Friday, November 25, 2011

Life Lessons by Shannon

When we first moved to this area in 2007, I was ready to lose my baby weight after Abi was born, and I saw Shannon going on a run outside. We visited for a minute and she invited me to go running with her sometime. I did, and that first jog led to me joining her and others in running a half marathon and meeting more people and feeling totally at home here in our new neighborhood.

Shannon has been battling breast cancer for many years, and this summer it took a turn for the worse. I've been thinking of her so much, she's just amazing. She has become one of my heroes for many reasons that I'd like to ramble about here for a bit, if you don't mind. So when we moved here in 2007 she lived just on the next street over and I knew her from our church ward, and her smile and the light in her eyes just showed her joy and excitement for life. After that first jog together, I was awed at how much she had endured in her life, and inspired even more that she was so positive and happy despite the challenges she faced and was still facing. I want to be like her. I know that everyone has their own daily struggles to deal with, and as I face my own trials I think of Shannon and it helps me to be try and be stronger and to be happy.

Here are a few quick stories of my hero Shannon that she shared with us as she gave us her lessons for life.  She shared these lessons two years ago in October 2009. I didn't have my notebook that day, but I did have a pen, and I knew what she shared was going to be good cause she's just amazing, so I wrote it down on my hand and took pictures as soon as I got home. :) So here are some of the rules she lives by and the things she's learned in her life that help her with her trials. Pictures with typed translations follow below.
#1 - Always come to church - She first moved to Utah over 10 years ago, and at that time she was a young mother in her mid 30s and she was going through a divorce and had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She moved here to Utah with her 5 kids. Her 4th child is a son who was born very handicapped, wasn't expected to live beyond two years, but is still alive today and although it's work to take care of him, he's such a blessing to Shannon, she says he is her first missionary (her oldest son is on a mission in Scotland and is her first missionary, but she also considers Kevin her "first" missionary for when he took on his earthly mission and challenge of being born into a handicapped body, she knows what a strong and amazing spirit he has and she feels honored to be his mother).
Photo from 22 April 2011 "Kevin is 18 today! Wow! It's been a journey, but I wouldn't change a second of it! Here's hoping for another 18!"

She started chemotherapy shortly after she arrived here in Utah, so she was in a new neighborhood, was a single mom now, sick, tired, stressed, self conscious of being bald etc... she had many reasonable excuses to stay at home and take it easy, but she decided to go to church that first Sunday - and that was an important test of her faith that she passed, and she knows that making church attendance a priority has been a great blessing in her life.

#2 - This is not my real home (Earth is not our real home - after this brief mortal life we will return to our true home which is with God)

#3 - Don't be scared about the future - focus on the day you're on (She tries to not to worry about how long she'll live or all the "what if?"s that cancer brings, she focuses on today - today I'm good, I'm doing okay, or today I'm struggling, but I know God loves me)

#4 - Read other people's accounts - The Ensign, the scriptures, Tuesday's with Morrie (Those are some things Shannon reads that help her. Here's one Ensign article that helped me because of this quote in it: “When someone has an ailment or an illness and they are healed as the result of a blessing, their faith is being strengthened. But for those who aren’t healed but continue faithful, their faith is being perfected. The first is a faith-promoting experience. The second is faith-perfecting.”), Moses crossing the Red Sea is a good one to remember when I struggle with my small trials, and I also love Conference talks - like this one from the prophet which helped me when I was complaining after our first month in Costa Rica last year - it was funny, cause I had been murmuring big time during the week before this talk and Corey said I should be more grateful, so when the prophet spoke on gratitude, I knew it was a call for me to repent. Also another amazing story here - scroll half way down, there's a story of a German woman during World War 2 - heart breaking trial of incredible faith)

#5 - Have an attitude of gratitude - (She said that being bald makes it so easy to get ready in the mornings! Plus, she joked that it was nice to not have to pluck those thick facial whiskers that start to grow here and there as we get older. I met an amazingly happy person in Costa Rica, and when we talked about her insanely good attitude despite the problems she was facing, she shared something which is what I now try to say to myself in my trials: "It must be a blessing" If Stephanie Nielsen can say her accident and the trials that have followed are a blessing, how could I not also try to recognize that my trials (which are so small in comparison!) are also blessings, to get me closer to God. I know that God is good and that he loves his children, so our trials and difficult experiences really could be and are actually blessings.

