Author Tracey Shearer: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
14 min readNov 22, 2021


Let yourself be human — you have to be so strong during this fight, but no one is invincible. When my cancer came back for the fourth time last year, I sat for a day and just let myself feel crappy about it. I railed at the air about how this wasn’t fair. Why did I have to go through this again? When would enough be enough? Why did it have to be in my lung again? Why me? I cried, curled up in a ball with my cat, Cleo, and just let it not be “okay.” Being human and letting myself fall apart, allows me to pull myself back together again for the fight. If you don’t give yourself those times, you will crack under the pressure of fighting cancer and being strong for yourself and others.

Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracey Shearer.

Tracey Shearer is the bestselling author of Entwine and Raven. She’s also an Intuitive Storytelling Coach and uses her over sixteen years of writing experience to help others write and publish their dreams. Her two rescue kitties, Cleo and Feta, supervise her writing efforts in their Pacific NW home, a land teeming with writers, ghosts, and coffee shops.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?

I grew up in New York and was lucky to be in such a diverse melting pot of cultures, people, and ideas. My dad was a natural-born storyteller and could weave incredible yarns. I definitely inherited his gift for sweeping others away into new lands with my words. My mom had a love of books and helped my own passion for reading to flourish. With both of these influences, I knew I would become a writer one day.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote on life lessons is simple — “Anything is Possible.” My mom really instilled that belief in me from a very young age. Even when something seemed so far out of reach, she always encouraged me to try. It’s helped me with both my author and my cancer journeys. As an author, I took risks and tried things in the pursuit of my dreams. And as a cancer survivor, I decided not to accept the bleak chances of survival for my rare type of cancer. If it was possible I would live and thrive, then I would.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?

Yes. I like to share my story freely with others because it might help them with their own struggles. Or help them understand the challenges of those they love who are going through cancer.

What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?

The scariest part was that it came out of nowhere and I was completely unprepared for cancer to even be an outcome. Cancer isn’t prevalent in my family. I had been having pains in my abdomen when I sat down. Just having moved back to Seattle, I didn’t have an established doctor. I made an appointment for what I thought was a hernia and discovered I had a tumor in my abdomen that had grown so large, it was pushing my internal organs aside. That’s why I was in pain.

As for the worst thing that I thought could happen to me was that the cancer had spread throughout my entire body. We didn’t know until the tumor was removed that it was cancerous, so waiting for the CT scan after I recovered was nerve wracking. It was a potential death sentence.

How did you react in the short term?

Once I found out that there didn’t appear to be cancer anywhere else, I then had to face the next steps. Would I do chemo? Was radiation an option? I still remember meeting with the oncologist who pushed me to do chemo even though chemo didn’t work effectively on my type of cancer. Her reasoning was, “You’re young. Your body can take it.” I was blessed to have an incredible surgeon who stepped in and took care of me. He advised not to do chemo because it would just cause harm and that radiation was dangerous in the abdomen for later issues from the treatment.

I felt almost in a state of shock during this time. I had been given a 50% chance to live. My cancer is an extremely rare one. Adding to my challenges, I had been recently laid off from my job after eleven and a half years and my mom had died a few weeks after my surgery.

After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?

I think initially, I operated under the belief that this was a one time thing. I would do regular scans. It would be okay. I hadn’t had to go through something like this before so I think there was a bit of naiveté to my thought process. But I’ve never been one to constantly dwell on the negative. It doesn’t make things better. So, I chose to be hopeful about my chances to survive and to not see cancer ever again.

For coping physically, I made a promise to my body that I would never ignore any warning signs. I would listen to it always.

Mentally, emotionally and spiritually, surrounding myself with people who loved me and would be there for me, really helped. And again, I believed the cancer wouldn’t come back. This was it.

How wrong I was.

By a fluke, I managed to breathe in exceptionally deep during a CT scan and my lungs dropped down into view on the scan. And there was a tumor at the very bottom. The follow-up scan showed three in my lungs. And before I could really get my bearings and deal with the new shock that my cancer had come back, it resurfaced by my rectum a year later. I remember thinking that maybe this was it.

That the cancer would just keep coming — taking pieces of me with it each time until there was nothing left — until I died.

But I wasn’t going down without a fight. I told myself that this might be an ongoing battle, but I was going to do everything I could to survive. My entire family are survivors and so was I.

Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?

