Shannon Marie was born on May 13, 1973.
I drove to the hospital the next morning; Stevie Wonder was singing You Are the Sunshine of My Life on the radio. Shannon was a second child so her life and destiny would be shaped by her mother, father, older brother, and her will. She was a small girl trying to keep up with her older brother of four years who loved her very much. He swam on the swim team so she swam on the swim team, he played little league baseball so she played baseball, and he played soccer so she played soccer. It was here that someone other than her family took notice, her coach. Although she was small she intimidated the other boys and girls on her team and the other teams. She experienced stardom. She gained self confidence and started to form her own identity.
At 13 she asked her mom if she would drive her down to the courthouse.
“Why, what do you need to do at the court house? I want to change my name. Change your name to what. Shannon-Marie Katherine Grinkmeyer.”
“You didn’t name me after dads mother; I am her reincarnation.”
My mother died at age 30, when I was 8 years old of breast cancer.
The next week Shannon Marie became Shannon-Marie Katherine.
July 16, 1988; cross country summer camp at Oak Mountain State Park. Shannon collapsed while running, pain was shooting trough her foot up in
to her leg; she was unable to move it. She was a mile from the cabins in the depths of the woods; the pain was too severe for her to walk back to camp. Her brother was told of the situation and he ran into the woods to assist her. Thirty minutes later he jogged into camp with Shannon on his back riding piggyback. Little did we know this wasn’t the first time this had happened. It had happened several times over the years, however never this bad.
At the encouragement of her coach she continued to try to run but the pain continued to persist and grow in intensity. Over the next four years she visited three doctors that placed arch supports in her shoes, put her into a large plastic boot, but the pain continued. In her effort to relive the pressure on her left arch she curled her toes and transferred all of her weight to her right foot.
Shannon went north to college on a photo journalism scholarship, 800 miles from home, new doctors, more medication. She came home the winter or 1991 for a surgery to fix chronic planter facetious. This is what she had been diagnosed with. The surgery elevated some of the pain for six months; then it intensified. She graduated in 1992 dealing with the pain the only way she knows how, medication, a cane, and more doctors.
She had developed hammer toes. One of the doctors cuts the tendons in the toes and inserted steel pins into each toe to force them into the normal position. The pain continued and the pain medicine was strengthened.
Working in Atlanta her new doctor told her there is no reason for the pain; its all in your head, you have conditioned yourself over the past nine years to expect pain and your mind is giving you what you have grown to expect. He prescribes an electrical shock box attached to her waist that would deliver a painful charge into her back each time her foot hurt in an effort to recondition her brain. Its all in your head She tore up the prescription.
Shannon was married on September 30, 2000 to Justin Hamer; she and I danced the first dance to Stevie Wonder singing “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”. Several months later she confided in her mother; I will never have children because I’m too unstable to care for a baby.
Our 2002 New Years resolution was to get our daughters foot fixed. We took her to The Health South Sports Medicine Clinic in Birmingham in late February. They took X-rays and told her to get a MRI. Days later we are told that Shannon had a tumor in her foot that had been there for over 12 years. The tumor had grown in the bottom of her foot, around both sides, up and over her toes and had penetrated the bones in her foot and was about to penetrate the skin on the top of her foot. “We’ll have to take a biopsy to determine if its cancerous.”
On May 14, 2002, one day after Shannon’s 29th birthday, Dr. Kenneth Jaffey offered Shannon a life or limb decision. “Its cancerous; if you leave it the cancer will spread through you skeletal system and you will die; or you can have your foot amputated and hopefully we have got it before the cancer has traveled up your leg.”
As Shannon’s father, I felt helpless.
“Why didn’t I find this doctor ten years ago so my daughter could keep her foot? Why didn’t this happen to me, I’ve lived my life, I could endure this better then her? What am I suppose to do now?”
