Positive Mental Health Through Cancer
- “Real Housewives of New York City” star and motivational speaker Bershan Shaw shared fresh words of encouragement to “get what you want” in life.
- Shaw, 49, was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2007 and diagnosed again in 2009 with stage 4 breast cancer.
- If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, negative feelings are normal, and remember, men and women react differently.
- Focusing on positivity and maintaining good mental health is key when battling cancer.
- “In the face of a life-threatening diagnosis, fear, hopelessness, and despair can quickly take space in your mind. However, your mindset is a superpower and can be a potent antidote to illness,” says psychologist Dr. Charmain Jackman.
“Real Housewives of New York City” star Bershan Shaw is sharing fresh words of encouragement to help her followers “get what you want” in life. And as a breast cancer survivor, Shaw knows a thing or two about perseverance and positivity.
“Spring is finally here,” Shaw said to her Instagram followers in a video post. “Spring means growth, blossoming, and learning to be the best you can be.”
Read MoreView this post on Instagram
As a stage 4 breast cancer survivor, Shaw, 49, knows all about maintaining a positive mindset during times of hardship. Years before Shaw was diagnosed with breast cancer, her mom battled the disease until 1997.
“My mom was a fighter. She was a go-getter. She took action,” Shaw told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
“She was about living and that’s what I’m about,” she added.
While Shaw is known for appearing on the “Real Housewives of New York City” reality TV show, she is also a motivational speaker, business coach, author of “The Unstoppable Warrior Woman”, and tech founder of the wellness app URAWARRIOR, which focuses on personal development, self-improvement, motivation, and mental health support.
In her recent post, Shaw instilled the same kind of positivity and go-getter energy in her followers, and the message rings especially true for cancer warriors. Coping with a diagnosis or undergoing the ups and downs of treatment can cause cancer warriors to experience a ton of different emotions.
“Stop being stuck. Stop being stagnant and stop staying the same. It’s time to break out of your shell and get what you want in your career, relationship, and life. Stop waiting Do it NOW!” she said in her social media post.
Bershan Shaw’s Cancer Journey
Many women have been touched by breast cancer in some way, as they have either experienced it themselves or know someone who battled the disease. Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the second-most common cancer in American women.
Shaw is a two-time breast cancer survivor who was first diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2007, WTVR news reports.
“I felt a lump and immediately just jumped up,” Shaw told WTVR news.
A mammogram is the primary test doctors use to screen for breast cancer. Stage 1 breast cancers are relatively small; they either have not spread to the lymph nodes or only a small area of cancer has spread to the sentinel lymph node.
She underwent breast cancer treatment with a lumpectomy, which removes the cancer and an area of healthy tissue around it. She also received radiation therapy, which uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.
Two years later in 2009, after going to the doctor for back pain, doctors discovered her cancer had returned, and this time it was stage 4 breast cancer.
Stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer is the hardest type of cancer to treat because, at this late stage, the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body. She was in her early 30s at the time and the “Real Housewives” star told Travel and Leisure magazine that doctors said she had “just three months to live.”
“It was devastating. I was shocked. I was angry,” Shaw said.
More breast cancer warriors
- ‘AGT’ Star Nightbirde’s Legacy Continues to Shine for ‘Light Up MBC’ Tribute on Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day
- ‘Anne With An E’ Star Miranda McKeon, 19, Says She Has Frozen Her Eggs Amid Breast Cancer Battle, Is Doing A ‘Happy Dance’ After Starting Chemo
- ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Star and Breast Cancer Survivor Jaclyn Smith is ‘Grateful’ That She Can Balance Work and Family
Although breast cancer runs in Shaw’s family, she does not have BRCA1 or BRCA2, which is an inherited gene mutation that increases a person’s risk for breast cancer.
Despite the intense stress Shaw felt while coping with her cancer diagnosis, she focused on maintaining a positive mindset.
“When they told me it was terminal, incurable breast cancer, at first you go through shock, disappointment, anger. But then I just got on my knees, and I say, ‘God, just give me every day of glory. Give me every day to do something better. I’ll be better than I was yesterday,” she explained to Parade, a pop culture and lifestyle media outlet.
“I am healthy. I am happy. I’m loving. I’m powerful. I’m strong. And every day, I get better,” Shaw said to herself daily. Her positive affirmations helped her through tough rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
Shaw told Huffington Post her cancer has been in remission since treatment. Although some SurvivorNet experts tend to shy away from using words like “cancer-free,” Shaw says the term helps her mental health.
“I use cancer-free because I think it’s a mindset too,” Shaw said.
“I believe you are what you think, and you are what you believe. Cancer was my diagnosis, not my prognosis. You know, cancer is the disease. And so, I’ve risen above it. I rise above cancer,” she added.
The Power of Positivity and Good Mental Health
As a two-time cancer survivor, it’s no secret why Shaw has amassed an online following for her words of positivity and encouragement. In some cases, SurvivorNet experts say, a positive attitude may improve your prognosis.
WATCH: What kind of patients will maintain a positive attitude after a cancer diagnosis?
“A positive attitude is really important,” says Dr. Zuri Murrell, a colorectal surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, negative feelings are normal, and remember, men and women react differently. Anger, shame, fear, anxiety. It’s to be expected.
Experienced doctors will tell you that people who find a way to work through their emotions and stay positive do end up doing better.
Dr. Charmain Jackman is a licensed psychologist and founder of InnoPsych. She echoes SurvivorNet experts on the benefits of positive mental health while facing a health diagnosis.
“In the face of a life-threatening diagnosis, fear, hopelessness, and despair can quickly take space in your mind. However, your mindset is a superpower and can be a potent antidote to illness. Practicing gratitude, cultivating joy, and connecting to the community are practical ways to develop a resilient mindset,” Dr. Jackman said.
Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.