"When I was first diagnosed, I was scared, but it went away quickly. I knew that I had no choice but to fight."
Cheyann Shaw spent years perfecting her body for bikini competitions, but she’s now in the difficult position of watching the muscles she worked so hard to build waste away as she undergoes treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer.
The Seattle-based Shaw, 23, was diagnosed in August, and immediately committed herself to getting better.
“When I was first diagnosed, I was scared, but it went away quickly. I knew that I had no choice but to fight. I wasn’t going to let cancer win,” she tells PEOPLE. “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.”
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
Shaw started chemotherapy right away, and underwent major surgery in October in the hopes of removing the cancer. During the five and a half hour surgery, doctors took out her spleen, appendix, part of her colon and performed a full hysterectomy.
Shaw had already dropped 15 lbs. from her 130 lb. frame, and after 13 days in the hospital following her major surgery, she was down to just 102 lbs.
“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,” Shaw 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.”
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
But Shaw pushed herself to leave those negative thoughts behind.
“I realized that I can gain and build that strength back, and even though I lost it all, I still love myself,” she says. “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.”
Now one month after her surgery, Shaw is still undergoing chemotherapy, but her energy is coming back, and she was just 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.”
Soooo.....I HAVE GOOD NEWS!!! My lymph nodes have not grown nor shrunk, they have stayed the same size! So that's good news! - - I will start on 2 different forms of Chemo in the next couple weeks😬😬 I'm excited to get the process going and getting one step closer to being cancer free👌🏻 - - God is truly working. I can see it and feel it. I know God has chosen me for many reasons but the main reason I feel is to show that God is not dead and he is always with us. My faith has already given me so much strength and joy in this crazy journey, but at the end of the day I know I will be fine because God is working and he will heal me💙🙏🏻 - - #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 #godisnotdead
“My battle with cancer has taught me a lot,” she says. “I love who I am, and I love being able to help others.”
This article originally appeared on People.com.