“I am sorry sweetie, you have cancer.” It was 2016 when 23-year-old Cheyann Shaw first heard those words. The diagnosis: low-grade serous ovarian cancer. “Ovarian cancer survival is statistically pretty low, but it is even lower for the sub-type that I had,” Shaw says. “But I knew I was going to win, even if the odds were stacked against me.”
Her fighting spirit came as no surprise. Shaw had always been competitive, and growing up she played baseball with the boys, raced BMX (and became a five-time state champion!), played soccer, ran track and field, and earned all-state honors for basketball. An ACL injury ended her basketball career when she was 20, but Shaw never stopped striving for excellence.
From Stage to Surgery
Before her diagnosis, Shaw had seen a friend compete in a bodybuilding competition and was inspired to try it herself. Soon enough, she hit the stage at 130 pounds and 14 percent body fat for her first NPC bikini competition. It was then that she first began to see symptoms of her illness. “I was throwing up, my stomach was cramping and I could hardly walk,” she remembers. She was officially diagnosed the following June and started chemotherapy shortly thereafter.
That fall, Shaw underwent a six-hour surgery during which doctors performed a full hysterectomy and removed parts of her bladder, colon and small intestine. They also completely removed her gallbladder, several lymph nodes, her appendix, her spleen and five cancerous tumors — one was the size of a beach ball and completely filled her pelvis.
“After my surgery, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror,” Shaw says. “I was 97 pounds and bald, I had an ileostomy bag, and was practically skin and bones. Then I looked at my face and I looked so sad. I decided in that moment that I had to get my smile back. I knew I had to learn how to love myself at all stages of life. I didn’t look like my old self, but I was still me.”
Kicking Cancer’s Butt
For Shaw, the path back to health was about gaining strength — and weight. “After surgery, I was only 2 pounds away from needing a feeding tube,” she says. Working with a hospital nutritionist and a fitness coach, Shaw focused on eating a more plant-based diet in order to gain back some weight.
She also went back to the gym, despite her insecurities. “People kept looking at me — I had no hair and looked like a skeleton,” Shaw says. “But I put my headphones on and felt great. I was ready to kick cancer’s butt.”
Two more surgeries and three years later, Shaw weighed in at a healthy 125 pounds
and was cancer-free. To celebrate, she returned to the competition stage at the Christian Guzman Summer Shredding Classic in the transformation category.
Needless to say she was the victor — in more ways than one.
Weight before cancer: 130
Weight after cancer: 125
Occupation: Online personal trainer
Favorite healthy recipe: Sweet and sour tofu with quinoa
Inspirational words: “There is always light in the darkness.”
Favorite moves: “Deadlifts because they hit almost every muscle group in my body and they make me feel so powerful. And for shoulders, the seated dumbbell shoulder press is my favorite.”
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