An Interview with Shanna Woodbury On Her Fight With Stage 4 Lung Cancer

By Taroue Brooks

How did you handle/process the news of being diagnosed with cancer?

Initially I was in complete shock, up until then I had never been sick other than a cold or the flu.  My son and daughter had just graduated from high school and college 90 days before my diagnostic.  After 32 years of raising children, sacrificing to put them through private schools and college, I was finally looking forward  to concentrating on me and being an empty nester with my husband. So, after dealing with the shock,  I was very angry that I was being robbed of my “self-season” that I had been looking so forward to.  Once I came to grips with my diagnosis and my anger, I prayed that God used me to change the face of cancer as well as to inspire and encourage people through my journey.  From the time after my only goals were getting healed and living my best life and reclaiming my “self-season”

Now that you are being treated, what does a normal day look like for you?

Initially after being diagnosed, I continued working around my treatments and chemotherapy but that proved to be emotionally and mentally overwhelming.  After five months,  I elected to go on Short Term Disability so that I could concentrate on my health without juggling the responsibilities of my job.  I have been blessed to have little to no side effects from the chemo therapy and radiation so initially the biggest change was that I was not working everyday for the first time in 35 years; allowing me more time to pursue my best life.

The coronavirus changed everything. Being recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma (lung cancer), the risk of contracting the coronavirus would be fatal confronting that risk made me assume the highest caution. My very active social life stopped. The friends and family that surrounded me love and support stopped. The things that kept me distracted from mortality stopped. And I was forced to sit still in this life threatening diagnosis, that was hard. Watching time pass and wondering how much more of it I had. Watching the world close just as I attempted to explore it all. It forced me closer to my closest friends, to my family, and to God.  

How has this experience challenged your faith?

I have always had strong faith and that remains unwavering despite my diagnosis. But the hardest part of being diagnosed with cancer was being able to accept God’s will for me. Through this journey, my faith and trust in God’s will for my life has grown so strong that it scares me. Unlike accepting that it wasn’t part of God’s will for me to have a new job and accepting that there must be something better for me. When I pray for healing, if it is not Gods will for me to be healed then the alternative is death. I have completely surrendered to His will and pray that it is fulfilled in my life, and beyond.  Every morning I meditate on Yolanda Adams’ song ‘I’m Goin To Be Ready’ to help prepare myself to accept whatever God has in store for me.

Mortality means what to you now?

Facing my own mortality has been very difficult because I find myself concentrating on everything that I will miss after I die i.e.; my youngest son graduating from college, my children’s weddings, spoiling my grandchildren, and growing old with my husband. But that is my daily prayer and meditation. Of course I pray for healing. But I also pray for acceptance and for a peace that surpasses all understanding. 

Tell us about your support system. 

I am blessed to have an amazing support system, it has been truly overwhelming.  I am blessed to work on an amazing team with compassionate management.  My friends, from my childhood in Seattle to the sister-friends I have amassed over 30 years in DC, have been a bedrock of strength and courage.  My family is simply amazing and reminds me everyday how much I mean to them. And my husband, Johnny, has not gone back to work to be by my side every moment of everyday. I am not on this journey, WE are on this journey. 

A parade of people came out to celebrate a Clinton, Maryland, woman’s birthday Sunday. Shanna Woodbury thought she’d beat lung cancer, only to find out it returned. She wouldn’t have found out if she hadn’t gotten a coronavirus test. News4’s Erika Gonzalez reports.

All of these people that I love planned such a phenomenal birthday celebration for me this year….60 cars in a drive-by-parade and a zoom party with friends from all over the world to celebrate with me. It was the first birthday party I have ever had as an adult, and it was a reminder of just how many people on this journey with me. All three of our local news stations were on site to capture it all. Below is the Channel 4 news clip link of my birthday celebration.

Click on video link below

How has having cancer changed you?

I no longer sweat the small stuff, things that used to keep me up at night no longer have any priority in my life.  Time has become so important to me, being cognoscente of not wasting  it and appreciating the time spent with my loved ones.  I do not procrastinate the way I used to as more than ever I understand that tomorrow is not promised.

What do you want your children to take from this experience?

I want them to see how fragile life is and learn to appreciate what is really important; faith, good health, time, self-love and family

  • Faith – Always have faith in God no matter what life throws at you.  Don’t let your faith in God waiver, even if I am not healed.
  • Good health – Don’t take your health for granted.  Take care of your body, eat right and exercise routinely
  • Time –  Don’t take time for granted.  Live everyday as if it’s their last.  Don’t procrastinate, tomorrow is not promised.
  • Self-Love – Love yourself. Live your truth, be unapologetically YOU, and live your best life.
  • Family – No matter where life takes you stay close with your family; especially with each other.

Lastly,  that I draw my strength from them to fight my cancer battle.  They are my will to live.

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