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Survivor Spotlight featuring Sharon Chapman

10.23.2013 / Blog Posts Breast Cancer Awareness Community

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Our next special WOW survivor spotlight features Sharon Chapman, 67, a financial advisor and tax accountant from Arlington, Virginia. Chapman, a mother of two and grandmother of five, had no family history of the disease and was diagnosed with Stage Three breast cancer in June 2005 via mammogram. After a lumpectomy and radiation treatment, the lifelong Redskins fan has been cancer-free for over seven years.

How long have you been a Redskins fan?
Sharon Chapman: I have been a fan for as long as I remember. My dad was a fan and he started taking me to games in the 50's. He moved his tickets to me before he passed in 2003.

What is your favorite Redskins memory?
Sharon Chapman: As a young girl, I always watched the games at home with my dad and he would explain football to me. Of course, I would want to go to the games. The first game that he actually took me to was a Christmas game. And they came out with Santa Claus and all that stuff going on. And I guess I was about twelve. So now when my husband is complaining when it is cold and we are going in December, “Do you really want to go to this game? Why don’t you let the kids go?” No, every Christmas game I have to go because that is just something with my dad.

What is your game day ritual or superstition?
Sharon Chapman: I’ve got Redskin jewelry so I say, “Okay, I will wear this.” And then if they lose, I might put a different piece on and I will keep wearing that.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before your diagnosis?
Sharon Chapman: I wish I would have known the length of time it going to take to get from point A to point B. I kept feeling like I was not important enough. But now I know, talking to other people that have gone through this, it is just the systems that we have here. It just takes long to get scheduled for this or follow-ups for this. And I think just kind of understanding from point A to point B, if I knew that ahead of time, I would not have had some of my most terrifying moments because I just did not really understand why it took so long, why it took so long to find out what kind of cancer it was and what the treatment was going to be.

What do you wish you had done differently throughout the process?
Sharon Chapman: Certainly you have your husband’s support and what have you but there are certain things you do not really want to share with them as you are going through this because it is terrifying to yourself. And I think being able to talk to other women that have gone through it, or who were going through it -- you are not fighting the battle alone. And I really did not do that. I did it all by myself. I did not share it, I went through it all by myself. And I really wish I would have known. There was a lot more that could have made those times easier and I think it would have been easier. Because I certainly have seen people that do share seem to be so appreciative, and I know I would have been appreciative if I would have had somebody on my side that knew really what I was going through.

What have you learned about yourself from your experience?
Sharon Chapman: That I am stronger than I thought I was. When I got the call, I just broke down and thought the world was over. I thought the world was over and I was not going to make it. I was going to quit work, I was going to do this, I was going to do that. And I just kept saying, “Okay, pull yourself together, get through this.” I had lost my father in 2003 and I think I had lost him and I kept thinking that he would not want me to quit. He would not want me to give up, he would want me to fight. And I learned I could do it and I learned I could share. Since I am in the business of helping people with finances and they dump their stuff on me, I have always been known as someone in my circle as someone that can fix anything. And I did not think I had the strength for myself and I found that I could do that and it was not over for me.

How have you shared your experience to help other women?
Sharon Chapman: The real turning point to be able to share this came when I went to see a client in December and I walked in and she broke down and she started crying. She worked for a doctor and she was his main assistant. And she told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and she was devastated. And I remember just wrapping my arms around her and saying, “It is going to be all right. I mean, I had it.” She said, “What do you mean you had it?” I said, “I would come here right after my radiation treatments. I did this. You know, I just finished it a couple of months ago.” And so since that time, I have no problem telling people it is a terrible thing but you can beat it. Go out there and get the detection.

How did the Redskins and the Redskins fan community impact your journey?
Sharon Chapman: I am an avid football fan. And when I came back from [a vacation after the treatment ended], the Redskins won every game after that. I found strength in my family, which was giving me the support, and I found strength in my football team, which I absolutely adore.

Of course, the WOW parties have been big since they have started, that has been a big thing for me. I want to get in there as soon as I can. I just really like seeing the other ladies that adore them, and I have met some wonderful people at the events that are outside the games, as well. I went to the wine tasting and last year we went out to take football drills, that was cute. I did not do so well at that! I took my sister to that and trying to run through some of the football drills. But it is just fun being with the ladies so that is kind of a new ritual and I have met a few of the young girls that run the club that are just fun to be around.

If there’s one thing you would share with women reading this story, what would it be?
Sharon Chapman: Make sure you take care of yourself. I know a mammogram is not fun. With the kind of cancer it was, I just feel very blessed that I did that. Because if I had waited a couple years until it got to be a mass, it might not be as good an outcome as it was. I think we, as women, just have to do that. We have to do the things that protect us and I think we need to communicate. I think we need to tell people and share experiences so that someone else might catch it early if it does happen to them.


Sharon Chapman with other WOW Members on the field before the Redskins-Bears game on Oct, 20, 2013.

During the month of October --  in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” initiative -- we are delighted to introduce a blog series spotlighting breast cancer survivors on WOWRedskins.com. This Breast Cancer Survivor Spotlight Series will share the inspiring stories of these extraordinary women and special WOW members with the Redskins community while continuing to raise breast cancer awareness and educate women about the importance of annual screenings.

Amanda Rykoff is a New York City-based sports writer. She’s a proud Penn alum, recovering attorney, devoted aunt, and voracious consumer of media. She has contributed to espnW.com, The Outside Corner, ONE World Sports, Sports On Earth, The Football Girl and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@amandarykoff).

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