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23-Year-Old Explains How Ovarian Cancer Dramatically Changed Her Body

Cheyann Shaw's life changed when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at just 23 years old. The Seattle-based bikini competitor spent years sculpting her body to perfection but has spent the past few months watching her hard work disappear along with her declining health.

Shaw was diagnosed in August, and because the cancer was already at stage IV, she quickly started undergoing grueling treatments.


It's crazy where life can take you in just a short year. - - This time last year, I was on stage competing in my first fitness show Now I'm fighting for my life. - - The picture on the left is around the time they think my cancer started to form and we just caught it in August. Thankfully we have caught it in enough time that I am still able to fight and can kick Ovarian Cancers ass and be in remission one day, hopefully soon - - At the end of the day, my life isn't where I ever expected it to be, but I'm thankful I am where I am. I truly believe God has a plan for me and I believe it's to help and inspire people. Just because you are going thru something, doesn't mean you stop living. I still go to the gym, I still laugh, cry, sing (horribly), and just enjoy each and every second of every single day. - - Life is all about what you make it out to be; and I'll be damned if I let a little bit of cancer stop me from living my life to the fullest - - #fuckcancer #ovariancancer #selflove #bestself #fitspo #fitfam #fitlife #gymspo #npc #npcbikini #npcbikinicompetitor #npcathlete #gymshark #alphalete #squats #loveyourself #youtube #follow

A photo posted by Cheyann Shaw (@cheymarie_fit) on

"When I was first diagnosed, I was scared, but it went away quickly," she told PEOPLE. "I knew that I had no choice but to fight. I wasn't going to let cancer win. I also knew that my husband and family need me and there is no way I am leaving them. So that is when I put my boxing gloves on and got in the ring to knock cancer out."

In the midst of chemotherapy, Shaw underwent a major surgery in an attempt to remove the cancer. The five-and-a-half hour procedure required removing her spleen, appendix, and part of her colon. Doctors also had to perform a full hysterectomy.

Before her diagnosis, Shaw weighed 130 pounds. She lost 15 pounds before the surgery, and just 13 days after the procedure, her weight dropped to 102 lbs.


Post surgery update!! - - It's been about 2 almost 3 weeks since surgery and I'm feeling great. I've only been home for a couple days but it feels amazing. So I have a nice little scar and that bag.....that bag is my "poop bag" - - There unfortunately was cancer on my colon so they had to take some colon out and to give it time to heal redirected everything to my side. I'll have this bag for about 3 months and will get everything reversed and be back to normal. But for now I can walk and poop so don't judge me - - When they were in surgery they did find out I'm actually Stage 4 because the cancer was in my spleen and I do have cancer in my lymph nodes, but I'm not worried. Just another bump to get over and with GOD by my side I'm not scared. I'll be fine and GOD will get me through this. I have a story to tell and I'm not done telling it and GOD knows that - - I'm proud of my scar and "poop bag" because it already shows that I'm a fighter and a survivor. I wear my war wounds proudly - - #fuckcancer #ovariancancer #seattleseahawks #bestself #selflove #npc #npcbikini #ifbb #npccompetitor #bikini #bikinicompetitor #bikinifitness #bikiniathlete #fitlife #fitspo #fitlife #follow #inspiration #happiness #womensfitness #womenshealth #motivation #squat #squatspo #country #countrymusic #countrygirl #smile

A photo posted by Cheyann Shaw (@cheymarie_fit) on

"It was tough to see all my muscle and hard work disappear. It is still tough for me to see my old pictures when I was fit and had a ton of muscle — it is a struggle for me," she says. "I know looks aren't everything, but when you spend years working and building your body to the best it can be, it's hard to see it all just vanish."

Being someone who never gives up, Shaw was able to push past the heartbreak and face her illness head-on.

"I realized that I can gain and build that strength back, and even though I lost it all, I still love myself," she said. "I look different and it's new to me, but it's only temporary, just like this battle. This fight is all mental and I knew if I left how my body looks bring me down, then cancer has won."


I still got some muscles and 12 days till surgery - - Truthfully, I have been struggling with the fact that I'm not able to throw up some heavy weights and not being the strongest women in the gym ( I'm very competitive) - - It's hard from going from squatting close to 160lbs and being able to curl 30lbs with ease; to having to curl/do any upper body with light weight because I can't risk my port implant moving (it's in my chest) and struggling to squat 100lbs - - But at the end of the day, my strength is coming back, my arms are still decent size and my booty is growing With surgery in 12 days, I'll be out from working out probably around 6 weeks. So I'll be starting at square one again but that's okay. That just means I'll come back better and stronger and I'll also have a new badass scar - - #fuckcancer #ovariancancer #cheystrong #seattleseahawks #bestself #selflove #npc #npcbikini #ifbb #npccompetitor #bikini #bikinicompetitor #bikinifitness #bikiniathlete #fitlife #fitspo #fitlife #follow #inspiration #happiness #womensfitness #womenshealth #motivation #squat #squatspo #countrygirl #country #countrymusic

A photo posted by Cheyann Shaw (@cheymarie_fit) on

It's been a month since Shaw went under the knife, and she continues to undergo chemo treatments. Thankfully, she can feel her strength slowly returning and was recently cleared to workout again.

"I still have a lot of recovering to do, but I feel stronger and stronger each day," she says. "I can only lift light weights, but it is better than nothing."

Shaw has shared her story on Instagram with pictures to show how her body has changed. She hopes to inspire others to love their bodies no matter what because you never know what could happen.

"My battle with cancer has taught me a lot," she says. "I love who I am, and I love being able to help others."


Faith Brar

Faith is an Associate Digital Editor at Meredith Corporation in Boston. Her work has appeared in Fitness, Shape, Better Homes & Gardens, More and others.  More →

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