Shayne Messina is a 20-year Marathon  resident, local business owner of Sunmasters Elite Travel Inc., Upper Keys BPW member and a six-year breast cancer survivor and activist. She recently sat down to share her powerful story and information about the upcoming Making Strides in America Cancer Walk this coming Saturday, Oct. 23.

It was six years this past August since my breast cancer was detected in my yearly mammogram, which is why I am an advocate for early detection. I got the postcard in the mail that it was time for my mammogram, and I had gone up as soon as I got the postcard. So, the appointment was actually a month earlier than a typical annual mammogram.

When they see something suspicious in your image, they call you into a big room. I had a biopsy within two days; two days later, I had the diagnosis; and two days later, I had my surgery. Six weeks later, I was in radiation. The doctors responded to my cancer very quickly.

There are many types of breast cancer. And once they diagnose you, you meet with a whole team of doctors — surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and even a geneticist. They are all giving you their opinion on what you should do. My breast cancer was caught early enough that it was able to be treated with surgery and radiation. After year five, I was able to go back to once-a-year visits instead of every six months.

If you know someone who has been diagnosed or has been going through breast cancer, it’s best to be a good listener. If you are going through the process, find a good doctor you like and trust. My doctor is Dr. Joseph Collette in Boca Raton, and I trusted what he prescribed 100%.

The process is very overwhelming; try to take someone with you if you can. The doctors are quickly sharing information with you, and you have to revert to what they shared. My husband came with me, and it was essential to have support. Cancer information, in general, is a lot, and often, you are in a state of shock. So, take notes and, at the very least, put your phone on record.

New advances in technology appear every day because of research. The radiation happened after the surgery; I healed and had clear margins. My radiation was twice a day every day for seven days, and I had no side effects.

My best advice is to start your annual mammograms at age 40. However, as you are doing your self-exams and feel something sooner, get it checked. One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer. 

This Saturday, Oct. 23, is the Making Strides in American Cancer Walk. You can walk individually or as a team. I got involved as a volunteer the October following my diagnosis. Last year, because of Covid-19, we did it as a parade. This year, since we are still not comfortable being in a large crowd, we came up with a series of neighborhood walks.

Some of the organized walks are:

  • Crane Point. If you show up Saturday morning at 8 a.m. in pink to walk, they will waive the $14.99 park entry fee.
  • Julie Johnson is organizing a group at Duck Key at 8 a.m.
  • There are also walks at Sombrero Beach at 7 a.m. and Coco Plum Beach at 7:30 a.m.

We have walked the Marathon Fire Station, in the past, but this year we decided to take extra precautions and do it this way. You can also organize your own walk. Use the hashtag #marathongoespink to share photos on IG and FB.

The funds raised go to research and also local programs that help Monroe County residents. Two such programs are The Hope Lodge and Road to Recovery. These programs are critical; the Road to Recovery Program has volunteers who help patients get to and from appointments, especially since many need to go to Miami for treatment.

I want to end by saying… “Nobody walks this walk alone.” They really don’t. When I went to get my surgery that was one of the most important things a nurse said to me. I said, “You don’t have to walk with me to the surgical center. I’m fine; I’m not even scared.” And she said, “Oh no, I’ll walk with you; no one walks this path alone.”American Cancer Society has a number you can call if you need help or wish to talk to someone.  1-800-227-2345. Or connect with www.cancer.org for more information and how you can donate to this life-saving cause.

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Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.