Earlier this year, my aunt Paula reached out to let us know that she and her daughters (my cousins Dawn and Shawn) and their kids would be visiting Georgia during the summer. I was beyond excited to see them all together. Paula and Shawn live near where I grew up in Florida, and Dawn lives near Paris in France - so it was a big, fun deal!
Although their July visit was short (they had plans to hit the mountains after seeing us), we all (I think there were 18 of us) had a cookout at my house. I wish I had pics, but we were too busy preparing food, sharing stories, and laughing...there was lots of great laughing - the kind you can only do when you're around people you love and who have known you forever.
It had been way too long since I had seen my cousins so all felt right in the world. I knew this short moment together was a special time and place.
A couple of weeks later, my Mom got the call that Shawn had been diagnosed with Stage 1 or 2 breast cancer. She would have to undergo a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and possibly radiation.
This is horrible, devastating news for anyone. But for someone like Shawn it seemed impossible. Shawn has been a vegetarian since she was a child; she has been an active dynamo her entire life. As a mother of two, she's also a certified fitness instructor; her full time job is kicking people's asses in cycling, combat classes, you-name-it. She's a great motivator/coach and if you asked me to offer up the most fit, healthiest person in my family, it would be her.
She went on a run recently - post surgery, after a second round of chemo - see? Bad Ass!
So the amazing thing is, even while battling cancer, chemotherapy, and surgeries, it's still her. She is still the healthiest and most fit person I know. Her spirit is as strong as her muscles. Which is saying a lot! And no matter what, that can never be taken away from her.
Her community has surrounded her with so much love and support it's been awe-inspiring. The Go Fund Me page set-up for her exceeded its goal over and over again and is close to meeting its current one. And the Facebook page set-up for her has been documenting her fight and keeping the support going - please follow along if you need doses of true inspiration.
She has always been a beauty, but now I think she has even surpassed herself:
That my friends is spirit shining through and it's real beauty - the only kind that matters.
Please offer a prayer, good thought, any means of support for her, her kids, supportive boyfriend, her wonderful friends, her whole family. We should all aspire to be #stronglikeshawn.
ps: updated - how I could I forget this pic ??? - this is all three of us way back when...