I would like to introduce you to the inspirational, dynamic and incredibly accomplished Sharon Delaney McCloud. Who is she? Sharon is a breast cancer survivor. Sharon also happens to be an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, Olympic Torch Bearer, proud Florida State University alumna, and an incredibly successful local leader and nationally active businesswoman.
She is also a mom, right here in the heart of Raleigh!
Have you ever seen one of the hilarious Holderness family videos? She founded Greenroom Communications with that same couple, working with household brands like Target and Chase Bank. She is now VP and Partner at Walk West, a digital marketing agency, while also being at the helm of Sharon Delaney TV. If it seems like I’m gushing and possibly have a “girl crush” on Sharon, well I won’t deny it.
She is the real deal. And she is incredible. Read on and decide for yourself.
Here is her take: the raw, real inside view on going through breast cancer, the surgery and reconstruction, chemo and hair loss, and the infinite list of things that no one tells you about.
Now, Sharon is no ordinary person. No breast cancer survivor ever is. Here is her story.
Interview with Breast Cancer Survivor and Raleigh Mom
RMB: Sharon, you have such a beautiful, successful career with a vibrant, full family life. Before we get started, how do you do it? Mom to mom?
Sharon: This is a constant juggling act for me, like most working parents. If I am honest with myself, I fail at something daily. Look at your life as a pie chart and think about how “mom” is one slice of the pie. Other slices are other roles and responsibilities in our lives: work, being a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, etc. On any given day if I’m doing amazing in the “mom” section of the pie chart, chances are the “work” side is down, and vice versa. Days I’m excelling in the “work” department, well I’m probably failing in the “mom” section. We can do it all, but not at the same time. My advice would be to get over the guilt, and savor things as they happen, in that moment.
Stop the hamster wheel craziness and be deliberate about savoring those special moments. You will look back and wonder, “Why did I rush through that experience?”
We can do it all, but not at the same time. My advice would be to get over the guilt, and savor things as they happen, in that moment.
Breast Cancer Journey
RMB: What was your breast cancer journey like?
Sharon: Now I tell you it is something I am still battling. I was diagnosed in April of 2016. A few months ago this past June, I finally finished treatment. After undergoing a double mastectomy I chose to have reconstruction. I wanted to continue to feel feminine. Honestly, it never crossed my mind not to have reconstruction. I also was part of a 13-month clinical trial that went beyond conventional treatment because of the type of tumor I had. I was going to the hospital every 3 weeks for bloodwork and finally stopped the chemo in March of this year and finally my counts are now back to normal. Going into the hospital for chemo and bloodwork every 3 weeks certainly has a way of making you feel like a cancer patient.
UNC Rex Healthcare, right here in Raleigh, took great care of me. If you get sick you do not need to leave. When I compare my experience here to that of my family member, diagnosed just 6 months after me in another state, my heart hurts for her. She suffered from a complete lack of institutional support. I actually sent her copies of my resources from being a patient at Rex, including websites they recommend and this lovely binder and packet of information, over to her so she wasn’t so lost. No one should have to suffer that way. At UNC Rex, I had a nurse navigator assigned to me. Whenever I had a question or an appointment, she was just a phone call away. This nurse was there to answer questions and help me with simple and more complex questions. No one should be alone in this process.
Through this experience, I have learned I am much stronger than I thought I was, and I have learned how to accept help. We often think we have to do everything ourselves. There is no way I could have made it through that way. It’s funny when I went in for chemo at Rex, I brought a different friend with me each time. The nurses used to joke about how it was a new person to them each time I came in. My immense, supportive friend network was there for me, and I strongly recommend you tap into your network if you are faced with this diagnosis, this reality.
Through this experience, I have learned I am much stronger than I thought I was, and I have learned how to accept help.
Tips from a Breast Cancer Survivor
RMB: Sharon, what is something you want our readers to know? What advice would you give them after all these hard lessons you’ve learned?
Sharon: Don’t skip your breast cancer screenings! In my own situation, the 3D mammogram found the cancer. I really believe that 3D mammograms will soon replace conventional mammograms in diagnosing breast cancer – you should discuss this with your doctor to be sure.
There is a missing conversation during the diagnosis and treatment. That is, hormone therapy and chemo affect your sex life. I say you have a discussion about this with your doctors and come up with a plan. So much is happening at once and add to that the awful shifts from the chemotherapy that wreaks havoc on your hormones, and with that, your sexuality. Women should seek out help and resources from their doctors instead of feeling down about this because it can creep up on you.
Now there is something else I must tell you to share. It is another quality of life thing. After your hair gets to a certain length, you can get hair extensions! Not anything that looks obvious or fake, but ones that can blend in, so you don’t have to live in that awkward mullet land. I would recommend you talk to your hairdresser – that’s who told me!
Don’t skip your breast cancer screenings!
Finding Grace and Beauty
RMB: Thank you for sharing that. I think that those are very wise recommendations and not readily shared by most. My last question for you: what would you say was your defining moment, when you recognized you are beautiful. Despite, or because of, this experience?
Sharon: Honestly it depends on the day of the week! I remember one week after I had my double mastectomy, I got back the path results. You know what the first thought was? I should divorce my husband, so he can find a new wife and go on with his life and not have to deal with me and all of…this. This was the worst place I have been since the death of my daughter. There was not one seminal moment. This was a progression of feeling better physically and emotionally. It’s an ongoing goal. The idea of knowing how fortunate I am. I have been able to come out of it. I have turned these battle scars into badges of honor.
Sometimes I feel like a human “whack-a-mole,” you remember that game? That’s what we women must be. No matter what life throws at us, we must keep popping our heads up. My boys are my strength. They are my reason for being.
I have turned these battle scars into badges of honor.
Dr. Tannan: Sharon, you just gave me chills. I am still wrapping my head around how you feel blessed and grateful in light of what you have endured. You have a resilience that is inspiring, enlightening and radiant. I am so grateful for your time, for your honesty and for sharing the bare truths of what life as a breast cancer survivor is like.
To all the Mamas reading this, please share your tips with our community in the comment section below!