When fitness blogger Cheyann Shaw learned she had stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2016, she was determined to show her followers what life with cancer was truly like. While many might have been overwhelmed by such a serious diagnosis, Shaw felt it was another chance to talk about health and to educate others about ovarian cancer.
“I tell myself every morning that today is a great day to have a great day,” she told TODAY in 2016. “Life is beautiful and at the end of the day I would say I am very blessed. Cancer has taught me a lot already and I feel blessed that I am able to use my story and journey to help others.”
Shaw, who was based in Orlando, Florida, continued updating her over 200,000 followers about her health until Jan. 4 when her family announced on Instagram that she had passed away at age 27. Husband Kaleb Shaw wrote a heartbreaking message on his Instagram account.
“Today my beautiful wife Cheyann has gone home to be with Jesus. My heart is broken. I can’t imagine my life without her. I know she is in a better place away from the pain and suffering that comes with dealing with cancer," he wrote. "She is my hero, best friend and inspired not only myself, but thousands of people around the world."
On Jan. 5, family member Darci Clark shared a message on Shaw’s Instagram account.
“My heart is breaking today, our baby girl lost her long battle with ovarian cancer. She fought until the bitter end. She is a true warrior and survivor. She will be truly missed and will forever be in my heart," she wrote.
In August 2016, Shaw’s OB-GYN found a lump above her pubic area and originally believed it was an ovarian cyst. Surgery showed it was cancer and the doctors said it was stage 3. But subsequent surgeries in October — where doctors removed her spleen, appendix and part of her colon and bladder and performed a hysterectomy — revealed the cancer was stage 4.
“My faith has also helped me a lot and that is a big reason why I stayed so positive during this time,” she told TODAY, at the time. “People think that when you have cancer, you have no chance left and stop living their lives. That is so false. I wanted to show people that just because I have cancer, doesn’t mean I will stop living and doing the things I love.”
Ovarian cancer is often called the “silent killer” because its symptoms seem innocent or common that they're often overlooked until the cancer has progressed. Only 20% of cases are detected in early stages according to the American Cancer Society. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition outlines the following symptoms to be aware of:
- Pelvic pain
- Feeling full quickly or struggling to eat
- Needing to urinate urgently or often
- Back pain
- Heartburn and upset stomach
- Pain during sex
- Bowel changes
- Changes in periods
In November, Shaw shared on Instagram that she was excited to pursue a new career path. She had returned to college to become a minister, " ... and teach the word of God that helped me find my strength to get back to living!" she wrote.
Then in early December, she faced a setback. Shaw told followers that she had recently returned from a five-day hospital stay after she noticed how bloated her stomach was.
“Unfortunately, it seems like the cancer never went away,” she wrote. "This is just another bump in the road but I know Jesus has already gone before me and defeated this cancer, it’s now just up to me to continue to believe that I am healed and I WILL receive this victory, again."
Then two weeks ago, she added another positive update.
“Things have been going well! I have been in and out of the hospital with a liver issue that has been fixed and now I’m on a feeding tube which is totally okay,” she said. “Your girl needed some help with food lol.”
Her candor about life with cancer touched so many people and her family noted on Instagram that many have learned an important lesson from Shaw.
“If there’s one thing Cheyann taught us is that no matter what battles we face we can always find a reason to smile through them.”