It wasn’t the Christmas Shauna Becker was expecting.
After an annual mammogram revealed a suspicious area on her right breast, the 52-year-old Taylorville woman had some follow-up tests and a biopsy in December 2007. She instructed her doctor to let her know as soon as the results were in – don’t wait till after the holiday to call her.
“I preferred to know,” Becker said. “I didn’t want to have to worry about the results.”
So the call came on Christmas Eve. It was breast cancer. Stage 3.
Becker told her family – about 15 to 20 relatives gathered for the holiday – and told them not to worry. They were going to celebrate Christmas. And when the new year came, she was going to fight it and get better.
“I still remember sitting around the tree amidst joy and celebration when she broke the news,” said Becker’s niece, Heather Nizzio, who nominated Becker as a Super Survivor. “And can you believe it? She had a smile on her face.”
Becker is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The fifth annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa and their new outfits. The big reveal will take place at noon on the women’s fair’s Entertainment Stage.
At the time of her diagnosis, Becker’s oldest son, Eric, was serving in Iraq. She also had a younger son, Jason, who was 13. They were both part of her “little bucket list” as she prepared for surgery on Jan. 3.
“I wasn’t going to let this define me or defeat me. I had to fight this so I could be around to see my son come home from Iraq,” Becker said, “and my other son graduate from high school.”
Becker had a radical mastectomy at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. The cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes, so some of them had to be removed as well. Her surgery was followed by six rounds of chemotherapy, one round every three weeks, and then Monday-through-Friday radiation therapy for another seven weeks.
Her breast cancer resurfaced more than four years later, but this time it was Stage 1. She had another mastectomy and opted for four weeks of chemo, which she completed in April 2013. She didn’t need radiation.
This year, she developed skin cancer on her forehead and had surgery in August to treat it.
She encourages other women to get their annual mammograms.
“They saved my life – twice,” Becker said. “This is not a death sentence. You have to keep your chin up.”
Her support from family and friends as well as her faith in God helped her through her journey.
“Every day, I’m thankful to be alive. Whatever they throw at me, I just keep going forward,” Becker said. “If I can help someone else through this, I’ve done my job.”