Steamboat radio personality doesn’t let cancer stop her with support from family, friends and Zumba crew
Reporter’s note: I am so grateful to the three women, whose stories are featured in this year’s Pink Paper, for opening their homes and places of work to me and sitting down to tell me their very personal and difficult stories. It takes a lot of courage to be willing to share, and share in a way that is so honest. Shannon Lukens allowed me to hear her story in real time during the days before and after surgery. Thank you to all of you. It was truly a privilege. And thank you to UCHealth Communications Specialist Lindsey Reznicek for finding these three women and bringing them to me.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two days before getting a bilateral mastectomy, several things were eating at Shannon Lukens.
For one, she is a busy woman — too busy for breast cancer.
She didn’t have time for down time.
Lukens is the Steamboat Radio news director and announces games for the Steamboat Wranglers hockey team, among numerous other things in which she is involved.
She was supposed to go to her dad’s 85th birthday party in Illinois, which she helped plan, as well as a niece’s wedding.
She hated that “it will have to slow me down some.”
Lukens was also feeling perturbed that she wouldn’t be able to have her vanilla latte Sunday morning.
Logistically, it all just felt like a huge hassle.
She also felt a much deeper consternation — Lukens already went through cancer four years ago. She’d already put in her time with the “C” word.
In 2015, an internal skin cancer was discovered during a colonoscopy, and Lukens went through six weeks of radiation and two weeks of chemotherapy.
She never missed an on-air shift. If she could talk, she could work.
But the thing that was bothering Lukens the most last Friday was her fear about the risk facing her two daughters.
“That’s the hardest part for me,” she said. “That’s what scares me the most.”
Breast cancer has always hovered as a dark cloud in her life.
Luken’s mother was diagnosed at 32 and survived. At 69, she died as a result of cancer in the fallopian tubes.
Because of her family history, Lukens started getting regular mammograms at an early age.
She did genetic testing after finishing treatment for her cancer in 2015. Results on the 25 genes tested came back normal.
But it obviously was no guarantee.
“I knew it was probably going to happen,” Lukens said. “But I was not ready for it to happen.”
This time around, the cancer was discovered during a routine mammogram on Aug. 8, which progressed on to an ultrasound, MRI and then biopsy, which confirmed two invasive tumors and, possibly, a third.
Last Saturday, the day before her surgery, Lukens’ Zumba class donned all pink and “danced like crazy to send me off.” The Zumba class has acted as a support group — through her last bout with cancer and this one.
“They are strong women who support strong women,” she said.
On Sunday, as she prepared for surgery with her family by her side, things got very real. And very sad. And very scary.
There were a lot of tears.
The reality of the procedure and the impact that would have on the rest of her life made Lukens very emotional.
Likewise for her daughter Meghan, 26, who described it as one of the worst days of her life.
“My mom is the bravest woman I know,” Meghan said. “And I know a lot of brave women. She was so brave on Sunday. But part of being brave is showing your true emotion, and she was clearly scared and clearly sad. And I was clearly scared and sad. All you can do is be there.”
Meghan was also hit hard by the physical implications of the surgery.
“You are losing part of your anatomy,” she said. “And losing something that makes you a woman.”
In three months, Lukens will undergo reconstructive surgery.
“Having a supportive family is crucial to making it through this process, and I am very fortunate to have a wonderful husband and kids,” Lukens said on Wednesday after she arrived home.
She also has a support infrastructure among friends, who have already filled the calendar dates for bringing meals.
“Until you go through something like this, you don’t realize how wonderful friends, family and acquaintances truly are,” Lukens wrote in an online journal entry. “It’s magnified in our close, tight-knit community of Steamboat Springs.”
Lukens strongest message for other women is to be proactive. Get checked annually, she said. If it’s there, find it early.
“Go get tested — do it for your kids,” Lukens said. “Do it for your family, so you are still around. Do it for your family, so they know what to prepare for.”
Meghan said she is now going to talk to her doctor about genetic testing.
“Its real, and it’s prevalent, and it’s scary, but it needs to be dealt with,” Meghan said.
On Thursday, Lukens received the best possible news — the tests on her lymph nodes came back negative, which means no radiation. There is still a little more testing to do, Lukens said, but the doctor is fairly confident that she won’t need chemotherapy.
Lukens plans to return to the airwaves this week and announce the Wranglers game on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“Mark your calendars,” she wrote on the online journal. “It is Pink the Rink, and I would love it if all could come to watch the game. We’re even selling special PINK hockey jerseys to support the fight against breast cancer.”
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Part 2 outlines non-surgical and surgical treatment options for hip injuries.