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.
|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.
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.