Greetings my name is Shalandra Johnson and I’m a 37-year-old survivor of cancer, not to mention a traumatic car accident. I’m a mother of four children who according to my paediatric oncologist would never be born. Born in a small town called Tarboro, NC, been here all of my life. I’m reaching out in hopes of giving someone somewhere hope of reclaiming their life.
It was March 9,1991 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a rare form of cancer that forms in your lymph nodes and attack your white blood cells making it hard to fight off infection. I suffered from severe weight loss, fatigue, and a knot that protruded from my neck.
My mother made me an appointment with my doctor at the time which diagnosed me with having gallstones. However, my mother and aunt weren’t satisfied with that diagnosis so made an appointment with our family physician who was able to see me right away.
Once I arrived and my mother begin to explain my symptoms the doctor was concerned that I wasn’t getting better from my previous visit. So, he ordered several tests to be ran, and suggested that we grab lunch while we wait on results. So, upon our return the doctor informed my mother that it looks to be cancer, however he was not sure of the type. The doctor made some phone calls and came back into the waiting room to tell us to pack a bag and head to the hospital in Greenville where I would be admitted for further tests.
I remember feeling scared and trying to figure what I did wrong to get cancer. So once my mother had packed we headed straight to Greenville. Once we registered we were greeted by a team of nurses and doctors who begin to explain some of the procedures I had to undergo. There was so much going through my head, however my mother who seemed nervous as well took out her bible and begin to say these words aloud” By his stripes you are healed” she repeated it so many times as we waited for our next steps. So, I was taken down for several tests which seemed like forever. Finally, I was on my way back to my room where I was greeted by my mother and a few other family members who came for support.
The following morning the doctors came in with more details of the diagnosis, the cancer was to the 4th stage but had not spread to any major areas of my body. The doctors stated they had an immediate plan that they had to put in action immediately. Feeling overwhelmed wondering was I going to make it. The doctors stated that chemotherapy, radiation, removing the lymph node, and adding a Hickman which was a little tube that would inserted into my chest to administer the chemo, and draw blood from to keep me from having to be stuck so many times. This was all part of the treatment plan that had to take place ASAP!! This had to be treated aggressively.
Several weeks had passed, I had undergone several treatments of the radiation and chemo which the doctor assured my family my body was responding well to the treatments; however, an issue had come up. I was told that the radiation had damaged my ovaries and I wouldn’t be able to bare any children. I was young so that was not devastating to me I just wanted to be reassured I would make it. I believe about 2 months or so had past, my body had responded well to the therapies. I was able to go from inpatient treatments to outpatient treatments. My doctor visits went from once a week, to twice a month, to every 6 months, then finally once a year. I had recovered well, and back to somewhat of a social life. I was now in high school where I met my first love, and later found out that the impossible was happening again. I think it was few weeks after I graduated in 1999 that I found out that I was pregnant. Yes!!! I said it pregnant, something that I thought I would never get a chance to experience which was okay with me.
So, I had my follow up visit with ob-gyn who suggested to follow my pregnancy closely due to my history of cancer. I was informed that I was considered high risk and the baby may not survive or may suffer from deformities. I was scared but this was a miracle in itself so if God allowed this I felt like this too had purpose. I’m here to tell you I had minor complications, but I birth a healthy 6lb baby boy. I married and later ended up with 3 additional children, 3 boys and 1 girl all which are healthy and full of life. I’m a single mom now but my children bring me so much joy. I still followed up with my oncologist and I’m glad to say still remained cancer free.
As you can imagine I had my hands full, working a fulltime job, school events, not to mention a mother of some athletic boys. It was a lot, but I would place my supermom cape on and handle my business. It was on Feb.28,2017 I was again faced with a challenge from life. It was about 7:30 am I was headed to work when an 18-wheeler truck ran the stop light and t-boned me.
Why me? Well, I was rushed to the ER where I was listed in critical condition. I don’t recall the accident at all, however I suffered from an internal decapitation, fractured hip bone, punctured lungs, and brain injury. All this was happening to me, but for purpose.
I remember waking up to my oldest son which was 17 at the time standing over me crying. I was overjoyed to recognize a familiar face. I had tubes everywhere, even down to a trachea down my throat because of my lack of oxygen. The separation of my head and spine had put my oxygen levels at risk, not to mention the inflammation that had taken place in my throat. The doctors that later came by were quite amazed at my response to commands being that I had suffered major brain injury. He told me I was a lucky young lady because people that suffer injuries like I did don’t usually make it to his operation table. I felt blessed but concerned about my recovery.
I spent several weeks in the hospital before anyone actually told me what had happened. So, my oldest son asked me did I want to know, so he told me and showed me a picture of my car. The 2013 Kia Optima was torn into pieces. Looking at the car I automatically assumed that walking wasn’t an option for me anymore. I was later transferred down to rehab to discover that I would be using a mobile wheelchair permanently. This was so disturbing, how was I supposed to take care of my children like this. I begin to pray and ask God to give me the strength I needed to get through this mountain. I attended physical, occupational, and speech therapy for several weeks.
The hospital offered a support group for people who were going through traumatic experiences.
This is where reality begin to set in, however I had an urge in me not to accept this reality. So, like I told you I was in rehab, having to start all over from scratch learning to do everything all over again just like a baby.
I had lost ability on my left side, so usually when the nurses came in to bathe me I wouldn’t even try to assist, I would just lay there and let them do the best they can with me. This particular day I begin to try and wash my own self. Each day I would put more effort into each thing the nurse was doing such as washing my face, putting my clothing on etc. I begin to hear a voice that said this is not your ending, this is your beginning. So as time passed it was time for me to be released. I had spent about 3 months in the hospital causing me to lose my home, so my residence had become the home of my mother. I believe it was being home not being able to do anything for my children physically that pushed me to experience the miracle I’m progressing in today. I’m no longer bound to that mobile wheelchair, but up and walking on my own. I’m not as fast as I would like to be but I’m progressing daily. I failed to mention that my right vocal cord was paralyzed during the accident which resulted in my voice sounding like a whisper. Would you believe me if I told you that I’ve visited the ENT doctor since to find out that it’s still paralyzed but I have a voice now. Another miracle!!!
I want to conclude my story by reminding you regardless of what giants you may face in life never give in to them because they seem bigger than you. Stand firm stare them in the face and accept the challenge. Because with God and faith I’m here to tell you anything is possible. BE ENCOURAGED.