Meet Stacy Shelton Author of Me, The Crazy Woman and Breast Cancer

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a former award-winning broadcast and print journalist, a two-time breast cancer survivor, author and speaker.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month WE wanted to showcase your story and book for our readers.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journeythrough cancer and why you wrote the book?
Because of the sheer terror and trauma I was facing, I needed a way to wrap my mind around what I was going through. Writing has always been my way to express the feelings that I sometimes have a hard time processing. Also, I say in the book that when you have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, your brain “takes the next bus to Toledo.” My brain wasn’t functioning. It was as if I had been asked to carry too much information and it shorted out. I couldn’t remember what my doctors were telling me. I couldn’t remember conversations with others. I had to come directly home and write down everything I’d been told and ultimately, I had to start taking notes while talking to my healthcare providers because I would forget as soon as I walked out the door. I say all this to preface that my journey didn’t start out as a book. But the more I went through the process and the more I could see several health issues falling through the cracks, including never really being told what to expect with a bi-lateral mastectomy, I knew that I needed to write a book to help other women, other survivors, their family members and even healthcare providers understand what and who they were dealing with.

Tell us about the book.

The day I was first diagnosed, a new presence, which I dubbed “Crazy Woman,” took up residence in my brain, wreaking havoc on my psyche, and forcing me to face my own mortality. By walking myself through my own death and learning how to cope with the many life challenges I faced during that time, I found a new way of living, free from fear. The book chronicles my journey through cancer, the uninvited force of Crazy Woman and the life lessons that remained.
However, it is not just a book about cancer. Almost everything I went through (including personal issues, other health problems and other life-altering challenges), is directly related to what we all go through in life. The book is a place where anyone who is going through a life challenge, can find strength, inspiration and hope.

What are some of the things you have experienced since writing Me, The Crazy Woman and Breast Cancer?

The most humbling, has been getting to forge relationships with other cancer patients and their families who have reached out to me. This year has been very difficult because several of them, who I now think of as family, have died from cancer. However, many of them are fighting like the true warriors they are. Watching them battle this disease with courage, faith, hope and even humor has shored up my belief that we, as humans, are incredible beings.  I was also very fortunate to be named “Best Author” by The Oklahoma Gazette, Oklahoma’s largest arts and entertainment newspaper. I have appeared on many different radio and television shows, been featured in magazines and have been given a platform as a speaker to teach others how to follow their life’s purpose without fear. One of my greatest joys is that I have been able to use my book and the life lessons to also help teenagers. Working with kids is a passion of mine and finding out that the book and its’ message have had an impact on them has made me know that there was greater reason as to why I got cancer. I’m so honored that I have been asked to speak in January to a conference of eight schools in Indiana that are raising money for the American Cancer Society. It’s something I am very excited about because if I can help kids learn at such a young age to see fear for what it is, False Evidence Appearing Real, and instill in them the courage to follow their passions, even if it means going against the norm, then I know I will leave the world a better place than I found it.

I was asked to participate in the “Hot Mamma’s” Project at George Washington University School of Business, in Washington D.C. The project’s mission is to enable individuals to serve as role models for girls and women across the globe. I wrote an essay regarding the book and how I’ve been able to turn adversity into triumph. The article was chosen as a case study for their program.

How has your family been emotionally through your journey?

My husband and I were separated when I was diagnosed the first time. We had to really look at our lives and what we wanted out of our marriage. Cancer helped us do that and I’m thrilled to say, my marriage now is the one that I’ve always wanted. It also made me appreciate him in a whole new way. I couldn’t have made it through everything without him. He was my hero.  My daughter, who is now 19 and was 14 at the time of my first diagnosis, still has not read the book. Being introduced to the mortality of a parent at such a young age, I think is often times one of the greatest fears a child can experience. She also suffered the loss of two grandparents and an uncle during that time and I know these things were very traumatic for her. I don’t think she is far enough removed from it yet to feel completely safe in reliving it. I know there will come a day when she can read it, but it’s not today. My father had been an alcoholic for many years. He was angry and abusive and he was someone I never understood. He became sober 18 years before he died and although I tried to get close to him, I couldn’t. When I went through the physical pain of the bi-lateral mastectomy and other health related life-altering surgeries, for the very first time in my life, I understood why he was the way he was. My dad had been in physical pain the majority of his life. Cancer taught me how absolutely debilitating physical pain and stress could be. I even found myself acting out in anger at my own family during the course of my treatment. I didn’t want to, but my edges were so raw that every little thing would set me off. He passed away before I finished my final reconstructive procedure, but when he died, I could truly say I loved him and admired him. Although I was able to cement some relationships, like the one with my father and my husband, I also had to severe some. The relationships I had with my oldest sister and my mother had been tumultuous for years, so much so, that I would literally get physically ill when I knew I was going to have to deal with them. Cancer opened my eyes to all the toxins in my life and after my second diagnosis, I chose to walk away. I had spent most of my life feeling like a huge disappointment to my mother, who often told me if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t have had her children. That made me feel like I had no purpose – like my life was a mistake. I realized while writing the book that I had a great purpose and I because of that revelation, I vowed to never allow anyone else to define me in that way again, not even myself.

What are you doing this month to help spread the word about Breast CancerAwareness Month?

