A Heart for Breast Cancer Awareness
February 2022 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Kelly Hunter
When Brunswick native Shadah Arnette was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 42, she was stunned.
“My husband found it (tumor) in my right breast on Oct. 22, 2018,” she said. After scheduling a mammogram with her primary physician, Dr. Trent Schueneman, she was diagnosed in November. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), unlike other forms of breast cancer, triple negative does not have any of the receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer and is generally found in younger women. “Dr. (Antonio) Moran (her oncologist), said they don’t know what causes triple negative.” Whatever the cause of her particular type of cancer, African American and Hispanic women are at higher risk of triple negative breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Thankfully, Shadah said, her cancer was caught at stage one, but she had to undergo a lumpectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy, radiation and breast reconstruction. Also in her favor—she tested negative for the BRACA gene that can increase the chance of developing both breast and ovarian cancers.
“While it was a shock, I had so much support,” she said. That support system centered on her strong faith in God and her husband. “My husband was my number one supporter and cheerleader. He was the best,” she said of her husband Bill, a recovery operator at Brunswick Cellulose. “When I was diagnosed, he said, ‘we have breast cancer.’ He never missed a treatment and never missed an appointment.”
Shadah said the treatments were grueling, and her side effects included losing all her hair and toenails. She also suffered from neuropathy—the loss of feeling on the bottom of the feet that increases one’s risk of falling. “I also had a really difficult time eating. At one point, I was pretty much living on orange juice, chicken soup and toast.”
Her parents were another great source of strength for her. “My father is the pastor at House of God in Townsend, GA (where she attends) and he told me he believed I would be healed. Both of my parents did, and that’s what happened, after a lot of support, treatments, prayer and faith.”
After six months of treatment, including 35 rounds of radiation, Shadah completed her cancer treatment on May 16, 2019. “Sadly, my mother died of colon cancer in January 2020. But I’m so thankful she lived long enough to see me ring that bell,” said Shadah, referring to the bell cancer survivors ring after completing treatment. “I’m also so thankful to be cancer-free now for two years.”
Although she always tried to live healthfully, Shadah said she is much more diligent with her health now, including eating right, getting plenty of exercise and keeping up to date with all her health checkups. “I did change my diet a lot. I make sure I get plenty of vitamins and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise and walk regularly. Of course, I do breast self-exams and get my regular mammograms and my regular follow-up appointments every six months.”
She’s also become more involved in getting others to learn about and access early screenings. “I feel that being diligent about your health is so important, and I want to do what I can to help others and raise awareness. I did my first cancer walk in October.” Next, she will be taking to the fashion runway for breast cancer awareness.
On February 5, she will be one of the models at the American Cancer Society’s 22nd Annual Breast Cancer Fashion Show and Luncheon at Sea Palms Resort on St. Simons Island. The theme of this year’s event is “Thriving, NOT Just Surviving.”
“I had agreed to model last year, but the show was cancelled. This will be my first time to model, and I’m really excited about it,” said Shadah, who added she has been following safety protocols to stay safe, including getting the Covid vaccine and booster. “So far, we haven’t been affected by Covid at all.
I want to tell every woman, no matter her age or race, to keep up with your breast self-exams and stay on top of getting your mammograms. Early detection saves lives.
“I want to tell every woman, no matter her age or race, to keep up with your breast self-exams and stay on top of getting your mammograms. Early detection saves lives. And if you are diagnosed with cancer, make sure to go to all of your treatments and stay on top of your health.” Shadah said she also encourages others to lean on their faith and the support of family and friends as they navigate their respective cancer journeys. “I never let my fears outweigh my faith,” Shadah said. “That faith and my family got me through those darkest days. Now, every day I put my feet on the floor and thank God for another day of life.”
Profession: Certified medical tech at Addington Place. Previously worked at Hospice of the Golden Isles.
Bald is Beautiful: “I never wore a wig or was embarrassed about my baldness,” said Shadah, referring to when she lost her hair, including her eyelashes and eyebrows. “I embraced my baldness.”
Family Ties: In addition to her husband and father, Shadah is close to her siblings, including her twin brother, three other brothers and a sister. She is the proud mother of four grown children— three sons and a daughter. She’s also the happy grandmother to two boys and two girls, “and my daughter is expecting twins the end of March!”
Favorite Destinations: “We love to travel, especially anywhere near the water, like Florida and Bimini in
the Bahamas. We also love Vegas.
Favorite Bible Verse: Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”