Shannon, her husband, Justin,, and her mother met with Dr. Monson of Crawford Long, an Emory Clinic, in Atlanta and the date was set; her foot would be amputated at mid calf on June 12, 2002.
I had failed my daughter, why did I allow this to happen?
The next morning as I got ready for work I had the Today Show on. Katie Couric was interviewing Bob Kerrey, past Senator from Nebraska. Her final question to him was, “Senator Kerrey, I understand you lost your leg in the Vietnam War, how did that change your life?”
Senator Kerrey explained that coming back from Vietnam without his left leg was the most important event in his life; it had led him into public service. “I know if I had not lost my leg I would not have achieved what I have.”
I decided that I had to get Senator Kerrey to talk to Shannon. I didn’t know what to say to her but Bob Kerry would. That day I found him on the internet, he was the president of New School University in New York City. I sent him an e-mail and told him about Shannon. The next Saturday Senator Bob Kerrey called Shannon and talked to her for an hour about the rest of her life.
Shannon had the operation on June 12, 2002. Over the next several months she was fitted for a prosthetic and started her rehabilitation. On December 22, 2002 Shannon fell and shattered her left knee and femur and was rushed to the closest hospital. Justin called and told us that the doctor said that they were suggesting amputating her leg above the knee.
“Who said she had to have her leg amputated above the knee.”
“The doctor here at the hospital.”
“You tell them to tape her up, and get her home; were taking her to Dr. Munson.”
Shannon went to see Dr. Monson on December 23, 2002. I don’t fix knees, I replace them. But I know someone who can do it.
On December 26, 2002, surgery was preformed on her leg by one of Atlanta’s Best Orthopedic surgeons, Mary Jo Albert. She was given a 40% chance of full recovery. Nine months later the screws, pins and hinges were removed and Shannon resumed her rehabilitation.
On May 24, 2005 Justin and Shannon-Marie Katherine Grinkmeyer-Hamer gave birth to Aidan Alistair Hamer.
Shannon lived cancer free until June of 2007 when her five year check-up found a small tumor on her left lung; she was scheduled for surgery for removal. I was shocked to find that they had opened her from under her breast to her shoulder blade but elated to learn that the surgery was successful and the prognosis good.
Shannon is a successful financial advisor with Ameriprise in Atlanta. She has directed her practice to helping young families plan for all of their financial goals while protecting themselves from the traps of an unexpected illness, having dealt with her own inability to purchase life and disability insurance.
In 2011 another tumor appeared in her left lung and again she underwent the painful surgery. She was clean for two years when in 2013 a CT-scan found a tumor the size of a golf ball between her heart and larynx; two weeks later it was the size of an orange and she was rushed into a program of massive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
In 2012 Shannon encouraged me to write The Christmas Web, a children’s book about our families 20 plus year Christmas Morning tradition. “You’re retired you don’t have anything else to do, besides we should share it with the world.”
September 2014 the tumors were back, this time multiple tumors. She was admitted into a clinical trial which for a new form of chemo, only to be withdrawn after two months because of lack of effectiveness of the new chemo. She was then put into another chemo program which required her to be in the hospital for seven days of chemo and one month off for a seven sessions over a seven month period.
In October 2013 Shannon, Alan Vickness and I participated in The 24 Hours of Booty (a 24 hour bike ride to raise money for cancer research) and Shannon was named “The Rookie of Thr Year”. The highest fundraiser was awarded a new Pinarello bike, seetin this Shannon declared, “I’m going to win that bike next year.”
It’s December 22, 2014, my wife, Nita, and I are in Atlanta to celebrate Christmas. This morning at 10:30 a.m. Shannon became in-coherent, her temperature shot up to 102 F and she passed out. Nita called 911 and we delivered our daughter to the emergency room at 12:00 PM. If this had been another Monday Justin and Aidan would have left for work and school at 7:00 a.m. and my daughter would have died alone on the sofa in their family room. Why were we there other than to save our daughter?