#6 - Have confidence in yourself - "I'm bald..." Shannon was bald at the time she gave this lesson from Cancer treatments from her breast cancer that had returned. During her first battle with cancer, she often felt self conscious or uncomfortable being bald. This time she told us she has gained more confidence, took off her hat, and gave the rest of the lesson with her bald head showing. Don't be scared!

#7 - Make it a priority to keep moving  - She didn't know what the next year would bring, if she'd be feeling healthy or not, but she still made plans to do fun things that she enjoyed, like a planned trip to New York to play in a tennis tournament.

#8 - Plan something fun - make a Bucket List like in the movie

She asked a sister in the ward to share her experience of her husband passing away. She remembered a condolence card she received that sweetly said "There's a little bit of heaven in your home when someone from your home is in heaven."

(I apparently stopped numbering after 8, but I think 9 and 10 were as follows)

#9 - Life is a polishing experience - and polishing a stone, like refining gold or making a precious diamond, takes heat, or lots of pressure, and/or pain. That's what it takes to make us the best and most beautiful that we can be - stretching us beyond our comfort zone.
#10 - We don't own our problems, God does - Turn our lives and problems over to him. Be optimistic. Plant perennials (make plans to be around the next year)

One more story about Shannon. In 2006 on her birthday, she went on a hike with some guys up to Pheifferhorn. That was before we'd moved here. It was June 25th but it had been a long winter, so there was still ice/snow on the mountain.
She didn't know how to use an ice pick correctly and on a steep icy slope she lost her grip and control of herself and fell, she was literally tumbling to her death off a cliff, and as she felt this was it, this was the end of her life. Then she thought of who would take care of her children, especially her son Kevin, and then she was stopped, she felt something grab her waist and she stopped from her full tumble at the edge of the cliff with her feet dangling off the edge. Her friends Richard and Jerry saw her falling and thought there was no way she would survive with the angle of the slope and how fast she was falling.
Shannon knows that she was miraculously spared that day and that she was supposed to have died, so each day since has been a gift from the Lord.

In October 2009, Joe and I went with Shannon and a group of friends to hike Pfeifferhorn. Shannon shared parts of the story again, it is called her "Miracle on the Mountain"

Shannon is the 3rd from left, I'm 5th. It's a really steep hike in places - the picture above is not the steepest part. Joe and I stopped at the "knife's edge" which part made me way too nervous for Joe's life, not that he had been struggling with the hike, it was just too scary - I was scared for myself, let alone putting my first born child at risk. So here below is where we took one last snap shot and turned back. (Plus I had baby Lily home waiting for her milkmaid to return...)

After the knife's edge is the final climb to the peak of Pfeifferhorn, which you can see from the top left of the picture above is STEEP. The rest of our group made it to the peak.

This is Richard who took fantastic pictures of the view during the hike. (image 4027) He was also one of the two guys with Shannon on the day of her Miracle.

When we got back from Costa Rica in May of this year, Shannon was doing great, still out walking in the mornings but taking it easy - no plans for marathon. But her cancer took a turn for the worse over the summer and she's in need of extra prayers. Shannon, I just love you - I pray for you every day.

Update: Shannon passed away on December 2, our prayers are with her and her family, especially her son on his mission.


  1. A fantastic list! Oh, and you know, it's sick how pretty your handwriting is on your hand.

  2. Enjoyed your blog post. No, you don't know me. But we have a facebook friend in common! Your friend's "This is not my real home" reminded me of a song I have come to enjoy, "Where I Belong" by Building 459. Some of the words aren't exactly the ones I would have chosen, but the sentiment is perfect. I find myself humming it at times... "All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong." Enjoy!

