Running a Different Kind of Race

With a flip of her long dark hair and in a pair of her favorite heels, Shannon takes to the streets of Martinsville, talking with patrons at every encounter.

“I’m someone who loves helping other people. I love serving the community, and I love to go.”

Born in Avon, she moved to Martinsville when she was 9, with no intention of staying.

“Until I was 18, I told my parents I was moving back, but I made friends and never left. I decided I really liked it here, and I wanted to raise my family here. I decided Martinsville was a really great place to live.”

Her first job – as cashier at the local IGA – was an early stepping stone to her success today, teaching her notable skills in customer service and paving the way for her current job.

Today she reigns as Mayor of Martinsville, an office she won in 2015.

“I prayed about running for a long time. When I ran for mayor, it was never about a career for me. It was about making a difference in my community and making my community a better place to live.”

She’s been successful at that, evident by the many people in the business district who praise her name.

“Oh, we just love her,” merchants frequently say. Perhaps it’s her small-town-girl charm, blended with the traits of a business woman that have helped a once economically-depressed downtown see many advances.

She helped lay the foundation for the development of I-69, found grants for Martinsville and worked diligently to bring pride to the city.

While Shannon has opened many doors for change in Martinsville, she hit a personal roadblock earlier this year – the biggest obstacle of her 49 years. To win this race, she would have to strengthen her resolve.

In the first couple months of the year she went for her annual mammogram at IU Health Morgan. The scan was inconclusive and a second mammography and ultrasound were scheduled after she returned from a trip to Florida.

“By the time I came back, I was feeling like things might actually be OK, that it was just some scar tissue or a fatty cell or something, she says, recounting her story.

She went for her second mammogram in February, accompanied by her husband. She remembers it well.

When she walked into the medical office and saw the picture of the previous mammogram, her hopes for benign results waned, she says. The tests were run again that day and soon after the doctor explained what he saw.

“The doctor ruled out all of the good possibilities and then said, ‘unfortunately’ … and that was the last word I can remember.”

She broke down. “I had been crying for days. There was no false hope.” The diagnosis was Stage 1 breast cancer.

“You leave and you’re kind of in limbo,” she says. “The emotions of cancer for the first three weeks is probably the worst part, on probably everyone.”

It was around mid-March when she had a follow-up MRI and made the major decision to have a double mastectomy.

She spoke candidly about her choice, as she sat in her office mid-summer, post operation.

“I could have had a lumpectomy and then I would have had to have radiation. But I kept thinking I could do that and they could get it all or they might not get it all, and then I would have to go back for more surgery, more radiation. “And then I could also get it in my other side in a year or two and have to go through it all over again. It just didn’t make sense to go through it again if I didn’t have to. For me the best option, the better quality of life, although a difficult decision, was to make that tough decision. I didn’t take my decision lightly, but I want to be there for my granddaughter. I want to see her grow up.”

And there was the whole chemotherapy option she wanted to avoid.

“My son is getting married,” she said in June. “I’m not going to lie. I was worried about the chemo. I didn’t want to lose my hair for his wedding. I wanted to have hair in his pictures. I praise God everyday that I didn’t have to have chemo. I’m very blessed that I didn’t have to have that.”

“I made the decision most because I love living life. I felt like this was the better option for me. It’s not for everybody, but this was the better option for me.”

Shannon sprints off down the street or hops in her car for a jaunt to a local store. No one is the wiser in July, that she is facing yet another surgery – that of reconstruction. As she prepares for the next step in her recovery, she reflects on how the journey has impacted her.

“I’m really very lucky that I came out pretty well with this. I’m very grateful. Yes, I have the emotions of anger, like I’m sure most people do. But I am still very grateful, even when I’m angry. I feel guilty because it could be so much worse.”