In true Nashville form, the Women Survivors Alliance was created around a table in a downtown venue where the sounds of banjo and a steel guitar drowned out the hustle and bustle of Lower Broadway. With an idea on a napkin in the left hand and red lipstick in the right, the words “Survivors Convention” were written on a bathroom mirror. That’s where it began. Five years ago.
From 2008-2010, practicing healthcare administrator Karen Shayne conducted research as to what was needed specifically for women survivors. What was missing? With a healthcare background AND the opportunity to sit on both sides of the desk as an administrator and a survivor, Karen began to ask those direct questions. Cancer research saved lives, but then what? What happens when you are unplugged from the last chemo treatment, given the cupcake and sent home? What happens in those quiet moments of a still house when you are faced with the questions, “Who am I? What does that mean?” “Will I ever feel ‘normal’ again?”
Karen faced those very same questions herself as a survivor. Karen wanted to reach out to other women to ask the question as to why they were not satisfied with their after-treatment follow-up. Although there were opportunities for discovering answers through many convention-type settings and the growing survivorship clinics within the hospital setting, she wondered why were there still so many questions.
Karen began to realize women need a different type of setting—an outlet of some kind—where networking and emotionally connecting with other women facing the same issues could be the focus; a place where any type of question could be asked and where even a simple hug from a fellow woman survivor could answer the most burning question of all: “Am I normal?” Karen also realized there was no one organization that was all about all women, all cancers, all stages and all ages.