By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
“I think it’s very important that any sign of any change in your body be checked out immediately,” said Shannon Curtis. “I didn’t do that.”
Curtis, who had just had her youngest child and just passed her six-week check-up, dismissed the lump she later found in her breast as a clogged milk duct, or fibrous tissue. There was a history of cancer in her family, but not in someone as young as Curtis, only 32 at the time. Her aunt, Martha Scott, is a three-year survivor of breast cancer at age 70, and her grandmother, first diagnosed with lung cancer at age 83, is now battling lymphoma at age 85. It has spread to other parts of her body including her throat and bronchial tubes. She is currently undergoing chemo and radiation and has a feeding tube, but she hasn’t given up yet. She was discharged from the hospital Wednesday to carry on her fight at home, but “it isn’t pretty,” said Curtis.
Shannon Curtis was born and raised in Pinetta, and moved to Madison when she married Nathan Curtis. They have three daughters, Savannah (eight), Sydney (six), and Sadie (two), and have just celebrated 15 years of marriage. She can’t remember exactly how many years she has been involved with Relay For Life, but she thinks it is probably about seven – first with the team of teachers from Madison County Central School where she taught Kindergarten, and this year, since she is still on sick leave, with the Fellowship Team from Fellowship Baptist Church.
Her husband, Nathan, was working for Homeland Security in San Diego and the baby, Sadie, was just a year old when Curtis went for her routine annual exam with her gynecologist, who asked her if she knew about the lump, and why hadn’t she come in sooner. After a mammogram and ultrasound, a surgeon removed the lump, which initially was thought benign. It wasn’t until Curtis and her mother went back to the doctor for a post-op check-up that they learned it was malignant.
“We were just floored,” said Curtis, “that we were talking about cancer.”
She opted for a double mastectomy and began and course of chemotherapy – 16 treatments in all – from June through November of 2010. And because her cancer was estrogen-induced, a hereditary trait, she elected to undergo a full hysterectomy in December. “I won’t have this cancer again, because I now have no estrogen in my body,” she said.
As with previous years, with small children, she probably won’t be able to take the entire night for Relay for Life. She’ll have to leave in the evening and come back in the morning, but she does a lot of the support work. “I follow directions really well, and I do whatever they tell me to do.” This year, she has heard that they might have her working on the Luminaria committee, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
“God is good,” she said. “You always hear about how God works in mysterious ways, but it’s true. My husband was able to get a hardship transfer because of my cancer.” Nathan Curtis now works out of Tallahassee instead of San Diego, and he is able to be with his family every day instead of having to be away from them for months at a time.
“I love telling the story about how good God has been to us,” Shannon continued. “And you can’t beat the people of Madison, either. From day one, friends, family, church members, coworkers…I haven’t gone a day where I needed anything.”
Today at 34, Shannon Curtis is a survivor, with a recent photo of herself with hair again, surrounded by her family, as a reminder of how far she has come. This year at the Relay For Life, she’ll be out there, where “I’ll just do whatever they tell me they need me to do,” for herself, for her aunt, for her grandmother, for those who have survived, for those who are still struggling, and to honor those who have lost the battle. There is always hope, because, as she herself will tell you, “God is good.”