Shakira Shorey. (Picture by Krystal Hoyte.)
Shakira Shorey went to the doctor three years ago for a sinus infection. That turned out to be a visit and conversation that saved her life.
“I went to the doctor for a sinus infection. We were having a general conversation and my daughter, who was two at the time, came up and the whole experience with having her and so on. We talked about Pap smears and I told him I didn’t have one since I had my daughter, so I told myself I might as well do it while I was there,” Shakira recalled.
That Pap smear revealed lesions on her uterus. Follow-up tests including a biopsy were ordered by the doctor. Even at that point Shakira wasn’t thinking the worst.
Coaching a basketball game, the physical education teacher at Daryl Jordan Secondary School knew something was up when she received a call from her doctor. But she wasn’t prepared for the news she was about to receive.
At 30 years old, Shakira was diagnosed with cervical cancer in June 2015.
“When the game was finished I went over to the doctor’s office. The looks alone told me something was wrong. I told myself I have to brace for the worst. When I went in he told me I had cancer. I did not hear anything else he said after ‘you have cancer’. I sat for a moment and was just silent and in shock and I just started to break down and cry. Even now talking about it I’m just getting a bit emotional,” Shakira explained while taking a break to gather her thoughts.
She said she cried for hours in the doctor’s office because she couldn’t believe it was happening to her.
“At that point in time there are no words that can comfort you when you are freshly diagnosed. When you get that news, there’s nothing anyone can say to you in that moment that can make you feel better. The first thing that came to mind was that I am going to die. I started to think about my daughter and leaving her. It is a very difficult moment. I didn’t handle the news very well,” she admitted.
But the journey for Shakira was now beginning and nothing that she was ever prepared for. During a trip to the United States, Shakira fell gravely ill and had to undergo emergency treatment there.
“On my way to New York I got sick. I was getting a lot of bleeding to the point where I was getting light-headed and weak. I had to go to the emergency room. From there I was admitted. I had lost so much blood, I had to end up getting my first blood transfusion. I had surgery to move my ovaries out the way so as to avoid early menopause. From there the plan came in for chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I had radiation therapy five days a week for seven weeks and I could not miss an appointment. I had chemo once a week,” she explained.
Shakira ended up spending four months in a US hospital receiving treatment for her cancer.
Just when she thought she was getting better, Shakira was dealt another blow, this one leaving her more shaken than her initial cancer diagnosis.
“On a follow up test I had, it showed my kidneys were failing. This was after chemo and radiation therapy and I was on my fifth blood transfusion. I kept getting urinary tract infections and they were trying to figure out why it kept coming back. When they did the scan, they found a spot on my bladder. The doctors told me the chemo and radiation did not fully heal my cancer. I just sat there and it was tears fresh again.
“I was like ‘oh boy, here we go again’. I didn’t know if I had anymore fight left in me, I was tired. Chemo takes a toll on you mentally and physically. I was honestly tired,” she said.
But Shakira said she knew she had her daughter to fight for so she kept pushing. But the struggle, she admitted, was rough.
“I literally felt some days like I wanted to die because I could not deal with it, but I had to remind myself I had a little girl I had to fight for. The doctors proposed another surgery. This procedure ended up removing my bladder because of the spot they found. The radiation had pretty much burnt a hole as well, so they had to take it out.
“So I now have what you would call an Indiana pouch, so while others could go have a seat and use the bathroom like normal, I have a catheter to empty my bladder. It’s something I struggle with mentally. It’s a change to your body and will take some time to get used to,” Shakira revealed.
As she continues to adjust to her new normal, Shakira is most thankful for the fact that she is in remission and still around with her family, friends and loved ones. She admitted that she knew she couldn’t have done it without them.
“It’s important that you have a strong circle of support. It’s not easy and it’s not something you should have to go through alone. As strong as you may think you are, you need someone. I’m just thankful for family and good friends who checked on me and made sure I was good. People who never even spoke to me on a normal day, would drop me a message on Facebook and offer support and encouraging words or just to ask how I was doing. Just seeing that, it gave me a little more encouragement to keep going,” she said.
Shakira, who is heavily involved in sports, said her journey was rough and she knew she wouldn’t be here today, if not for the mercies of God.
“It is a continuous mental struggle. Every time I get a little pain, I get flashbacks. I take a look through albums looking back on how far I’ve come. Every time I reach another milestone I give thanks because I know there are many who have lost the fight. Every time I find myself complaining, I remind myself that I could have been six feet under,” she added.
While observing her daughter playing in the nearby park, she offered advice to anyone who would be going through rough times and dealing with cancer.
“I am a living breathing example of the fact that prayer works. I’m a walking testimony of how good God is. For anyone fighting, do not quit. Regardless of how much pain you may be in, you have to fight . . . and your faith has to be strong. God is able to turn around any situation. At my lowest I used to sit and listen to this one song, Still. I would listen to that every day. And I always used to tell God I would trust him,” she said while getting emotional.
Shakira also stressed to all that the only one they should focus on was God and to block out the negativity.
“Pray without ceasing. People can’t understand unless they are in the situation. I had people that worked with me who thought I was lying about my situation until they saw me. I went through the whole nine yards. People said I had AIDS and if you’re not strong that can break you,” she added. (DB)