Smarties, meet Shawne Bass, a mother, cancer survivor, and shining star. Shawne shows us how to always see the light in any given situation. She reminds us that beauty can be found in any situtation. Shawne didn’t allow her diagnosis to put out her flame, instead she chose to shine even brighter. And because of her genuine radiance, she even found love along the way. I love her reminder that we are all going through something. So Smarties, let’s all remember to be there for one another, to be patient, understanding, kind, and reflective.
Name: Shawne Bass
Children: Evan (15), Sydney (14)
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Neighborhood: SouthPark for 12 years
Alma Mater: Georgia Southern University
Career: Always in technology! Brand ambassador and alliance leader for Salesforce.
In 2016, you were diagnosed with cancer. How has the diagnosis and getting to the other side of cancer given you a new purpose in life?
Supporting other people going through cancer has been a focus since I was diagnosed in March 2016. I am frequently learning of more and more people diagnosed with this scary disease. Although not all cancers are the same nor are the treatments and outcomes, listening to newly diagnosed friends and encouraging them along their journey is important to me. Recently, Novant was granted funds from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance to create a new Women to Women Peer mentoring group for gynecologic cancers. I am excited to participate in this new program helping newly diagnosed women see that there is hope after a diagnosis. There is such a strong community of support in Charlotte, from Buddy Kemp Cancer Support to the YMCA’s Livestrong program, that finding hope in the midst of anxiety and despair is just a click or phone call away. And with awareness and fundraising like the Stiletto Sprint, Teal Diva 5K, and Teal Butterfly Challenge, we are making great strides in early detection of this “silent killer;” the most deadly of all the “women’s” cancers. Since raising awareness is a key pillar to combating ovarian cancer, I participate in Survivors Teaching Students, a program designed to offer real-life stories from ovarian cancer survivors to medical students. I love meeting new and interesting women when we share our stories.
Having cancer must give you a new perspective on life that extends beyond yourself. Can you explain?
TBH (To Be Honest – as my kids would say) before cancer plopped itself into my life, I always felt sorry for people diagnosed and I had no clue what to say or how to relate to them. I felt at odds with myself while in a conversation with them. I learned that that cancer is a personal journey, one of growth. As the cancer was growing, so was my knowledge and acceptance of death. As the cancer was dying, so were the walls I put up to keep myself “safe.” I became more vulnerable, more empathetic, nicer! Now, instead of asking “what can I do” or “how are you feeling” when I talk to a cancer patient, I simply am there to listen, to empathize and be vulnerable with them. And mostly to remind them that on the other side of chemo/radiation/surgery, no matter what the odds or what the statistics say, true life, a grateful life, can BEGIN with cancer.
When you first heard your diagnosis, what went through your head?
2016 turned out to be a year of significant change for me. While most of us were trying to stick to our New Year’s resolutions come March, 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 the 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.
What surprised you during chemo?
Love can catch you even when you are in chemo! I had been divorced a little over a decade and didn’t date much when a good and trusted girlfriend told me about a recently divorced father of three. “A real catch,” she insisted, “Shawne, I know you are going through chemo and this is not the ideal time, but I guarantee he will not be available long and he’s the real deal, a great man.” In the oddity of the conversation, the only thing I could come up with was “But I don’t have any hair.” Well what could it hurt to meet him for a quick green-juice drink? Since immense health was part of my “kick cancer to the curb” regimen, I decided that if he did indeed want to meet me, well why not. Since our first date in July 2016, I’ve come to believe that Mike is a true gift from God. At my weakest, a strong man, willing to walk with me came along. From July through September, he sat with me during chemo and provided guidance and counseling to help mitigate my side effects. God sent me a doctor, a naturopathic physician, who continues to ensure my health is a top priority…and he cooks! I’m excited about our future.
Speaking of health, 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 even through the difficult times.
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?
Every day 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.