By Danette Dooley
Shanna (Molloy) Fitzgerald marked her 36th birthday in a St. John’s hospital May 16 recovering from a mastectomy she had the previous day.
Cancer is not something the mother of four ever thought she’d be facing. But life throws curve balls that can knock the strongest people off their feet.
Fitzgerald is now recovering from her surgery at home in Conception Bay South – determined to do whatever it takes to conquer cancer.
And she’s not alone in facing what will likely be the biggest battle of her life.
Originally from Outer Cove, Fitzgerald and her husband Eddie Fitzgerald moved to Conception Bay South about four years ago.
The couple have four children.
“Cade is 13, Mckenna is six, Kalli is four and Teagan is 16 months old,” Fitzgerald said during an interview at her home on May 25.
Fitzgerald found a lump in her breast in March. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 24. The diagnosis came as a shock, she said.
“I had talked myself into not worrying about it. My husband was in the waiting room with me. He was squeezing my hand. I said, ‘This is going to be fine.’” But, as soon as the doctor walked in the room, I could feel that she was going to tell me something,’” Fitzgerald recalled.
After she heard the word cancer, she said, her mind went blank.
“I never heard anything after that… I told them we needed to leave. My husband took me home and put me to bed.”
One of the hardest things about the mastectomy, she said, is not being able to care for her children, particularly the baby.
“I’m not allowed to lift Teagan. I can’t take care of her right now. That’s so hard… She puts her little arms up for me to pick her up. And I can’t. And that’s breaking my heart,” an emotional Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said she is fortunate to have a great childcare provider who is like a second mother to her children.
Fitzgerald was laid off from her job while on maternity leave (when the project concluded). She started a new job eight weeks prior to her cancer diagnosis.
Because of her short employment, she does not qualify for Employment Insurance or any other financial benefits – leaving only her husband’s salary to support the family.
“I’m trying not to focus on the (finances) but with four children and a house, how can you not. My husband works so hard but we need both of our incomes to be able to manage,” she said.
Family and friends are hosting several fundraisers to help Fitzgerald and her husband focus on her recovery.
At the time of the interview, Fitzgerald had yet to receive the pathology reports about her cancer. Her biggest fear is that the cancer may have spread to other organs.
And while she’s down right now, she’s ready to do whatever is needed to get back up again.
“This is the scariest thing that I’ve ever been through… What we’re looking for is for it (the cancer) to be confined (to the breast). But whatever I have to do to fight this, I will do… I’m determined to be here for my four children who need me. And for my husband who needs me. I will get better,” a determined Fitzgerald said through her tears.
As she fights to control her emotions, Fitzgerald is quick to count her blessings. Those blessings come in the form of family and friends who have rallied around her since her diagnosis.
“My husband has been my rock. Every time when I feel like I can’t deal with this anymore, he is right there holding my hand. And I’m so thankful for that.”
Fitzgerald comes from a large family. Her parents and siblings (five sisters and one brother) have been really supportive, she said.
“And my husband’s family just live two houses over from us. They’ve been fantastic, too. I have a close-knit group of friends as well who want to do what they can to help me.”
People have been dropping off food, she said, and have been donating to the fundraisers.
A Go Fund Me
page established on April 25 raised over $11,500 of a $20,000 goal in just over a month.
Fitzgerald agreed to do the interview with the Herald to get an important message out to others.
“If I can help even one person avoid this (financial) strain I’ll give you this advice. Please invest in critical illness coverage. We never imagined we would need it at our age. Protect yourself. You never know what might happen.”
She would also like to let people know that their love and support (both financially and emotionally) is helping her each and every day.
“Even though this is the darkest time of my life, I get to see the light in other people, the way people have come together for us. We feel surrounded by love. And that has eased the burden,” she said.
Shanna’s Breast Friends Benefit to be held on June 2 at the Martini Bar with entertainment provided by
ECMA nominated Rum Ragged, DJ Slim Macho and DJ Rocket Boy. Details can be found at www.facebook.com/events/819875921501129/?ti=cl
Details of an online auction that runs until June 2 can be found at: