I am not sure how to even begin writing something like this. For as long as I can remember you have been faced with challenges that most people have not. Yet throughout all of this you have been strong. I remember when you were in your early teens and developed a tumor on your neck, you had surgery, went through chemo and braved it all with a smile. I still have envy of you sitting on the couch with Kirk Cameron on the set of Growing Pains, your smile larger than life!
Life carried on, treatments stopped and you seemed to have beaten the disease. You eventually sent out graduation pictures and headed off to Queens, I bragged that I had a cousin at Queens and still think you are one of the smartest people I know.
Your wedding pictures were beautiful, so glad that you met someone like Will to share your life with ~ true love really does bring happiness doesn’t it?
Not long after that you were faced with a bout of breast cancer, again like a trooper you looked at the situation and decided what you needed to do. You had surgery, you had chemo and you beat it. You were told that having a child would not be something in your future based on all of your radiation.
In 2002 you had a beautiful child, Alexis. Shawna, she is a spitting image of you and Will. Her smile is radiant and I truly believe that she is destined for something incredible. She was after all, the child that was considered a miracle, one that you were never supposed to carry.
Somehow cancer seemed to find you a third time. You told everyone of your situation and again dealt with everything with strength that would put most to shame. You carried on and lived your life like everyone else. Often the diagnosis that you received at your doctor visits were not overly positive but you always found something to report to others that was positive. Last summer Will suffered a very shocking stroke while running on the Island. You flew to his side and stayed with him while he started what was to be over a year-long recovery. During his recovery you decided that if he could battle you were going to battle.
You flew to Vienna numerous times for different treatments and on one trip the whole family went. Since Will was unable to work while recovering from his stroke the three of you were able to have some much deserved family time. When you came back you didn’t know if the treatments were effective internally but you felt better and that was all that really mattered. You received some quality of life from the treatments and that was enough for you to go back a few times to receive them. During this time Wil continued to receive physiotherapy and fight his battle.
Your family remained upbeat through all of this, really this is more than numerous families deal with collectively in a lifetime and they were all happening within your four walls. Despite your fight, you started to feel ill and began to experience pain. A stay in the hospital confirmed what nobody wanted to hear. The doctors felt there was nothing more that they could do and the new approach was a palliative one. You stated that you were at peace with what you were told.
As I read your blog which is being updated by your friend I know that you are slipping from us and I know that it is probably difficult for you to stop fighting since that is what you have done for your entire life. Will’s surgery to replace the part of his skull was successful this morning and I know that news has brought you comfort and probably allowed you to be at further peace.
I want you to know Shawna:
When I think of bravery….I see you
When I think of courage….I see you
When I think of humble…..I see you
When I think of strength…I see you
When I think of beauty…..I see you
Shawna, you are one of the most selfless people I know, you have been concerned with others throughout everything. Please know that your daughter will be loved and embraced by all and that both she and Will will have all the support that friends and family are able to provide for them. I want to shout out and scream that this is not fair, everything was supposed to work and you are supposed to grow old and rock your grandchildren. But if you are at peace, then I need to be too.
May you and Will and Alexis find strength and comfort in the love that you have for one another in the forthcoming days. You are an inspiration Shawna, I am thankful for time we have spent together even if it has not been in abundance due to distance and I thank you for all you have taught me my beautiful cousin.