As you read my breast cancer story, you may think I’m just another cancer patient, but I am a mother of two small boys. Jagger Cruz was 4 years old, and Lincoln Harlow was 11 years old when I was diagnosed. These two boys lost their mother’s quality of life for 15 months as I watched on the side lines unable to participate in their life milestones.

I turned 42 years old mid-June 2022, and one month later I started to notice my right nipple become inverted. I was training for my 8th Manitoba Marathon and just thought it was from my sports bra. I had not felt a lump, but through monthly self-breast exams I knew something was off with my breast. I decided to reach out to my doctor on August 4, 2022, and he took my concerns very seriously.

On August 10th, 2022 I went for my very first mammogram. I’d never had one because I had always been denied. When I lived in Montreal from age 25-35, I was denied mammograms, now I reside in Winnipeg, Manitoba and I was again refused from age 40-42. My family history has extensive breast cancer in it. My mother was diagnosed with HER2+ at age 52. My aunt and my grandmothers sister all had breast cancer. Mammograms only cost about $100.

On August 10, 2022 at 5:11PM I received the dreaded call from my doctor that confirmed it was breast cancer! I cried and became numb with the fact that I had been denied mammograms year after year, and here I was being told yes, in fact you Shannon have breast cancer!

On August 22, 2022, I had a biopsy done to my right breast confirming my breast cancer was HER2+ triple negative stage 3.

I began chemotherapy on October 3, 2022 and had an instant allergic reaction to Herceptin. Chemotherapy side effects paralyzed my body for 14 days straight each round and were so harsh that I lost my ability to walk, eat food, and was a shell of myself. I endured chemotherapy every 3 weeks for 16 rounds. I had 18 rounds of Herceptin (taking Benadryl or Reactine before each treatment).

Half way through my treatments, the pain from neuropathy, bone aches, and my quality of life became so bad that I considered stopping chemotherapy, but I decided to go onto a drug called Methadone to aid the pain. I am currently still on Methadone to assist my on-going side effects.

My port that was put into my chest for chemotherapy treatments became infected and I required emergency surgery in January 2023. Yet again another traumatic event I had to endure during my cancer journey.

February 13, 2023 I had a double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction to remove the tumour, only to find out that my tumour had spread to my lymph nodes. Three drainage tubes, and 15 staples later, my lymph nodes were removed. Now I wear a compression sleeve and compression bra daily to prevent lymphedema.

I endured 16 rounds of radiation from April 13-May 4th 2023. The side effects burned my right breast and armpit so badly that my breast has shrunken 3 cups sizes.

On November 9, 2023 I rang the bell for my very last round of chemotherapy, but my fight is far from over. When the pathology report came back from my double mastectomy, my cancer had mutated to HER2+ triple positive. I now have to take a daily medication called Tamoxifen for a minimum of 5 years to help reduce the risk of reoccurrence. This medication has pushed my body into early menopause, and I will need a full hysterectomy.

Over the course of these horrific cancer treatments I have gained 38 pounds, lost my hair, amputated both my breasts, had suicidal thoughts, have on going neuropathy in my hands and feet, brain fog/memory loss from the chemotherapy, hot flashes, extreme fatigue and bone aches so badly that at age 43 I can barely go down stairs!

I was a marathon runner and now I can barely go down stairs. This has become very humbling and humiliating.

I just had another surgery to fix my shrunken breast, my DIEP flap, and skin grafting on my port scar.

My breast cancer could have been found at age 40, at age 41, at age 42 but no one would allow me to have a mammogram in Manitoba. It infuriates me that I have lost 15 months of my kids lives during my cancer treatments. My 4 year old son Jagger wouldn’t let me put him to bed each night or even hug him. Why? because my son thought he could catch my cancer if I came near him.

Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate so early detection like regular mammograms being offered at age 40 can help find breast cancer at an earlier stage when treatment is most likely to be successful. Mammograms cost about $100 – a test that can save lives and reduce the intensity of treatment for women in the prime of their life like myself, but this was never an option with the current health guidelines!

It’s time for Manitoba to wake up and change the guidelines to age 40 for early detection so we can prevent our daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers a bright future!

Watch Shannon on CBC White Coat, Black Art

Listen to Shannon present to Manitoba MLAs