Photo source: cheymarie_fit (Instagram)
Fighting against cancer is amazingly difficult for anyone who has to, and many choose to keep the experience to themselves. However, a bodybuilder, who is only twenty-three years old, has taken to Instagram to show the world the painful process she is enduring, and what it is doing to her once strong body.
Cheyann is a young bodybuilder, and she would often take to social media to share her workout routines and nutrition tips with her many fans, but only a few weeks before her wedding day, she had some bad news to share with them.
"I'm going to cry, but - I was told that I have cancer," she revealed. She explained how she had been feeling sick for a while, but finally found a lump around her abdomen. While her OB/GYN initially consoled her that it was most likely simply a cyst or torn abdominal muscle, she soon found that it was far worse. This was not an injury from improperly working out, but cancer that would force her to spend extended time in emergency rooms due to her excruciating pain. She couldn't even force herself to eat, and when she did, she wouldn't be able to keep it down.
The comments section of her post became an outpouring of love and support, showing how dear Cheyann is to those both in her personal and virtual life.
A rare form of cancer
Her cancer was found to be a stage 4 low-grade serous ovarian cancer, a particular strain that is rare and grows slowly, but is particularly resistant to chemotherapy and is said to be very "stubborn."
To treat her cancer, she began chemotherapy, but soon thereafter realized it was not benefitting her at all.
She lost her hair and then shaved her head, which she caught on camera and shared with those who follow her on social media.
Her diagnosis has fluctuated tremendously, and she has sought the assistance of many different specialists - even moving from Florida to Washington state to be closer to them.
She had surgery done where her reproductive organs, spleen, and much of her colon were removed, along with her tumor that had grown to be approximately the size of a beach ball. While doctors were hopeful that this would begin to do the trick, the ovarian cancer remains in her lymph nodes.
This was hard, because previously, Cheyann had been extremely active. She is a real estate assistant for her husband, and was always playing sports like softball, basketball, or soccer. She even raced BMX. Approximately three years ago, she really began to get into fitness and began to enter bodybuilding competitions. However, her diagnosis unfortunately got in the way of competing in more like she would have liked.
Cheyann has been seeing her doctor Renita Urban, who reports that her specific strain can cause cancer cells to form from within the gynecologic tract.
Urban works at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and references that there is no specific screening routine in place for ovarian cancer, which can leave it undiagnosed until it progresses too far. Therefore, the survival rate is very low; however, younger patient's chances tend to be slightly higher, which is a good sign for Cheyann.
Urban explains why she think Cheyann is a good contender for making it through: "Epithelial ovarian cancers are generally found in older women, so, for her age, it's uncommon. She's been extremely courageous and has such a positive attitude.”
Sharing on Instagram
Instead of being entirely defeated and disheartened by her situation, Cheyann has decided that she is going to keep living, and share everything she goes through with her online family.
Her first post was captioned, "today, August 3rd, 2016 is the day that has changed my life for the moment. I found out today that I have been diagnosed with cancer ... I never in a million years thought this would happen to me, especially since I am only 23, but I know I will win this battle." One might expect the picture associated this caption to be crying or emotional, but it is Shaw in the hospital smiling with her thumbs up, showing how optimistic she remains.
So far, she has lost thirty pounds, making her formerly fit physique practically unrecognizable to her. However, showing what ovarian cancer does to her body has made her feel a bit more in control; she explains, "I decided to document everything right after I got diagnosed because I wanted to show people what cancer does to a body." She notes that her goal in all of this is "to show people that with a positive mind, you can beat this."
She has kept up with posting and sharing, ensuring that her every single person in her life, whether she knows them or not, are constantly updated on what's going on; however, she won't be hiding anything. The material is absolutely unfiltered, she explains, "I'm literally going to show you the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm literally showing you guys everything just so everybody is more aware of ovarian cancer because they do call it 'the silent killer.'"
When she first went into chemotherapy, she shared her treatment with all of her followers. She said that it wasn't as frightening as she had anticipated, and even joked how she was happy she got to eat lots of high calorie foods to keep her weight up, like her favorite ice cream and macaroni and cheese.
When she first headed back to the gym, she also posted about it. She hasn't given up on her fitness goals, even though she certainly has new obstacles attempting to get in her way.
However, despite her optimism, that doesn't mean that she never has natural reactions. She explains, "I'm human, I cry and I'm scared. Cancer has taken so much from me already and on nights like tonight, I try to remember that it is okay to cry; it's good to cry. I don't have to be strong all the time, but I will not let cancer take my light and my smile."
One of her most emotional moments was when she went to shave her head, after reporting that it "bummed her out" to see all of her hair falling.
She filmed one of her surgeries, and took everyone through it step by step with her. She explained how it took almost six hours, how she needed a blood transfusion because of all the blood she lost, how many of her organs were now gone, yet she still had cancer in her lymph nodes. While she admitted that she was incredibly frightened, she said she trusted in God and was convinced that everything would be alright in the end.
While ovarian cancer is considered rare, and only about 20,000 cases occur in the United States per year, it is most frequently seen in women who are postmenopausal, which makes Cheyann's ordeal particularly unusual. However, it can occur at any age.
However, despite how rare it is, it is especially fatal. The CDC reports, "ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system, but it accounts for only about 3% of all cancers in women."