Bershan Shaw knows what it’s like to put up a fight to live. A doctor told her two weeks before her wedding that she had just three months before she was expected to succumb to breast cancer. Instead of Shaw accepting her fate, she tapped into her warrior spirit and battled the disease until she came out victorious.
Seven years later, Shaw has dedicated her life to informing other women with an illness that they, too, can deal with their challenges like a warrior and win against all odds. She is using her social network, Urawarrior.com, to spread the message. The site offers instant messaging, forums, group life coaching, and many other tools that allow women dealing with cancer, depression, or other stressful health issues to stay connected to one another and gain support.
Rolling out spoke with Shaw about her personal story, what gave her the strength to keep fighting for her life, and why she now fights for others.
You were diagnosed with breast cancer in your early 30s, right before your wedding. How did you deal with that?
I was diagnosed at 33, and at 35, the cancer spread and was at stage four. That’s where my journey began. When I first got diagnosed with breast cancer, I did what no one should do — I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be known as the sick girl. Two years later, two weeks before my wedding, it spread to stage four, and that woke me up.
To be diagnosed at a young age, 35, with stage four terminal cancer and be told that you have three months to live really wakes you up. I remember going into my doctor’s office, and he said, “sit down.” No one wants to here the words “sit down.” And he said, “You’re diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, and it’s terminal.” I was so in shock. I said, “How does it look?” And he said “maybe three to six months,” and that rocked my world. He said, “Do you believe in miracles?” That’s the one thing that really hit my soul. I got up and said, “Yes, I believe in miracles, and I believe in God,” and I walked out the door and I never saw that doctor again.
There’s been no evidence of the disease for almost seven years. So I’m cancer free. So, I believe in miracles and God.
What worked for you? Did you go through the standard treatments or did you change something in your diet?
I got every book I could for information. I changed my mindset and my thought process. It starts with that. I was like, “God, I will be a vessel to millions of women all around the world if you keep me alive. I will change my eating, my health, I will change everything.” Day one, I read the books, I threw my negative stuff away out of my cabinets and out of my fridge — sugar, cookies, everything. I’m going to eat healthy and from here on out my life is changing. I’m going to be a vegetarian. I’m going to exercise. I took time for myself.
I would say cancer was a curse, but it was also a blessing. It was probably the best thing to happen to me because it turned me into a world-renowned motivational speaker. I help people get out of their ruts. When they think there’s no way, there is a way. It’s all up to you. You have to change the way you think.
I started eating healthy, I started exercising, I started meditating, I did acupuncture, and I had a will to live. During that process, I started my social networking site to help people express themselves, cope with life-altering issues or everyday troubles, just to have a place to go.
I realized everybody was suffering in silence. My friends were coming to visit me who were dealing with depression and anxiety, and they didn’t want to talk about it. They were suffering in silence. Everybody was lying. “Oh I’m OK. Everything is good,” but it was a lie. We live a lie trying to keep up with the Joneses and trying to make it seem like nothing is wrong.
Did you also get regular treatments?
I did radiation, I did chemo. It’s a terminal illness, but a lot of it depends on the individual. I speak to people in Europe and Africa, and you have to have that will to live. When you get told that you have three months to live, [some people] just sit up and die because they don’t think they’ll make it. They say “let me get my affairs in order,” but I didn’t.
Did you end up getting married?
Yes, I got married. He stood by me. He said, “I’ll be with you through thick and thin.”
So, Urawarrior.com is a forum where everybody can share their stories about what they are going through and how they are coping?
Yes. It has different categories, so you can share publicly or privately.
Is there anything else you want people to know?
Go to Urawarrior.com, and go to Bershan.com. I do teleconferences, workshops, seminars, and I speak. I want people to follow my journey so they can learn. I also have a book, URAWARRIOR: 365 Ways to Challenge You to a Better Life.