For the past 12 years my daughter has been fighting a war against cancer, she wins battles but the war doesn’t end. She has gathered an army of friends and family that can’t fight for her but provides the support and logistics for her and her family. For the past 6 years her growing army has gathered Christmas Eve at her home to celebrate another year of fight; to celebrate her victories.
Shannon Marie-Katherine died on December 26, 2014; Shannon’s army gathered on December 31, 2014.
Personally, I’m reliving my childhood and I can deal with that. (Tallgrass The story of my childhood.)
But I hate that my 9 year old grandson is reliving my childhood.
Unlike when this all happened to me, we’re going to talk about Shannon, we’re going to honor her memory and her fight; Shannon is a warrior.
If you’d like to continue her memory I’d ask you to make a contribution to the 24 Hours of Booty in her name. Aidan, me and her Team Shay Warriors will continue to carry her banner for the years to come.
It’s been a month now and it’s not getting any easier. Last week I was in Atlanta meeting with financial advisors to find the right advisor to sell Shannon’s practice to so that Justin and Aidan can continue their lives without financial pressure. This weekend I signed up for The Harvard Personal Genome Project, I believe cancer can be eliminated through genome mapping. It may take several generations but it can be done. I will be dedicating The Christmas Web and the balance of my life to eliminating cancer from the lives of my descendents.
Help us grow our daughter’s legacy.
“You’re retired you don’t have anything else to do, besides we should share it with the world.”
2015 24 Hours of Booty
This past weekend we went to Charlotte, NC to participate in the 2015 24 Hours of Booty. Shannon’s friends and family raised over $19,000 in Shannon’s name for the 24 Hours of Booty. Over 1,300 riders and supporters gave the Warriors of Team Shay a standing ovation in recognition of Shay and to award Aidan that new Pinarello bike that she had said she would win the prior year.
Nita and I talked to many cancer survivors and family and feel that our story is one that should be heard. We can trace Shannon’s cancer back to that injured foot at cross country camp when she was 13 years old. We’re educated people; we took our daughter to educated doctors for 15 years and none of us considered the possibility of cancer in her foot. As I look back I’m puzzled; I knew of my mother’s history, I saw my father subsequently die from cancer, yet we never asked the question, “Could this be cancer.”
Our story screams the importance of education. If by hearing Shannon’s Story people ask ” “Could it be cancer” and early detection is the result, lives will be saved.
Aidan was invited to ride in the LiveStrong Ride for the Roses in Austin, TX in July. He was awarded “the Yellow Jersey”, one of 14 among 2,200 riders in The Ride for the Roses. We had the opportunity to meet cancer survivors, patients and other parents and spouses of people who lost loved-ones. I’ve been inspired to create a foundation in Shannon’s name, Warriors Team Shay, through which I can fund research to find a cure for cancer. Most research today is directed to new drugs to treat cancer thus supporting the $125 billion cancer industry.
2016 24 Hours of Booty
Aidan and I rode in the Indianapolis 24 Hours of Booty, which was a going home trip for Nita and I; we both graduated from North Central High School in Indy. We were joined by my younger brother, Jerry/Roonand his wife Joan so it was a enjoyable day. Aidan was awarded a plaque for being the largest child fund raiser and he rode the Pinarello bike that he had won the previous year. This trip provided time for Nita and I to get to know our grandson better and to keep Shannon’s memory alive.
Justin did remarry, and I was happy that he did, giving Aidan some strong motherly influence. Susan is a caring mother and wife, they all spent Thanksgiving with us at the beach (November 2016).
2017 24 Hours of Booty
Aidan and I will ride in the 24 Hours of Booty in Indianaoplis next June, 2017 to support the cure for cancer and to keep Shannon’s memory alive. If you would like to help Aidan and I make your donations to our Warriors Team Shay at :
Shannon lives in my heart, she was me and as I watched her breathe her last breath a part of me went with her, a part that I fear I will never recover.