, it was diagnosed as Nodular Melanoma, Stage 3c. This is the most aggressive type of Melanoma and is typically found in men over 60 years of age.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its tan or brown color) start to grow out of control. Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancerous and then spread to other areas of the body. Melanoma is much less common than some other types of skin cancers. However, melanoma is more dangerous because it is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught and treated early.
Shannon had six surgeries which included removing 63 lymph nodes in her neck, the salivary gland from her left cheek, and scalp reconstruction. She had a difficult year of treatments, but handled it all so well. Shannon had been cancer free for just over two years when she found a lump on her side under her skin. At age 15, Shannon had yet another surgery to remove this lump. The pathology results confirmed the melanoma had returned. In June of 2017, Shannon was given the news that she was now Stage 4 as her cancer had metastasized. With the recurrence, Shannon began traveling to St. Jude as she was eligible for treatment at their facility. She had scans and other tests which discovered she had more internal tumors. She began another year of treatments. Along the way, she had brain and abdominal surgery to remove the few tumors that were not responding to the treatments. Shannon had one more surgery to remove a spot on the back of her thigh. Unfortunately, Shannon’s thyroid stopped functioning due to her cancer treatment, so she will be on thyroid medication for the rest of her life.
Shannon has amazed her mom throughout her entire journey with how she has handled everything and taken it in stride. The past few months have been no different. Shannon graduated high school this year. Shannon has not had a normal year of school since sixth grade due to her cancer battle. Her family thought that her senior year would finally be a typical year, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that. Even with everything being canceled, Shannon has not complained at all. Shannon is now 18 and celebrated two years of her status being NED (No Evidence of Disease) on April 3rd, 2020. Shannon will have to be on guard the rest of her life as there is always a chance the melanoma could return yet again, even many years down the road. Frequent skin checks and various scans will always be on her calendar. Shannon plans on taking a year off and then heading to college, where she wants to study to become a Certified Child Life Specialist.
Shannon’s mom would like to offer this to a family that is going through a cancer diagnosis, “Take it one day at a time, or even one hour at a time if that’s all you can do. Don’t apologize for crying, needing time alone, needing help, talking about your child’s journey too much, etc. Your true friends will be there. They may not be able to understand what you are going through, but they will stand by your side. Tell them exactly what you need. They want to help, but don’t know the best way to do that unless you let them know”.
Runway to Hope has been such an encouragement to Shannon. She enjoys Bloomingdale's Bash Weekend and especially loves her time on the runway at the annual Spring Soiree. She counts down the days to the Soiree every year. Her mom cries when she sees Shannon on the stage each year with a huge smile on her face, enjoying her time in the spotlight, forgetting all the medical stuff for a while. There have been times when her family did not know if she would still be with them the next year. Her mom says that it meant so much to see her getting to be a normal teen.
Keeping in mind the health and safety of our guests, families, and our models, Runway to Hope unfortunately had to make the difficult decision to postpone our Spring Soiree. Unfortunately, the continuing climb in cases across the United States, leaves us without clarity on when it will be safe to host over 2,000 people in one room again. What many may not know, is that our Spring Soiree brings in over 85% of our funding for the entire year, including the dollars that are allocated to our Family Assistance Program. Without these funds, our Family Assistance Program may see a decline in the number of families that we are able to help. Without our Soiree, we are depending on the generosity of our donors to help us keep our Family Assistance Program and organization going. Please consider making a donation today.
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