  3. Ooops. Building 429. Wrong address! ;-)

  4. Thanks for the link to that song - loved it - I'm excited to go HOME someday

  5. Tiffanie, Thanks for taking such great notes! I remember and love what Shannon said that day. I'm so glad that you posted this. So grateful for the great example Shannon is for all of us!

  6. A beautiful tribute Tiffanie about our beloved friend Shannon. Lest there be any doubt, that day truly was a miracle on the mountain. Angels stopped her fall. Jerry and I visited the same spot that fall. Jerry stood where she stopped (marked with a gps), and I went to the side to take pictures. I went back tonight to get the pictures. What isn't shown is the 150+ foot drop off below Jerry.

    She got me running. I was only go to do 1 Komen Race for the Cure. A few years later, we crossed the finish line together at the St. George Marathon. I told her I didn't run, due to doctors orders and my bad knees. So much for that excuse.


  7. The day of the Mountain Miracle:

    A favorite:

    Our path marked, including her slide path. Shannon and I in the picture gives a feel for the scale. We didn't go back across the knife edge, but brought her below it, then had to hike up again. Storm clouds were rolling in, and we wanted to get off the higher elevation. Talking her into sliding back into Red Pine basin was a trick, but saved us valuable time. We dropped 500+ ft pretty quickly, I went first, to get the slip and slide ready and show her she would be okay. She was giggling as she neared the end of it. She also wanted to visit with everyone coming up the mountain -- we were focused on getting her off the mountain and to the hospital.

  8. Thank you so much!! She is such an inspiring woman. She has touched people's lives everywhere. I knew about her even before we moved to Granite Ridge. Her babysitter was one of my Laurels in another ward. I am also one of the many who are blessed to call her my friend!

    Thanks so much!
    Kathy Oldroyd

  9. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts and passing along the inspiring words. Shannon lived across the street from me in Texas. I was Amy's OM Coach for years. I watched the children grow up and the family grow. Prayed with her during the difficult pregnancy and birth of Kevin. She has a wonderful way of being positive and always faithful. The world is a better place because she is in it. Prayers for Shannon and her family & friends...Love, Gigi

  10. So I wanted to add something kinda cool to her story. I grew up in the ward and I am 26 now. When Shannon moved in none of us knew what circumstances she was in. We just thought...Ooh a new fun family with kids our age!!! As time went on we found more out about her and her struggles. She bore testimony about her trials and there was never a dry eye. And I believe I remember her telling the story of how she felt prompted to move here to Utah and how she left in a huge hurry just packed everything up...her whole family and just moved. All on faith. And I also remember her telling us in YW's about how it turned out that it was totally inspired and the right decision of course...because of something to do with her soon being diagnosed with cancer and the doctors that helped her through the first run with it. Close to that time her divorce was either final or almost...she was called to be the YW president! She said she struggled to say "yes" because of her fears and feelings of inadequacy...although NO ONE was more adequate. And she just had faith and accepted the enormous calling on top of being a mother and having a difficult task of caring for her son Kevin...although she makes it look so easy. She was so glad she accepted the calling because we all became so close and it was truly a blessing for all in YW. I will never look at life the same way because of her and she has always been such an example to all of us in that ward. No one has a better attitude or a stronger spirit. She was asked to run the Olympic torch when Salt Lake was hosting. For good reason too! I love Shannon. I am so glad that the newer people in the ward get to hear her story and love her as I have. Thanks for sharing all of this in your blog!

  11. I came to know Shannon through her son Paul who served part of his mission here in Kirkcaldy ward. I was able to meet her in September of this year when i visitited SLC for the first time.. she came over and spent the evening with my friend (who Elder Cloward had confirmed in March of this year)and I....we spent a wonderful few hours with her and were really looking forward to meeting up with her again in Scotland in April of next year when she planned to come over to collect Paul home from his mission....she was a truly amazing woman and will be sadly missed.. I will have to wait till the eternities to meet up with her again now...thankyou for sharing these things about Shannon in your blog.. Deirdre Chan from Scotland.

  12. Here's a current link to the pictures of Shannon's Miracle on the Mountain -


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