News 5 is sharing stories of local breast cancer survivors all day Thursday.
One woman says she has always been health-conscious and was shocked when she found a lump in her breast while she was exercising, but her mammogram was clear.
Shannon McWhorter said, “I was diagnosed in April of 2015 and I had just had a mammogram in October of 2014 and it was all clear, and I just had this feeling like something was not right.”
Thankfully, she acted on that feeling. She was out for a run one day and found a lump in her breast when she stopped to stretch.
“As I stretched my arms it hurt so I just kind of started feeling around my arm and around my chest and that’s when I felt the lump,” she explained.
Since her mammogram was clear, her doctor ordered an ultrasound, then a biopsy.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 HER2 positive breast cancer. Not so much from the size of the tumor but I had lymph node involvement,” Shannon told News 5.
HER2-positive breast cancer is aggressive and is typically the result of genes, the environment, or lifestyle. Shannon believes stress was a major player for her.
She said, “It can compromise your immune system and it just kind of opens you up.”
Shannon went through 22 chemotherapy treatments before she had a double mastectomy. Through it all, she continued to work, and take care of her then 5-year-old twin girls, and 7 and 8-year-old boys.
Cherish Lombard asked how you tell your kids, “mommy has cancer?.”
Shannon replied, “That one was very hard because all they knew of cancer was death. I had an uncle die from lung cancer, I had a grandfather die from prostate cancer, a grandmother die from cervical cancer, so anytime they had heard cancer it was a death sentence.”
She started by simply telling them she was sick.
She said, “I very carefully told them I was sick but that we caught it early. Eventually, I had to tell them, “Now I’m going to be losing my hair. But it’s okay, that means the medicine’s working.” Finally one of them said, “Do you have cancer?” And I said, “Well, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer but I think it’s going to be okay.”‘
Shannon said there was no option of going into “flight” mode, only “fight” mode, and she is now cancer-free.
“You want a reason. Why did this happen to me? What caused it? I would see people smoking on a corner that obviously weren’t living very healthy lives and they’re just fine. And here I am with four little kids and trying to make healthy choices in my life and I’ve got stage 3 cancer. There’s just not a reason really. You just have to accept it, get your action plan. I think it’s very important to stay positive through something like that, and I think it can determine your outcome,” said McWhorter.