A Survivor Myself
My name is Shawn Widmyer-Natale and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989 at the age of 32. I discovered the lump myself. Never having had anything except a sore throat my whole life, I just thought I had a cyst on my left breast. My friend innocently dropped me off at Day-Opp. (I wanted to get it over with so I was packed for a weekend trip.) My life turned into a nightmare. I was diagnosed with breast cancer July 13, 1989. I was single and 32 and people still really weren't talking about it so much. I had decisions to make-- 1989/1990 started a a new cusp of thinking about treatment options; you didn't always have to have a radical masectomy.
I must say I did do my homework, got good information, second (and third) opinions, and asked a lot of questions. It was determined that I was a candidate and opted for a lumpectomy followed up with six months of chemo and then radiation therapy. My surgeon at NY Hospital felt good about the choice I had made, and I was confident in him as well.
This was not a year I planned on. I went through the treatments with all the unpleasantries--the weirdest part is that I didn't feel sick or look sick, but "Wow, 'You have Cancer!'" is more of a head trip... And now the only thing making you feel sick is the treatment. You always think, "Maybe there was a mistake.." but you have to follow protocol. I read many books focusing on a single belief, and also found an especially wonderful book: Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel. He's fabulous and I love his thinking. I truly developed a spiritual path for my recovery, one that included lots of love from friends and family and a new type of self-nurturing only I could give myself.
My long blonde hair started to fall out, then I cut it short, for I knew what was ahead. Then bald completely. Bald is scary, but my friends were okay with it and it allowed me to be okay with it. I did get a couple of wigs, always wanted to be a redhead, so I got an auburn red wig with a stylish cut. I made sure I got dressed each day and put on makeup when I went out, I never wanted to hear, "Are you sick?" The wig after awhile was itchy and hot so I finally got the guts to go bald. Back in 1989 that certainly was not the style. My debut was Halloween, from then on I always had on fun big earrings.
It is amazing to me how much we are really capable of handling and how strong we really can be. Faith and a positive attitude got me through and the only
thing important to me was getting well; everything else was miniscule. One of my
big lessons to be learned so young in life, I now know (developing myself for
the last 20 years) that I'm not invincible, that was evident. Life is oh, so precious and it is so important not to take anything for granted.
As an artist and
20-year survivor I wanted to create a scarf for breast cancer. I wanted a woman to be able to wear something stylish, that would also carry symbolism and meaning and a strong message. I thought that women should have something more than a baseball cap and a tee shirt. So I started painting. My message is "Early Detection" which is still our only cure. The name of my project is "Detection in Time." Which is why I'm here.
The hangtag that accompanies each beautifully packaged scarf tells my story. These scarves are newly finished and is a project close to my heart. I hope that you and your loved ones wear them with pride, and in good health.