Friel pushes back at Cancer

By Jennifer Cannon
October 10, 2012

Shawn Friel when he lost his hair to cancer.
(Submitted by Shawn Friel)

“One night at dinner after I lost my hair, my little sister asked, ‘Is Shawn gonna die?’”

Being diagnosed with cancer is the last thing any guy going into his senior year of high school expects to hear, but for Shawn Friel, sophomore pre-physical therapy major, there was no choice but to face the harsh reality. Friel found out he had bone cancer in his left shoulder in July 2010.

“As soon as you hear those words, you just go blank,” Friel said.

With stage four cancer, Friel began a treatment process of intense chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.

“I would be in the hospital from Wednesday till Saturday,” Friel said about the weeks he had treatment. A central line was inserted in his chest to receive the treatments. He also had surgery to replace his cancerous shoulder with a prosthetic joint, which limits his arm mobility.

“It’s not the actual chemo that gets you, it’s afterwards that makes you so sick, Friel said.” Friel lost 45 pounds in one month from the effects of the chemotherapy.

“They put me on a feeding tube, which was really terrible.” But throughout the whole process, Friel never lost hope.

“The way I looked at it, I didn’t see a reason to let this beat me. They said I was going to be okay.” The comforting part was that the survival rate of his type of cancer was 80 percent, but even so there were times of doubt.

“The scariest part was probably when I lost all of my hair in the shower,” Friel said. “I knew it was going to happen, but it was the biggest shock.”

He sometimes struggled with questions of “why me?” but everyone around him said he kept an extremely positive attitude the whole time. “I had to stay strong for my little sister,” Friel said.

Since February 2011, Friel has been in remission and cancer-free.

“When I found out, I was still numb, I didn’t feel any different,” Friel said. He has been cancer free for 19 months – well past the first year, when relapse is most likely.

“There’s always a chance I can still relapse, but it’s less likely as time goes on,” Friel said.

Friel enjoys telling his story to the friends he’s made in college. “It gets easier to tell each time,” Friel said. He likes to educate people who are curious, especially anyone who has family with cancer.

“A lot of people don’t know much about chemotherapy, so it helps to hear the facts from someone who does,” Friel said.

Friel’s advice to anyone who knows someone with cancer is to not treat them any differently. “I hated when people made me feel like I was sick,” Friel said.

Now Friel is a pre-physical therapy major, with hopes of being able to help people with prosthetics like the one he has.

“Cancer doesn’t have to beat you. Staying strong is all you can do,” Friel said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jennifer Cannon

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap