Survivor finds meaning, blessings in journey with cancer
Before the chemotherapy drugs trickle through the catheter and into Marcie Shannon’s veins, she holds up the IV bag and prays.
“Please bless this medicine, allow it to only destroy the malignant cells and leave the normal cells and tissue in perfect healthy condition. I ask for blessings for the scientists who discovered the treatments, the physicians and nurses who treat me and for myself. Thank you for the gift of healing and the gift of life.”
She peers at the positive words that she wrote on the bags: Grateful. Love. Blessed. Heal. Thank you. Peace.
This is what treatments looked like for Shannon as she recently went through six rounds of chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer.
“I thought of this because of the experiment by Dr. Masaru Emoto that hypothesized that water can react to positive thoughts and words and that polluted water could be cleaned through prayer and positive visualization,” said 53-year-old Shannon, of Puyallup, who worked at the Mirror for nearly 20 years.
Positivity has been a guiding power for Shannon since she was diagnosed with cancer six months ago.
But it was a negative experience that ultimately motivated Shannon to remain optimistic throughout her journey with cancer — an incident that she looks back on as a profound blessing.
The blessing of an unsettling diagnosis
Shannon recalls the sound of her healthcare provider’s shoes clicking on the hard ceramic tile outside of her hospital room.
She had just had surgery after she found a lump in her abdomen in March. During the surgery, doctors removed all of the visible cancer, including two tumors — one the size of a grapefruit and the other of an orange — as well as her appendix, nine lymph nodes and her fallopian tubes.
“When I first went in for my surgery, they did a test for ovarian cancer and it was high on ovarian cancer. The doctors said, ‘If we get in there and you have cancer all over, we will remove everything visible but we still have to test everything.’”
As she waited for the pathology report to come back over the next couple of days, she experienced extreme back pain and complications from her surgery. Her mind, body and spirit were disconnected and she wanted answers.
Then the healthcare provider came into her room.
“This woman, her bedside manner was terrible,” she recalled. “She wants to hurry up and get on with her day. I was on painkillers and crying. I’m in so much pain and she said, ‘Well, you can go home today.’”
But Shannon was not about to go home to her adult son and young grandson, who was already traumatized by her being in the hospital. Shannon wanted answers and insisted on staying at the hospital.
The woman left the room and moments later returned. She said, “OK, I’ve scheduled an ultrasound for you. By the way, you have ovarian cancer.”
Shannon was stunned.
She was alone with no support as the callous woman relayed her cancer diagnosis to her.
“That word is so scary and everyone’s reaction is, oh my God, I’m going to die, and rightfully so, many people die from cancer,” Shannon said. “First I was pissed off about it, but the more I’ve thought about it, I thank God, because I had a day or two to process that by myself before I told my family.”
She decided if she projected positivity when she told her family the news, she would get their positivity back.
“I was forced to look within myself and respond in a way that was good for everyone. So now I use that in my everyday life with almost everything. I could easily get overwhelmed with everything that’s going on, but I know I have the strength behind me knowing that I’ve gotten through chemo.”
She told her family she didn’t want to hear stories about cancer and death.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is like getting diagnosed with diabetes. Sometimes people don’t get over diabetes or cancer. But I’m wiring my brain to know I’m going to be successful with this.”
Her mindset has helped her physically, as she has so far felt minimal symptoms from her chemotherapy. It has also helped her outside her cancer diagnosis. As a full-time student at Pierce College, she has earned a 4.0 GPA during the past two quarters while going through treatment.
“I set it in my mind to not let this affect me. You might be debilitated from this, so be it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” she told herself.
Following her cancer diagnosis, another negative experience translated into a blessing for her.
The blessing of a computer system failure
Shannon had watched how chemotherapy “degraded” a co-worker’s health in the past and she was determined she wouldn’t go through chemo.
She utlimately decided to do integrative medicine with chemo, but was unsure if her health insurance would pay for that treatment. When she went into the hospital to get her port installed for chemotherapy, their computer system failed so they couldn’t schedule her for treatment right away.
Later that day, her insurance provider approved her for treatment at the Salish Cancer Center in Fife, which offers integrative medicine.
“I just wanted to fall to my knees in humbleness and say, ‘Oh my god, this is bigger than me,’” Shannon recalled. “That part was amazing.”
Salish Cancer Center combines conventional cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation) and integrative oncology (naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture) to create “a truly modern oncology practice,” according to the center’s website.
The center taught Shannon to completely shift her diet to anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic foods. She incorporated fish oil, vitamin C, ashwagandha for adrenal support and other supplements into her diet to help replenish her system during and after chemotherapy.
The Salish Cancer Center also offers acupuncture that has helped to alleviate her brain fogginess and queasiness, as well as Native American spiritual healing to strengthen her mind and spirit.
During her first appointment with her spiritual healer that coincided with her first week of chemo treatment, the Navajo healer asked Shannon what she wanted out of the healing process.
“I feel like I need to get my energy right,” she told him.
He prayed for her in Navajo tongue and sang a song to channel Mother and Father.
“In the Native American way, we are all brother and sister, so he speaks to Mother and Father through himself and he communicates what they told him,” she explained.
He told her very personal things about her energy, what she could do to help spiritually heal and told her: “You’re going to make it through this. It’ll probably be a rough ride, but you’ll come through this gleaming.”
Her experience at the Salish Cancer Center has been “amazing” and she hopes to give back to the center one day through donations or volunteerism.
She also uses cannabis to help ease her symptoms. When she first met her cannabis supplier, who she describes as a “super hippie,” he gave her unconventional advice: “You need to love the cancer.”
While his idea bothered Shannon at first, she realized where there’s an abscene of light, there is darkness.
“If cancer is bad, but I love it, it’ll go away,” she noted. “People say, ‘You’ve fought cancer’; I’ve always felt I’m dealing with it and loving it out of my system until it goes away.”
On the heels of her last chemo treatment, Shannon is feeling so good she even painted her kitchen this week. Her most apparent symptom is her hair loss, however, she was blessed with a free wig from The Dr. Richard C. Ostenson Cancer Center at Good Samaritan in Puyallup. The cancer center offers complimentary new wigs and wig fittings for cancer patients in their wig boutique, complimentary hats and head scarves for cancer patients, a complimentary skin care and makeup class for women who are about to undergo, currently undergoing, or have recently undergone cancer treatment, and many other free resources.
Shannon, who has been journaling her entire process that she hopes to also one day blog about, has a follow-up doctor appointment in mid-October to find out if the chemo was successful.
Looking back on her journey thus far, she hasn’t regretted any of it.
“It’s been a huge life experience and it’s elevated me to my higher self — my brain and soul to a higher conscience.”
This elevation was validated during her final chemo treatment last month when she went back to visit the spiritual healer.
“I walked into the room and he said, ‘Oh my gosh, I see a waterfall flowing through the top of your head through your body,” she recalled. “It has rainbows from the sun hitting it. I know that you’re healed.”
The healer went on to pray and sing. He said Mother and Father wanted him to tell Shannon that the dragonfly was her spirit animal. She showed him the dragonfly on a ring attached to the back of her cell phone.
The healer told her that the dragonfly represents Shannon and her journey.
“There’s a lot of spiritual significance to a dragonfly. It has to do with learning things from this world and learning about why I’m here on a deeper level,” she said. “It was really a cool thing because what a dragonfly represents is exactly what I’ve been going through. I felt really uplifted and really light.”
For more information about the Salish Cancer Center, visit www.salishcancercenter.com. For more information about The Dr. Richard C. Ostenson Cancer Center at Good Samaritan, visit www.multicare.org/mrcc-cancer-patient-resources-center.