Many people are impacted by cancer in some way, whether through a personal diagnosis or knowing a loved with some form of the disease. The Majerus Family understands this impact more than most, as both mother and son battled cancer at the same time. Fortunately, care from an unexpected place made better healing possible.
Elec Majerus, 12, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2019. While on his road to recovery, mom Shawna Majerus, 46, was diagnosed with three forms of aggressive breast cancer, HER2+, triple-negative breast cancer and estrogen-positive breast cancer. The pair’s overlapping health battles were a lot for the family of four to wrap their heads around.
“My hard year was Elec’s upswing,” says Shawna.
Tack on a worldwide pandemic, navigating infection precautions, two kids transitioning to virtual school and being reduced to one income would darken the thoughts of even the sunniest individual, explains Shawna, who is a life coach and motivational speaker.
“There were some tough moments. It felt like my heart was in parts,” she says.
Shawna credits her husband, Michael, for carrying the heavy load. “It was all on his shoulders.”
Elec’s classmates, the couple’s friends and neighbors, and the Majerus’ church rallied around the family. From meal trains to other forms of financial and emotional support, the Majerus’ felt the love from their Petaluma community.
Mother and son also received a pick-me-up from Sutter Health’s Santa Rosa Institute for Health & Healing Cancer Patient Grant Program. The Sutter scholarship provides short-term financial assistance for individuals in treatment for cancer. Its services help alleviate the cancer’s side effects by providing individuals with psycho-social-spiritual support ranging from acupuncture, massage and bodywork to nutrition consultations, Chinese medicine (herbs) and integrative psychotherapy sessions.
Shawna describes receiving the individual grants as a huge blessing, as they were both able to receive six sessions of their choosing.
“[The services] had an awesome impact on my healing, and Elec especially loved his massage.”
According to Shawna, while undergoing treatment in a Western medicine sense, which included chemotherapy and surgery, she says that incorporating Eastern medicine modalities into her recovery process felt particularly nourishing for her body and mind.
“I’m grateful for this program. It felt like Sutter was this bright light in a dark time. You could tell the staff really cared and they were invested in our healing. Elec has even continued his EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy.”
Shawna and Elec are both cancer-free and passionate about sharing their story.
Strutting Their Stuff for Cancer
Sutter’s Santa Rosa IHH Cancer Patient Grant and Sutter Cancer Support Services are made possible through Catwalk For A Cure, an annual fundraiser and fashion show put on by Sutter Health. Additional significant donors include Barb’s Race (an all-women’s triathlon), North Bay Cancer Alliance, Russian River Brewing Company, The Don Yoder Foundation and others. Individuals who walk the runway are cancer survivors and support champions, making the event uniquely empowering and joyous.
Shawna and Elec were impromptu speakers at last year’s event in 2022, moving attendees to tears as they spoke about their respective journeys. The duo returns this year in a formal capacity to highlight the positive and healing impact of receiving Sutter’s IHH services.
According to Lisa Amador, Sutter’s senior director of philanthropy in the North Bay region, a donation of $1,000 is enough to support one person’s six complementary services at IHH. The programs assist cancer patients, and their families, with personalized support from diagnosis through treatment and life beyond cancer—all provided at no cost because of the power of generous donations.”
Since Catwalk’s launch in 2003, the event has raised $6.5 million. This year’s luncheon will take place in Santa Rosa on October 6.
Shawna, who is no stranger to cancer, says she’s called the “comeback kid” as she beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999, thyroid cancer in 2014 and skin cancer in 2016.
“In our house we have a joke that says if you’re a phoenix that doesn’t rise from the ashes, then you’re just a dirty bird. These Sutter services come alongside people going through a really hard time. They have the power to revive, help people with cancer recover, and that’s a cause worth supporting.”
Sutter Health’s Institute for Health & Healing was founded in 1994. It is the first integrative medicine clinic certified by the State of California and remains a nationally recognized pioneer in integrative health with clinics in Roseville, Sacramento, San Carlos, San Francisco and Santa Rosa. Sutter also provides free Cancer Support Services that include support groups, peer volunteers for all cancer survivors and robust patient education.