She’s Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer

In this issue:

Cancer came unexpectedly and Joanie put life on hold, paused her career as a nurse, and in days was headed for surgery. In the aftermath of chemo and cancer, Joanie is a survivor. She now supports others going through the journey, and has published a book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer to encourage women and equip them with Scripture, hope and resources.




Inspired Life: Unexpected Health Crisis

Joanie Shawhan was working as a registered nurse when she discovered a lump in her abdomen. She'd worked as an oncology nurse in the past. She knew the warning signs. It even crossed her mind a few times. But it was when she felt that mass that she sought medical attention right away. After watching many others go through chemotherapy, she said she'd never do it if her turn came. But facing cancer made her rethink it, and within days she had the surgery to remove the tumor, and shortly after started chemo.

Faced with more questions than answers, suddenly Joanie was on the other side of the bed. She has been cancer-free for thirteen years, but she still has vivid memories of her diagnosis, the treatments, the hard days. One of her hardest was when she was in pain and feeling as if the treatments were never going to come to an end.

Joanie says she reached out to God in the midst of her darkest days and found encouragement there. She also had the support of friends and family who surrounded her with prayer and love.

In her book, she includes twelve steps to spiritual wellness even in the midst of illness. These include ideas for journaling, prayer, laughter and nine more.



Life, Repurposed: Joy in the Trial 

In our interview for the podcast, Joanie explained her journey of going through chemo and recovery from cancer. She has turned this into an opportunity to help others, and to also find joy.

First, she is part of a social group for ovarian cancer survivors that the members named The Fried Eggs - Sunny-Side Up. Clearly, they have found a way of laughing in the face of cancer, as well as dancing in the shadow of it.

One of the opportunities Joanie had nine years after her diagnosis was to participate in Camp Mak-A-Dream in the Rocky Mountains in Missoula, Montana. This is offered free of charge for cancer survivors. Here she made new friends and had a lot of fun. She also connected with others who are active in the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Joanie is now part of a group that speaks to medical students about ovarian cancer in the Survivors Teaching Students program. This allows her help make the journey better for others in the future. Along with what they teach the students, they talk about warning signs and encourage medical students to probe further when someone presents with vague symptoms that could be signs of cancer.

One of the biggest blessings to come out of her cancer experience was that Joanie started writing. Before cancer, she hadn't even thought of being a writer. Within a few years of chemo, she attended her first writers conference and started working on her book.

The book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, is Joanie's way of encouraging others through her story and the stories of eleven other women. She also offers practical tips for someone going through treatment, resources for where to get help, devotional thoughts and inspiration, Scriptures, and prayers.

When you pick up the book, look for Ruth's story. That's my mom! She is an ovarian cancer survivor who Joanie interviewed for the book. It has been 24 years since her diagnosis, and she's been cancer free since finishing chemo.

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles and encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include The Upper Room, Coping with Cancer Magazine, God Still Meets Needs and In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. She is involved in an ovarian cancer social group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side up and speaks to medical students about ovarian cancer in the Survivors Teaching Students program. When not attending one of her two book clubs or her writing critique group, Joanie enjoys designing jewelry, swimming and knitting. You can contact her at

Recommended Resources 

Frightened by cancer? Riddled with questions? Perhaps you or a loved one is battling this disease. Do you know where to turn for encouragement, comfort and support? In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer is a collection of vignettes, highlighting the stories of everyday women with everyday lives interrupted by cancer—their challenges, heartbreaks, questions and triumphs. Each section focuses on a specific aspect of their cancer journey.

In these pages, you will find:

• Humor

• Helpful tips

• Uplifting scriptures

• Encouraging prayers

• Real women coping with a diagnosis of cancer

Joanie Shawhan reports, “Cancer is hard. For me, its treatment was even worse than the symptoms caused by the cancer itself. Where could I go for more information, support and camaraderie? As a nurse with an oncology background, I should have felt equipped, but I found myself with more questions than answers. My hope is to come alongside others with the help I desired when I went through my own treatment.” Yes, cancer is hard, but you are not alone. As you cross the threshold, catching a glimpse into the lives of these women, you will discover strength, inspiration and hope.

[Affiliate links included for convenience in ordering. I may receive a small percentage of the sale for orders place to Amazon through the links I provide.]

More Resources

In addition to Joanie's book I also recommend these websites for resources that Joanie featured in her book:

  • The American Cancer Society - has wigs and head coverings.
  • Gilda's Club - look for a group chapter in your area to get support from others going through treatment.
  • National Cancer Institute - for information and clinical trials
  • Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance

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(Please note: books posted here on my blog are purely because I want to share them. Sometimes I receive free copies for review, and other times I purchase the books. Some I get from the library. Either way, any endorsement I offer here on the blog is simply because I want to talk about the book. ) *This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Michelle Rayburn is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure, as well as a small group Bible study to accompany the book. Learn more about these and her other books here. A sample chapter of the book and Bible study are available for free download.

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links.

Posted in Articles, Books & Resources, Podcast Episodes.