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Stilettos & Strength: Shantel Ervin’s Unyielding Spirit Amidst Stage 4 Breast Cancer

Remembering Shantel’s fighting spirit | October 3, 1972 – November 10, 2023

Shantel Ervin was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, and graduated from Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1995. She is a working, single parent of a 23-year-old college graduate and describes her daughter as “[her] rock”. In 2015, Ervin began noticing pain in her right hip, however, the doctors could not find the source of pain.

A year later, Ervin noticed a lump in her right breast. As time passed, the lump became harder, prompting her to see her primary physician, Dr. Chimata about the issue. He told her he would send her to get a mammogram, although he felt that if it was cancer, it would have killed her a long time ago. After completing her first mammogram, she was told not to get dressed and they would get back with her. After all the other patients had left, she was finally called back in for a biopsy, before being allowed to leave. While at her job the next week, Ervin received a call from the hospital that blatantly informed her that three of the four lumps in her breast were cancerous. Taken back by the phone call, Ervin could not believe what she had just been told. When Dr. Chimata heard the manner in which Ms. Ervin received her cancer diagnosis, he was livid, and angry, she reported. Immediately, he began setting up her appointments and contacting highly skilled oncologists and surgeons for what they thought was stage 2 cancer. Later that same week, Ervin had her scanning appointment.

The results showed that the cancer had spread to Ervin’s bones, for which there is no cure, just treatment of symptoms, and they further reported that she was in stage 4. Because of this stage 4 diagnosis, she was sent to an orthopedic surgeon for additional observation. Her surgeon showed her that she had a hole in her right hip the size of a golf ball. The hole was so fragile that if she turned the wrong way or sat down too hard, her hip could break. Because the bone could not be taken out, radiation had to be started immediately, in an attempt to stop the growth of cancer.

“I put my heels on for church. It was the best walk and they’re looking at me and saying, You have a cane in heels? ”I was like, I walk better in my heels than I do in my flats.”

Shantel Ervin

Some of the side effects Ervin experienced from chemo and radiation included a change in skin color, hair loss, fingernails falling out, as well as her toenails. Not to mention, she had to get her hip replaced in late 2016 which devastated Ervin because she loved to wear stilettos. But, like all fighters, this didn’t stop her. “I was a big heel wearer, even when I was walking badly and hurting, I was still wearing my stilettos”, she exclaimed.

Through all of the pain she suffered, Ervin continued to persevere. “I’m going to see my grandbabies so I have to keep fighting”, she said. Her support system included her mother, daughter, her best friend Kim, her two friends from church, her pastor, and her doctors. During this time, Ervin’s circle became very small because many people did not know how to approach the situation with her; all she had was family and close friends who still remain today. Though a cure has not been found for Ervin’s cancer, she has remained in remission since 2016. In reflecting back on her journey, she remains grateful for the blessings she experienced during the storm, such as being able to attend each of her daughter’s basketball games. Despite the challenges Ervin has faced, she continues to wear her stilettos to church on Sunday mornings.

Written By Ellex Emmons

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