Shae-Lynn Way

Shae-Lynn Way - It’s All About Perspectives

Kingston ON

I had no idea what was to come tomorrow or the next day but to get there I had to deal with today, right now and what I had to tackle to get through the day.


I’ve always thought there was a fine line between having a positive outlook on a situation and being too naïve. I think this outlook developed as soon as I heard the doctors’ words, “I’m so sorry Shae, but it looks like your Leukemia has returned”. You can imagine the variety of feelings I had after that phone call. I felt hopeless, heartbroken and honestly a little naïve. Since having a full Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) the year before with prior chemotherapy regimens I thought I was in the clear. I thought my nightmare was over. But instead, we were right back where we started and more battles were to come.

I had been so positive I had beat cancer. I remember thinking to myself the year prior, “All you have to do is get through this transplant and it’s over, you’re done, you’re free”. And for the most part that was true. After my first SCT in August 2020, I had continued my degree and started recovering believing I was in remission and I had survived that nightmare. I spent the summer with friends and family by the lake, soaked up the sun, and even began a new job in August that year. It wasn’t just me either, my entire support system could finally breathe a sigh of relief after juggling a year of my cancer diagnosis as well as the unknowns of the Covid-19 virus. It had drained us all and everyone was just glad that “The young girl from Tamworth” had made it through.

The pain I felt hearing those words from my doctor on the phone was unbearable. I could see the irritation and torment in my family’s eyes as our worst nightmare was giving us a “round 2”. 

Not that the last 14 months had been a breeze or anything, I struggled mentally with the realities of living as a survivor but up until the point of my first relapse I was in a good headspace. That all quickly shattered. My mind took me to many dark places the first couple days after the news. But I knew what I had to do. I had to keep pushing forward, like I did last time. I knew I had to endure another fight which meant even more time away from my family and friends. But I knew there was no other options. So, I got myself into my “fighter” mindset and pushed forward. The treatment this time wasn’t as intense and I was told I was going to undergo a CAR-T Transplant at the end of December 2021. This was a newer therapy which I was told showed promising results with those who have had failed SCT. This was my saving grace. Up until the end of my transplant I continued to stay positive. My mindset was in check and I once again was back in remission. Up until May 2022, when I heard the same doctor repeat the same words to me once again just like before, “Your Leukemia has come back”.

Those words definitely stung more the second time. The overall end goal was another SCT which devastated me even more. My mind started to take me to some dark places. I started to seriously consider putting together a will for my family and Mitchell. I started talking about my funeral, the songs that would be played, the way I wanted my assets divided. I was preparing myself for something no 24-year-old should have to experience. I wondered if my body had another fight left in it. It had been drained by chemotherapy, 2 transplants, radiation and various infections. It had brought me here but not without a decent amount of battle wounds.

Mentally I was at my lowest before my transplant. All I wanted to do was sleep and no matter how much sleep I did get I still felt exhausted. I thought it was naïve and pointless to even think this transplant was going to fix anything as it had already failed once. My anxiety started to get the best of me as my transplant drew closer and I knew I had to put my entire life on hold for 4 months for this transplant. After experiencing this all before back in 2020, I found it more of a disadvantage. I thought about the battles I endured my first transplant, what my other cancer friends faced with their SCT. I knew what to expect which started to transition my mindset to anticipating the worst which only raised my anxiety more. I felt my SCT went pretty smoothly the first time but I had seen others, friends who were my age, struggle and face some of the toughest challenges. I was scared that with all previous havoc on my body these last couple years that I might endure the same fate as them.

Breakdowns started to happen more often as the thoughts of the unknown consumed me. My family kept trying to lift me up, giving me advice on how to get through this and sending pet videos and photos as much as possible. Nothing was helping though. I felt alone, scared and beaten down. I was a mess.

Then one day it clicked. I don’t remember what came over me, I don’t think it was anyone or anything in particular but I jolted myself back into my right mind just before the transplant and realized I needed to change my mindset if I was going to get through this. My family kept telling me to “take it day by day” and finally my clouded head full of anxiety about this transplant cleared and I was finally listening to what my closest supporters were telling me. They were right. 

I had no idea what was to come tomorrow or the next day but to get there I had to deal with today, right now and what I had to tackle to get through the day. Don’t get me wrong, I still worried that anything could happen but I knew that the most important thing was to not look too far ahead. I started to look at more of the positives from my situation. Mom and I created a countdown sheet where I would mark off each day as I go to be able to see how far I’ve come. We also started to high-five after every appointment to celebrate another day at the hospital completed. 

I also opened up more to my nurses who cared for me every day at the hospital. I felt I had a special bond with each and every one of them as I appreciated their curiosity of my life back home and their overall compassion towards me. (Honestly, they were a huge part in helping me get through the hardest weeks after transplant). 

Mom and I also looked ahead while booking our stay in Ottawa and rented a place that was pet friendly. The pet therapy really helped when I was feeling down. When I started to feel my anxiety lurking back in, I found healthy distractions like reading, coloring, walking or binge watching a favourite show on Netflix. 

Once my mindset changed, my entire outlook on this transplant and the journey ahead became more bearable to process. I started to focus on my daily battles instead of the possible future ones and how I was going to tackle the day.

I now feel like I have a more positive outlook on my situation but with past experiences of relapses I am trying to be as realistic as possible on what the future might hold for me.

I’m no mindset coach, I can assure you that. But for what I have gone through in the last 3 years (as well as having a Psychology Degree) I definitely have experience on how to change your perspective on a situation. Many people ask me how I do it and somedays I honestly don’t know. But I do know with a strong support system and a good mindset, you can push through the hardest of days.