I am honored that the book and my story have been featured in various mediums this month, including WE Magazine. I have been told by so many readers that it has given them a roadmap to not only the journey through cancer, but the journey through life’s difficult moments. I don’t just acknowledge breast cancer during the month of October. I spend the entire year speaking with groups, individuals, families, and even healthcare providers about what it means to fight this disease. I was honored when earlier this year I was able to consult with one of Oklahoma’s largest Cancer Treatment Centers when they opened a new Proton and Photon treatment and Wellness Center. We worked on ideas to help make the experience better for their patients and families.

I formed a team last year called “Crazy for the Cure,” to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. We will be walking for the second year on October 9, in the Central Oklahoma Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

I often tweet and Facebook about the newest research on cancer treatments and cures and try to bring awareness to all women that mammograms WILL save your life. I had been having mammograms since I was 24 but two years before I was diagnosed, I stopped because I felt like they were not effective. I found two lumps in my thirties that mammograms never saw. Luckily they were not cancerous but I had actually convinced myself that mammograms were no good. I was totally wrong. The type of cancer I had, Ductal Carcinoma Insitu, would have never been found in a self-exam until it was too late. When I was 41, my OBGYN made me go back and the mammogram found the cancer. It saved my life.

What organizations (nonprofit) are you involved in and why?

My volunteer work centers on kids, as I am a CASA (Court Appointed Child Advocate) and a Bridges of Cleveland County volunteer. A CASA acts as the eyes and ears of the court for children in Department of Human Services custody. Bridges is an organization which helps emancipated teens, who no fault of their own, have to leave their family situation. Some of the kids have drug addicted parents, incarcerated or abusive parents. I raise money for the Bridges Christmas program which buys presents for the teens. We are the only source of gifts they will get. December is my favorite time of the year because I get to shop for them.

What is the biggest risk you took writing this book and then promoting it?

There are many things in the book which are embarrassing, not only me, but to my family. I never wanted to cause harm by revealing them, but as an author, I feel I must be authentic. I think readers can only connect with you if they are allowed to see who you really are. They need to know that they are not alone and the only way to accomplish that is to let them see the good, the bad and the ugly. For me, there would have been no point in writing the book if I was not willing to expose everything. I am so appreciative every time I have a reader tell me that they connected with me. I’ve had readers tell me that I was the only person who really “got” what they were going through. I know when I hear those words that I did the right thing.

From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors,  etc?
I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve when I am asked to be a part of a cancer patients’ journey. In February of 2009, I was asked via Facebook by a wonderful man named Bill Walling, Jr. if I would connect with him. He told me he was battling three different cancers and just needed to connect with someone else who had gone through it and survived. We only live about 30 miles from each other and he became like a brother to me. Each day he lived his life with such gratitude. Every time I spoke with him and asked him how he was he would reply, “Oh Stacy, life is so good and I am so blessed.” On his deathbed in August of this year, those were his last words to me. I keep a picture of him on my desk and I tell him every day that life is so good and I am so blessed. He was courage, hope, faith and gratitude personified. Bill and the countless others I’ve been able to connect with, inspire me beyond words. They live life on a different level than the rest of the world. They are all great teachers.

What one thing would you like to learn this year?

To live St. Theresa’s Prayer: May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope to still be speaking, writing and working with teens, cancer patients their families and loved ones and spreading the message that we all have a purpose. By following our passion, we set the stage for that purpose. Passion is God’s whisper that you are doing what you came here to do.
I am currently working on two additional books. The first, The God Place: Universal Principles of Health and Happiness, is an extension of Crazy Woman. It is about how we must reconnect with our soul’s purpose in order to overcome not only the health obstacles we face, but also, the fear factor that contributes to illness and self-loathing.
The second book, Ten Things Mean Girls Don’t Want You To Know is about the bullying that takes place between teenaged girls. Through my research I’ve learned that in almost all cases, mean girls have serious outside problems that contribute to their behavior. Some have absentee parents, abusive or alcoholic parents, unsafe environments, or are victims of sexual abuse. They have experienced a complete loss of power and they use bullying as a way to regain it. These are just some of the things that mean girls don’t want their peers to know. By definition, females are nurturers, and can be a great support system for girls who have lost their power. Opening a dialogue between these two groups can stop the violence and even help heal the aggressors. I see it as a way to bring girls to the a place where even into womanhood, they can forge bonds to uplift and sustain each other instead of being just one more of the obstacles today’s woman must overcome.

What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
I am a University of Oklahoma football nut. During football season, everything in my free time revolves around my Sooners. In fact, the number one thing on my bucket list is to ride the OU Schooner onto the field during a game! I also love to read, do interior design and landscape design for my friends and spend any time I can get with my daughter, who left me an empty-nester in August. She is doing great. Mom, not so much lol.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Sometimes we are asked to take journeys we would not wish upon our worst enemies. How we respond during those times, defines us like nothing else ever will. When we can face adversity head on, knowing that whatever the outcome, we can use that time to be an inspiration to others, we are truly the masters of our destiny. And if we ever allow fear to control our destiny, we rob the world of the one gift we came here to give.
Please share the social networking sites to which you belong?

Twitter: @StacyDShelton


How ELSE can our readers connect with you online? website:

Where can we get a copy of Me, The Crazy Woman and Breast Cancer?

It is carried in many bookstores or can be ordered from your local bookstore. It can also be ordered online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble