ONE WARRIOR with Shonel Bryant
I met this incredible human after she agreed to become a Bravery model earlier this year. (That's why her face probably looks so familiar!) She walked into the studio and within 10 minutes we were having a yarn like we'd known each other since primary school.
Shonel is simply unstoppable. Not only is she the founder and creative director of Nomad Styling and a mother of two, she also managed to set up a second business (Support Your Girls) AND release a phenominal documentary - Life on Standby, while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
All while the world was on pause due to a global pandemic!
Like I said, unstoppable. 👊
Enjoy reading Shonel's story.
What was happening in your world at the time?
I was busy looking after my 2 young children and running an event styling business where I had booked 2 international weddings for the coming season, when one night completely out of the blue I found a lump in my right breast while watching TV.
I had a family history (My aunty died of breast cancer at 49, and my mother died of stomach cancer at 50) yet I was still not ‘checking’ as such, I accidentally found it. I didn’t mess around once I felt it; I was straight to the docs to get the process started.
Cancer in 3 words.
Confronting. Isolating. Amplifying
What helped you get through the shit storm?
I believe my mindset played the biggest part in my healing.
I got lost in the Google vortex, as you do… and was so deflated (I don’t recommend googling triple negative breast cancer) when I decided to look for success stories to bring back some hope, I couldn’t find anything in a quick Google search so knew exactly what I had to do!
Mentally I told myself ‘I’m going to be the success story I couldn’t find and I’m going to share my story”, there was such a power in this realisation for me. My mind shifted instantly. All of a sudden achieving this became bigger than myself, it became my drive, my purpose (alongside my family) and it pushed me the entire way.
Would you believe for my journey every step of the way readily became the best possible outcome? I just felt in my core my mindset was a huge part of my success in this crazy ride. Having documented it all, looking back on it, it’s pretty phenomenal. I’m so incredibly grateful.
Shonel and her beautiful family.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Just finding others through hashtags helped me a lot. Made it feel less isolating.
HOLISTIC/COMPLEMENTARY HEALING: Cannabis oil, meditation, juicing, floatation tanks, Hi dose Vitamin C and Infrared Saunas.
FOOD: I tried vegan keto for a while; it was way too stressful for me. Food became a big problem for me to the point where sometimes I didn’t eat because I didn’t know what to eat that felt anti cancer. Now I just eat primarily plant based (as I did beforehand) however I’m eating much less processed.
LIFESTYLE THING/ RITUAL: Psychology sessions became my savior; I would strongly encourage anyone to do this! I feel I’ll be doing this on and off throughout my entire life now.
EXERCISE: Wish I did more, I’m still working on it…
BOOK/DOCUMENTARY: Radical Remission Book and docu series (complete game changer!), The Journey- book. My documentary is called ‘Life on Standby’; it covers my journey after diagnosis right to the end of my treatment.
QUOTE/MANTRA/AFFIRMATION: After reading a lot about the mind, visualising myself healthy and telling myself I was healed helped me a lot. Look up Bruce Lipton on YouTube. Epigenetics, it’s so eye opening and interesting!
PIECE OF ADVICE:
‘Their story is not your story’ (thanks Em) - Seeing others around you die is fucking hard to say the least! But I now tell myself this as a reminder. If I get cancer again, so be it. I will deal with it then. But I need to detach from others setbacks and focus on living my life.
WHAT KEPT YOU SANE? Honestly, F.R.I.E.N.D.S re-runs kept me sane. My mind was so mentally foggy from the AC chemo that I couldn’t read for months, when I was couch ridden, watching Friends made me forget I was sick. It was always on, I was laughing rather than crying. The days went fast and I enjoyed them much more than on those days I wasn’t watching something that made me laugh. I went through A LOT Of box sets… Haha
The best part of cancer?
Having a new perspective towards life is incredible, appreciating the smallest of moments. Often I find it’s as though these things just present themselves to me as if they are highlighted. It’s not conscious. The gratitude is deep and engrained; things feel special in the moment without effort and on another level to what they ever did before. Certainly not all of the time but frequently.
Also I enjoy feeling instantly connected to so many others going along their own cancer journey. It’s all in a look, it’s like I’m a part of a secret club or something. To me there is comfort in that space.
The worst part of cancer?
FEAR. I miss being naïve when it came to my health, as funny as that sounds. I miss eating food without worrying about being ‘healthy’ all of the time. Even though I was quite healthy! The guilt free enjoyment of the small things in life.
I very much believe in natural healing despite taking an integrative approach to my treatment. However with this means I put a lot of pressure on myself to tick all of the boxes. I have read A LOT about the power of the mind and a lot of other things I can be doing to help prevent reoccurrence. So with this knowledge unfortunately comes pressure. It’s a balance that I am striving for. The stress isn’t doing me any good either so I need to go easier on myself. It’s something I’m currently working on.
The most surprising part of cancer?
For me it was how much it amplified everything. I just didn’t expect it but if affected my life so much in a multitude of ways.
What part did you struggle with the most?
Honestly, my relationship. It’s something that caught me off guard, as I wasn’t expecting it. As I said above, I quickly realised that cancer amplifies everything. Small cracks in our relationship quickly became huge. It not only amplified my issues but also brought to the surface some of my husbands. Not to mention the new problems as well.
Dealing with this on top of living life with 2 children and trying to focus on healing while having chemotherapy/surgery and radiation was rough. I’m now speaking to a psychologist and wish I did it sooner.
We are still very much working through things, however it’s been much more challenging than I anticipated. Everyone’s journeys are so different, but for me in my journey this was one of the harder parts. It was isolating.
There were times were I was in my husbands arms getting comfort where I was crying as I still felt alone.
How has the whole cancer ride changed you and your life?
As above. But I also feel like it really does just make me want to live my life more on a daily basis. Covid 19 has thrown a huge spanner in the works with this. I am dying to get out and have a holiday, as I’m sure so many others are. I KNOW I need it. I can feel it. Actually, that’s another thing. I feel heightened to my own needs. I feel things stronger now internally. It’s as though that part of me is still amplified and I hope it stays this way.
In a lot of ways I also feel like a better mother. I have so much to teach my children about health and wellbeing, strength and resilience and about enjoying every day and each moment.
Cancer theories: Do you think you were destined to get cancer? Is it completely random? Or did something happen along the way?
I love this question yet it’s something I struggle with, as we will never get the answer. “Why did I get cancer?” man I have asked myself this way too many times. Honestly for me, I don’t believe it’s chance. We know that genetics only play a very small part in cancer diagnosis. I believe it’s a lot of different things but I’m still trying to piece it together.
It’s proven that our thoughts and emotions can affect our physical biology so I tend to sway more to the emotional/high stress/fear side of things (read ‘The Journey’ if this interests you) Though I do believe strongly in eating healthy, exercising (which I still don’t do enough of), meditating, juicing, reducing toxins- I make all my own household products now. All of these things I believe can still play a part in it. I need to work on accepting that I will never know the answer to this question.
Golden tip for new warriors.
For anyone hoping to support a loved on in this situation I think acknowledging that there is nothing you can say. People get so stuck with what to say and often ignore it out of discomfort, or say things that can upset you. Often those going through it are in a fragile state.
For me, when people just said “I’m sorry, this is shit, I’m here for you” or something along similar veins that was great. When people told me everything was going to be ok, I internally didn’t respond well to that. But I also think that the sick person needs to TRY to remember that everyone has the best of intentions. It’s easy to get frustrated but everyone genuinely wants to help.
Though again, everyone’s needs are very different, it’s deeply personal.
I got a lot of care packages that people put together themselves that were so thoughtful. They weren’t to know a lot of the things they put in there were not helpful to me. E.g. chocolate. When I changed my diet having chocolate in the cupboard made life harder as I wasn’t eating sugar anymore. It was for this reason I decided to curate some lovely chemo gift packs full of practical and beautiful items to sell. I will be expanding into others over the coming months.
Shonel and her partner.
Golden tip for new warriors.
1. Connect with someone who understands- whilst loved ones can really support you, there is such a comfort in speaking with someone in a similar situation.
2. Cap your time on Google- It’s a tricky one, to research we need to go on there, but while you are there you see things you can’t unsee that instill intense amounts of fear. Getting loved ones to help with research can help too.
3. Give yourself space/reduce stress- I closed my business down instantly. This was extremely challenging, however I needed to give myself space to heal. I’m incredibly grateful I did this. However if you are the kind of person who needs to keep busy that’s fine. Just remember there are lower stress ways to keep your mind busy.
If you, or someone you know would like to take part in the One Warrior series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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