Pictured: BMO Ride participant, Shawna Coleman, with her husband

While it was more than a decade ago, Shawna Coleman vividly recalls the feeling that something was wrong in her body. She underwent a series of tests right before attending her niece’s wedding in the U.S.

When she returned home to Canada, the missed calls and voicemail on her answering machine confirmed her fears.

“You get that dreaded message that your specialist and the booking department wants to see you,” she says. “You get that sinking feeling that it’s news you’re not ready to hear.”

Shawna was diagnosed with stage-three uterine cancer that had spread to one of her ovaries.

“While all the appointments and next steps moved fast, it felt like my life was in slow motion as we initially tried to process everything,” says Shawna.

According to the Pictou County resident, her official diagnosis kickstarted an aggressive, eight-month treatment journey at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

“I underwent six chemotherapy treatments, 25 radiation treatments and then, finally, two brachytherapy treatments,” says Shawna. “I can’t say enough about the many incredible teams who cared for me during that time.”

The many months of treatments, appointments and travel to-and-from the QEII paid off as Shawna was declared cancer-free.

Nearly 11 years later, you’ll find her embracing life to its fullest – sailing on the Northumberland Strait with her husband, enjoying live music, playing tennis, and finding every opportunity to make her community a better place.

Like many survivors, Shawna’s cancer experience reinforced an already deeply-rooted sense of giving back. Currently, she’s a volunteer board member for the Pictou County Palliative Care Society and now a BMO Ride for Cancer participant who’s helping transform care for other cancer patients.

For Shawna, who’s a first-time rider in 2022, the decision to join her sister’s team, Sociable Media, was an easy one after reading about this year’s cause proceeds.

“When I saw that this year’s BMO Ride would be funding technology that aims to reduce radiation treatments from 25 to 5 for certain cancers, it really rang true with my own personal experience.”

She remembers the impact of her daily radiotherapy treatments – five days a week, for five weeks – as a patient who lived outside of Halifax.

“I would’ve been one of many patients who were travelling 3+ hours a day for the radiation they needed,” she says. “You’re already stressed to have cancer in the first place, you’re dealing with the side effects of treatment, and then exhausted from all the travel – it can be a huge burden and disruption for patients and their families.”

Shawna counts herself incredibly fortunate. Her sister, Maria, lives in Halifax, which provided Shawna and her husband a place to stay during many of her cancer treatments.

“My sister’s house became our home-away-from-Pictou, but many patients aren’t that lucky,” she says.

It’s why she’s proud to be one of 1,400 BMO Ride participants who are raising funds for personalized radiotherapy; a world’s first cancer-fighting technology that’s being developed right here at the QEII.

This new technology has the potential to target radiation beams like never before; completely personalized based on the shape and movement of a patient’s tumour and anatomy mere minutes before their treatment begins.

Its ultimate goal is to condense the number of radiation treatments required for certain cancers, improve cancer outcomes, lessen treatment side effects, and ensure more patients spend less time in-hospital and more time at home with their families.

Thanks to passionate individuals, like Shawna, these bold aspirations could soon become a reality.

As she prepares for her ride, she says those who’ve faced this devastating disease will be top-of-mind for her on event day (October 1).

“I’ll be thinking about my mom, who we lost to colon cancer in 1986, and those in our lives who are currently undergoing radiation and cancer treatment,” says Shawna. “As I ride through the rough spots, it’ll be a reminder that lots of folks are going through really rough spots too.”

According to Shawna, it’s a small price to pay for the big impact she and other BMO Ride participants will create for future cancer patients.

To sponsor Shawna or another BMO Ride participant in your life, click here.

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