Last year OWN introduced us to a handful of successful women of color in their thirties and forties as they juggle love and career. And one of my favorite cast members on the show was Bershan Shaw. She had such an inspiring story, having beat breast cancer two times. We had a chance to speak to Shaw about beating breast cancer, maintaing a positive attitude and how our consumption of meat is making us more susceptible to these illnesses.
“It was March 26th when I felt a lump on my breast. I was just getting in the bathroom and just doing a breast check and I felt something and I panicked a little bit because my mother had passed away from breast cancer in 1997. I called the doctor, no one answered so I knew I had to go the first thing Monday morning.
I felt…it was panic, it was shock, I was devastated, scared. It was every emotion you can think of. I remember being in the biopsy room, in this cold, sterile room with this technician looking at me. And I was asking all of these questions like, ‘Well, what do you think, do you think this is breast cancer?” And the technician kept saying ‘Just relax. The doctor will come in and explain everything.’ And the doctor came in, she was doing the sonogram and then she said, ‘Just relax, if it is breast cancer we’ll get it out.” Then they sent me to do the biopsy and they told me then and there and I just broke down in the room.
You know at 33 years old, in New York City, your whole life ahead of you, thinking you’re this thriving actress, writer. I was looking for a restaurant because I was a bartender and made a lot of money doing that. Your whole world comes crumbling down. Once you hear the big C, you think you’re going to die.”
Two years later in 2009, Bershan was diagnosed with breast cancer again, stage four this time. Certain that she only had three months left to live, the doctor asked Bershan if she believed in miracles.
Bershan told her, “I do and you’re not the doctor for me. I believe in God so I definitely believe in miracles.”
Not only was she having to deal with the fact that she had a serious cancer diagnosis the second time around, she was engaged to be married and was just two weeks away from walking down the aisle. When she left the doctor’s office, she had to go home and break the news to her fiancé that the doctor believed she had three months to live.
“You know you think, you’re about to get married in two weeks. You don’t want to hear you have stage four breast cancer. You should be thinking about what color veil or what kind of shoes you should get. Walking into the room, just saying ‘Look, honey I love you. I love you with all my heart and I’m a fighter, I’m a warrior, I’m a survivor but I’ve got this diagnosis and the doctor told me ‘do I believe in miracles?’ It’s not a good thing but I’m going to beat this. I don’t care what I do, I’m going to beat it. And you know what my husband said to me? ‘You are going to be my wife. I love you and we’re going to beat this together. I don’t care what we have to do. He said, ‘Bershan, you haven’t given up on anything else in life, don’t give up on this.’ And that’s when I knew he was going to be my husband, that this was the man for me. True love story.
I know a lot of women who’ve been diagnosed and their husbands left them or their fiancés left them.”