Shawn's Breast Cancer Story

Breast Cancer Diagnosis 

Last spring, Shawn felt a lump in her breast. She told her primary care provider, who then ordered a mammogram. After getting the results from the mammogram, her medical team ordered a biopsy, which confirmed she had breast cancer. 

“I found out on Aprils Fool’s Day via MyChart,” Shawn said. “My world changed that moment.” 

Shawn Velez has been an employee at University Health for 25 years. She worked as a nurse for 23 years and is now the director of the ExpressMed clinics at the Robert B. Green Campus and Pavilion.

Shawn said telling her two children was the hardest part. “After telling them the news, (my husband and I) told them we were doing everything we can,” she said. “It’s treatable, we’re going to do what the doctor says, and we are going to fight this. This is not how our story ends.”

A New Opportunity

Coincidentally, right after Shawn was diagnosed, a position for her dream job as director of the ExpressMed Clinics at University Health opened up. “This was something I have always wanted,” Shawn said. “However, I didn’t want to start this new position and the side effects of chemo affect me that I wouldn’t provide for the team.”

After discussing her concerns with the team, Shawn was offered her the position.

“When I received the call that I got the position, I was on the early stages of chemo,” Shawn said. “It was a blessing. It’s crazy that everything happened at once. I got the job I wanted and at the same time diagnosed with cancer, but I had a lot of faith.”

Treatment Journey

With support from her family and care team, Shawn has received treatment and hopes for remission one day. “My work, my husband and my children have kept me grounded,” she said.

It’s been over a year since her diagnosis. Shawn has had chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiation, and she’s currently enrolled in a clinical trial. Her last day of chemotherapy will be on Oct. 17, 2023.

Shawn’s Advice for Others

Shawn has advice for other women who may be at risk for breast cancer.

Know your body. “I definitely spread the message to check yourself because there is time in between mammograms. In my case, I found the lump less than year before my mammogram. I could have let it go and it could have progressed.”

Be your own advocate. “Advocate for yourself and your wellbeing. If you feel there is something wrong, seek help.” 

Take notes. “When you first get the news, it’s important to take notes because sometimes I can’t recall what they doctors was saying.”

Take it slow. “I came out strong at first, and then as time went by, I started going downhill a little bit by the medications, treatment, etc. And that is okay. People say you are so strong, keep going, and sometimes that is hard to hear because then you feel you need to keep up the pace. I have had my days when I’m feeling a little run down.” 

Accept help. “Even the most private people need help. This was one of the biggest lessons for me because I’m the doer, the giver … I had to learn to receive. You are not alone. Don’t fight to be alone because this is heavy and it’s important to have somebody.”

Breast Cancer Care at University Health

University Health is a Certified Quality Breast Center of Excellence, meaning we can provide the highest quality care for people with breast conditions. Learn more on our website.

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