Shannon Villalba – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


I had been suffering for six months without any answers, and here was the answer I was expecting, “You have cancer.”

The moment I saw my oncologist’s face as she walked in the door and looked at me, my life changed. In my heart, I knew it was true, but I didn’t want to believe it. Three words resounded in my head as I cried on my mother’s shoulder, her multicolored sweater softening with my tears. I have cancer. Images of my son growing up, places I loved, and family floated in my head. I felt numb, as if in a dream, and my doctor’s words were a blur. I wasn’t ready to leave this world. As I sat there crying, I felt a spark in my heart. The warrior in me called out, “We will fight. We will fight with everything we have; even when we’re down, we won’t ever give up.”

It was a few days before Christmas and my son’s birthday, so I was determined to hide my feelings as much as I could so my son could enjoy his holiday. We went and saw Star Wars, but I was numb. The shock of it all kept me in a daze. As I watched the ships battle it out on the screen, warrior me repeated, “We fight. We fight for moments like these.” Through the shock and numbness, I was angry. Thoughts raced through my head: I am young, why me, why now? Haven’t I gone through enough as a single parent to a medically handicapped child? Haven’t I fought enough for myself after being treated poorly and devalued by others?” Even worse, after my initial diagnosis, my doctor kept stating that more tests needed to be done because my cells looked different. 

Sure enough, it was worse, way worse. It was small-cell cervical cancer at an advanced stage and growing fast. This made me even more angry. I was angry, sad, and afraid all at the same time. I screamed at the world like a toddler in a tantrum, beating my hands against the wall; dropping to my knees, I wailed incoherently as rivers of tears flowed down my face. Other times, I closeted myself away, my entire body shaking irrepressibly with fear. But after calming down, with resolve, I knew I had to do everything in my power to stay alive, to be with my son and my family, and to experience life. 

I was scrappy and independent, but I knew I could not fight alone this time.  After telling my family and close friends, I made a declaration on my Facebook page about my diagnosis and that I would fight and be clear in five months. With all my heart, I believed I would endure and embrace all the help I received. I initially did not want to do chemotherapy and wanted to focus solely on using holistic treatments because of the serious side effects. My diagnosis left me feeling out of control, and I desired to assume responsibility for my treatment and experience.  However, upon learning from fellow survivors about the fatalities of those solely relying on holistic approaches, combined with persistent family pressure to undergo chemotherapy, I reassessed my decision.  Thus, I put together a strategy I could follow with my doctor’s recommendations. I adamantly stated, “If you want me to put this poison in my body, then I’m going to do everything else on my terms.” 

Unwaveringly, I would do everything in my power to have some semblance of control. Consequently, I opened my mind to various ways I could heal physically, mentally, and spiritually since I wanted to attack the cancer on every level. I changed my diet and practiced various types of meditation techniques, crystal healing, sound healing, and mindfulness. Every time I entered the infusion center I came armed with essential oils, fuzzy socks, a warm blanket, crystals, and a speaker to play healing music. Friends and family joined me. I set the stage for healing within the room to benefit me and the other women. I envisioned every type of fictional and historical character fighting that cancer as the chemo pulsed through me. 

My sister set up a calendar, and friends would come and cook for me and my son, help clean, and take care of me. Friends and family put me on prayer lists. When I did my daily meditations, I tapped into the collective energy of healing and love, feeling it undulate and pulse through me, diminishing cancer on a spiritual level. This comforting love enveloped me and gave me hope on some of my darkest days.

My doctor gave me surprising news after the first round of chemo and surgery. The combination of holistic therapies with traditional medicine reduced my cancer by 50%! I still had a long road ahead, especially with keeping my mind focused on healing and not on dying. It was a constant emotional rollercoaster to temper my thoughts towards focusing on the healing aspect. At one point between the radiation and chemotherapy, I felt myself dying, slipping between the veils. I felt the looming spectre of death in my room, getting closer to me every day.

I thought, “If cancer doesn’t kill me, these “treatments” will.” Determinedly, I pushed back on my doctors to give me a break, which is what I needed. This also gave me time to focus on my holistic therapies and develop specific healing strategies that assisted and eased my mental state. 

Due to my extensive experience in meditation, I crafted meditations that ranged from imagining myself dancing through fire to burn cancer to waves of colors wafting through my body, raising my vibration with every color change. These meditations, coupled with the love from my son, dog, family, and friends, allowed me to alter my perspective and envelop myself in the collective healing effort. At this time, I switched from fighting the cancer to loving it. I embraced it with my entire being and thanked it for the lessons it was giving me. 

During my final chemo session, I hugged myself and caressed my abdomen, stating, “Thank you; it’s time for you to leave.” My mind was at peace, and I felt a dramatic shift not only in my body but in the vibration of my being. My final scan occurred five months after my public declaration that I would be healed. The words I spoke were true – I was cancer-free!

Throughout my journey to practice resilience, I used many holistic therapies to put my mind in a healing state, kept an open mind, and allowed others to participate in assisting me. I meditated daily using affirmations and prayers and envisioned multiple ways to heal my body. Meditation helped my mind shift from fighting the cancer to loving the cancer. Once I made that shift, the cancer left. 

My advice to you is to love yourself and give yourself grace for things out of your control. By loving yourself more, you can forgive yourself and others, bringing yourself peace. Inner peace gives you the clarity to formulate a strategy that works for you and grants you the strength and resolve you need.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.