Turning Fear Into Faith: Life After Breast Cancer

Fear and faith are not supposed to coexist. Faith is supposed to conquer all fears. When real life happens faith can waver. Faith can be questioned. Faith can even disappear. Just as easily as faith did all the things above, faith can also comfort. Faith can bring peace. Faith can come back. Shawntell L. McWilliams knows the fear and the faith journey. Six years ago she was forced to face fear and her faith was tested. In the end, her greatest fears were turned into her strongest faith.

It was the start of a new chapter for McWilliams in 2012. She had just married her one true love, Keith McWilliams. She had a wonderful family and plenty of friends. Her career was firmly in place and she was on the rise. Everything was falling into place. She indeed was living her best life until her worst fears came to past.


Shawntell on chemo day with hubby Keith

All of McWilliams’ life a very unhealthy fear occupied her mind daily. Although she had no family history of the illness or any risks of obtaining, McWilliams was scared that she would be diagnosed with breast cancer. She was so painfully afraid of the idea of having breast cancer that it took over her thoughts, speech, and life. And then one day it took over her body.

While going through her daily routine she felt a lump. Instantly, she knew it was breast cancer. Even though she had that immediate thought she went into denial mode and ignore it (at least she tried to). A few days later she decided to talk to her mother, who is a nurse, about it. Her mother eased her fears and said stop drinking so much coffee and go get it checked out. Seeing that her mother had such a relaxed attitude made her feel comfortable in scheduling a mammogram. Next, she contacted her sister who worked at M.D. Anderson to help her book the exam. The two also planned a lunch date after the test. That date never happened because a short time later McWilliams got the news that turned that flipped her world. The doctor gave her the devastating news that she had breast cancer and not just any type of breast cancer, but stage 3b triple positive and Her2 positive breast cancer. She was just 38 years old.


Shawntell participating in Sisters Network Breast Cancer Walk

Allow me to break down her illness. In general, breast cancer is a disease in which normal cells in the breast grow out of control to form a tumor. From there breast cancer is broken down into stages from zero to Roman Numeral IV followed by a letter between A-C. So the higher the number the more advanced the cancer is. Stage 3b, like McWilliams had, meant her cancer had spread but not to her vital organs. It also may have invaded her nearby lymph nodes. Looking at the Her2 positive part of her diagnosis meant that her cells were making too much protein. This type of cancer is extremely aggressive and fast growing.