Shauna Ellis underwent her last surgery to treat breast cancer this Valentine’s Day.
Ellis, 43, had been diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2021. Her husband Jason and two teenage kids supported her as she underwent a double mastectomy to remove both breasts.
But Shauna’s final surgery did not end the Ellis family’s battle with cancer. On February 16 doctors found a mass in Jason’s, 47, abdomen that turned out to be stage 3 colon cancer.
In one year, Jason and Shauna Ellis went from being the self-described life of the party with plans to renew their vows in Jamaica to bedridden and weak from surgeries and chemotherapy.
“It’s just a shock, it was like time stood still for both of us,” Shauna Ellis told Insider. “Because literally I’m still recovering. And now he has to endure chemotherapy.”
Jason’s doctor diagnosed him with stage 3 colon cancer, which often presents without symptoms and in routine screenings.
Jason started chemotherapy in April. Within four months, the athletic, extroverted UPS driver became bedridden, with little energy for more than getting up use the bathroom. He became hypersensitive to anything cold, and grew dark spots around his body.
“Watching your husband with a strong build go through that really broke me down, broke our whole family down,” Shauna said. “Our kids weren’t used to seeing him lying around. We weren’t used to him being sick. It was hard.”
The double cancer diagnoses depleted the couple’s savings
Shauna said she’s had high anxiety all year due to the financial burden of the couple’s illnesses.
Shauna, a dental assistant, worked significantly less during her treatment and is still paying her company back for borrowed vacation days. Jason has not worked since starting chemotherapy.
The couple cancelled summer plans, which included a trip to Jamaica to renew their vows after a 15-year marriage. Cancer treatment co-payment bills piled up as the two worried about each other.
The majority of American cancer patients go into debt during treatment. One in every four families dealing with both cancer and healthcare debt declare bankruptcy or lose their homes, according to Kaiser Health News.
Shauna and Jason said they recently received foreclosure notices after missing mortgage payments, prompting them to make a GoFundMe on June 24 with a goal of raising $15,000.
Shauna said she resisted asking for donations from her her friends and family for a long time because they had already helped by cooking meals and picking up groceries.
“We were outgoing, we like to have fun, and I didn’t want anyone to judge me, judge us,” she said.
But the two said most of their support system was happy to pitch in and they received positive feedback for the GoFundMe. They have raised over $21,000 as of July 25.
Jason and Shauna Ellis are hoping next year will be cancer-free
The two are hoping to put their cancer saga behind them. Jason’s doctor said he’s “clear” of cancer for now, but will follow-up with him in November to make sure the cancer is in remission.
Shauna said she wants her family to enter 2023 healthy, both physically and mentally. She wants to stop the cancer from putting stress on her kids, and finally renew her vows with her devoted husband.
“You don’t hear about a lot of young men and women going through this, and if they do, they keep it quiet,” Shauna said. “But I want to inspire others to know that you can get through it and there is help and people do care.”