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Shawne Bass: how my cancer journey strengthened my faith

Updated: Mar 27, 2019




Gratitude

Joy

Jesus

Everything is OK

What major life event made you pause, reflect, and grow?

Living this year with a heart of joy and lens of gratitude. 2016 turned out to be a year of significant change for me. In March, as most of us were trying to stick to our New Year's Eve resolutions, I heard the words “ you have cancer.” How could this be? I'm a super healthy woman, active and fit. I eat right, I exercise, and for Pete's sake, I'm only 47.

After doing plenty of Google searches on ovarian cancer, I learned that it received its nickname "silent killer" because over 60% of us diagnosed are in late stage, either stage three or four. This is why, although statistically the 8th most common cancer among women in the US, it’s the 5th most common cause of cancer deaths in women - more than 22,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually and around 14,000 will die.

Having done my sobering research, I hit my knees and began praying like never before. Prayers for complete healing, making sure God knew I was not ready to die. I am not ready to leave my two middle school age children, I have not finished teaching them how to become amazing adults! With the ominous five year survival rate settling over my soul and my desire to hear from God, my prayers quickly changed from my constant reminders to Him to actually listening to Him. I stopped talking, stopped asking and started listening. What I heard was to be faithful, faithful to God, to myself, to my children, family and friends. To be still and know the God is God and no matter what, I will be OK, my kids will be OK.

And thus began my journey from living with anxiety and fear to having a heart of joy and seeing my situation and world through a lens of gratitude. Now, one year after starting chemotherapy, I could take up space in this entire article with all the blessings that I have received through this journey.

How did cancer create a deeper connection to the outdoors?

During six months of chemo, I walked two miles per day. This was my reflection and prayer time. While poison was killing all sorts of cells, trying to take my dignity and energy, I used walking outdoors for prayer, reflections and to get the chemicals moving about and out of my body. I tried to walk two miles every day. Sometimes I only made one mile and sometimes that one mile would take me an hour, but I made it and I celebrated the success of the ability to walk, the beauty of the city I live in. I loved the time I had outside to explore parts of my neighborhood that in my previous life I zoomed by rushing to get my kids from one place to another. Having cancer helped me slow down and appreciate the beauty all around me: Freedom Park, our Greenway System and my fabulous SouthPark neighborhood.




Why are friendships important to your outlook?

In this life you will have trouble, some people don't share their troubles, they don't ask for help. For me, having relationships is how I get through a hard day. I've been through a difficult divorce, lost a job through downsizing, had to short-sale my home to escape a foreclosure, survived a stage three ovarian cancer diagnosis, surgery and six months of chemotherapy. What I've learned from my struggles is that I'm not alone, ever. Every single person I meet has struggles of their own. The more I share, the more I allow myself to feel the pain, either my pain or another's pain, the more ability and capacity I have to find joy, accept God’s blessings and live with a grateful heart evan through the difficult times.

What has your hair loss journey been like?

Being a single mom going through chemotherapy and losing my hair have certainly challenged me! I'm not going to sugar coat it, having my hair fall out


may have been one of the hardest things I've endured. My hair was and still is part of my identity. Just yesterday I found myself admiring and longing for long blonde hair. When my hair first started to fall out, I thought to myself, “OK, this is it, you've got this, you can handle this.” The truth is as I pulled fist fulls of my long blonde hair out letting the mass fly freely into my backyard for the birds and squirrels to find, I was super scared. When I had the amazing Ashley


at Salon Vivace (Piedmont Row) shave my head, they may have seen a brave strong women, but I felt powerless and vulnerable. When my hair finished falling out, my eyebrows and eyelashes followed. It was awful! I looked like an iguana. But having the resolve of finding joy and being grateful every day that I'm alive, I choose to change up my look daily by having a variety of wigs - seven to choose from. I also attended Levine Cancer Institute’s beauty program, Look Good Feel Better, and learned how to apply makeup including penciling in eyebrows and ways to wear a head scarf/wrap.


What energizes you?

I am passionate about encouraging people to be their best selves regardless of their situation. I believe that anything is possible, through prayer, relationships, diligence and a strong positive mental desire. I love encouraging and mentoring people in all situations of all ages. I've been through a lot, so I have plenty of experiences to draw from.


What does gratitude look like to you?

Everyday I look up. I see the clouds and trees, I hear the birds and squirrels. I am truly amazed at the life that is given to me. I am in awe and wonder of how perfectly knit together I am. As I reflect on my life, I see how pieces fit together, I see God’s hand in my life; sometimes holding me up, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes walking beside me. I am simply inspired by the breath that I’ve been given to breathe and I don’t take a moment of it for granted.

What was your childhood like?

I was brought up playing outside, building forts and being a kid. Interestingly, our family never got sick, no allergies, no diseases, no cancer, no alzheimer's. I really had no awareness of death or illness until my grandfather passed away suddenly when I was 14 and even since his death a little over 30 years ago, I’ve only experienced one other person that I dearly love dying; my step-father died of pneumonia while in his seventies. I always thought that the tragedy that I saw in the world around me would never happen to me.

Where are you from?

I was born in Minneapolis, MN, and moved to Atlanta, GA, with my Mom and Dad in the late 1970’s. I moved to Charlotte for a banking job in 2006.

How did you arrive in the Carolinas?

I’ve been in Charlotte with my two middle-school aged children since June of 2006 when I moved up from Atlanta for a job at Bank of America. Charlotte has been my favorite place to live, and I continually am amazed at how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful city.

Family stats?

Two middle-school aged kids: a boy in the 8th grade and a girl in the 7th grade. We used to have a dog, cat and some hermit crabs, but we are sadly down to just our cat, Cookie Dough Sassy Bass. I would like add either a golden retriever or lab.

Alma mater?

I graduated from Georgia Southern with an undergraduate in management information systems and I then got my MBA from George Washington University.

Career?

I currently work for Salesforce, a cloud based customer relationship software company. I have the amazing privilege of working from home and helping Deloitte Consulting and Salesforce jointly solve complicated client problems.

What is something you appreciate about your company?

Everyday I get to work with people who really care about what we do and how we do it. As a company, Salesforce encourages its employees to give-back and support causes important to them.

What are your career aspirations?

I’d like to work in the non-profit group within Salesforce to raise awareness and funds for 5013C companies in conjunction with the Salesforce alliance ecosystem. Using corporate funds and awareness to drive life changing programs and research is where I want my focus to be within the next two years.

How do you invest your free time?

I teach the 7th grade girls youth group at Church at Charlotte and I dabble in gardening. I'm thinking about getting a tower garden.

What does life after career look like?

In a beautifully landscaped townhome community within walking distance from a farm to table style eatery and grocery where I don't have to cook and can spend my time visiting with friends.

Favorite spots to visit in Charlotte?

I live in SouthPark and tend to stay around the area. Dogwood is a favorite with their eclectic menu. I love to walk from one end of Park Road Shopping Center to the other end and pop in and out of all the stores while people watching.

Any social media accounts that you would like to share?

caringbridge

What causes/charities are you involved with?

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance; Stiletto Sprint; YMCA Y Readers Program and helping out at Church at Charlotte.

What do you love about the Carolinas/Charlotte?

I love our pace. We can choose to be slow and intentionally southern with grace and charm or vibrant and fast-paced with the vitality of a young city.

Where do you vacation?

Outer Banks baby!

Favorite TV series?

24; I miss Jack Bauer.

Favorite book?

Gone with the Wind and the Harry Potter series. Also love The Five Love Languages.

Favorite app?

Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Snapchat, and Voxer

If money wasn't an issue, what would you do with your time each day?

Volunteer at a high risk elementary school helping the kids learn to read and model kindness and gratitude.

Any unique talents?

Nope!



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