I had always been raised to not ask for help. To not let anyone see I was weak. But when my cancer came back in my lungs, I was very thankful to have my sister fly out from New York to take care of me for my surgeries and recovery. I had tumors in both lungs and they couldn’t operate on both at the same time for the risk factors involved. So, I had one surgery and then nine days later, the next surgery. I felt like I was one thousand years old, shuffling through my condo, hunched over, breathing in raspy breaths. I wouldn’t have made it through without my sister’s support. I remember crying in the kitchen because I was in such pain and didn’t want to go in for my second surgery. She just held me and let me crumble. We both knew that I would go through with the surgery — no question — but I just needed time for things to not be okay.

When I had my radiation treatments when my cancer came back a third time by my rectum, my Writer’s Group came to my rescue and also one of my co-workers. I was determined to get through the five weeks of radiation over the holidays, on my own. I could do it!

Thankfully, my writing buddies didn’t listen to my protests. They drove me to and from almost all my radiation treatments. As my symptoms started manifesting from the treatments and the fatigue set in, they were a Godsend. During this time, Seattle had one of the worst snowstorms in our history. My co-worker lived up near me and he would pick me up at the bottom of my hill every day for a week and get me as close as he could to downtown Seattle — they hadn’t plowed the City streets effectively and it was difficult to drive. I would walk the rest of the way to the hospital for my treatments. Yes, uphill! Cliche, but true. I wanted to get them done before the end of the year and I was going to make it happen. Even if I had to walk miles through the snow. They let me do the final two treatments on New Year’s Eve. I had made it!

In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?

I think my cancer was a message to stop putting aside the things that brought me joy and to finally pursue my passion for writing. It wasn’t until I got cancer, I lost my job, and my mom died all within a few months, that I finally had the wake-up call I needed. Now I’m a bestselling published author and happier than I’ve ever been. I heard my cancer’s message — loud and clear.

What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?

I learned that sometimes things have to get incredibly dark before you see the light you have within. I never realized just how strong I was until I had to face cancer not only once, but four times. That strength has fueled my writing career and also helped me to teach and inspire others to write their own books.

Having and surviving cancer has also taught me perspective. We tend to get wrapped up in minor irritations and issues that don’t really mean anything in the bigger scheme. It’s not usually life or death, yet we can treat it that way and waste so much precious time on things that don’t matter. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. And I compare everything to my first lung surgeries. Those were awful to recover from. Anything that’s not that bad is small potatoes to me. It’s a very freeing way to live.

I also cherish each moment and make the most of it. I don’t take anything for granted. Time is a gift and I’m going to enjoy everything to the fullest because we’re all on borrowed time.

How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?

I have used my experience through my fiction books which have touched people (as well as entertained them), but also in my coaching and mentoring as well. I don’t want anyone to give up on their dreams like I almost did. You shouldn’t have to almost die of cancer to finally do what you have wanted to do for years.

I’ve been told that just by me being me and not giving up, in looking at my experiences in a positive light, I’ve helped others through their own darkness. It’s such an incredible feeling. I’m so lucky to be able to give back to others.

What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?

I had people tell me they never realized how much pain I was in during my radiation treatments because I looked fine. When I had to go to the bathroom at work, I would suck in my screams so I didn’t scare everyone. I was burned raw inside. Everything hurt.

We often associate people going through cancer with hair loss from chemo, becoming extremely thin, or looking ill. But many of us are fighting cancer every day and though we might look fine on the outside, we are not fine.

We are in pain, we are struggling, we are holding it together because you can’t fall apart when you’re in the fight of your life. Don’t assume just because there isn’t a visible sign of trauma that we aren’t suffering, that we aren’t fighting with everything we have to continue to live.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Let yourself be human — you have to be so strong during this fight, but no one is invincible. When my cancer came back for the fourth time last year, I sat for a day and just let myself feel crappy about it. I railed at the air about how this wasn’t fair. Why did I have to go through this again? When would enough be enough? Why did it have to be in my lung again? Why me? I cried, curled up in a ball with my cat, Cleo, and just let it not be “okay.” Being human and letting myself fall apart, allows me to pull myself back together again for the fight. If you don’t give yourself those times, you will crack under the pressure of fighting cancer and being strong for yourself and others.
  2. Keep a positive attitude — I know, easier said than done, but the power of the mind has been proven to assist in healing and in health. When I met with my lung surgeon last year when they had discovered a tumor in my lungs, he told me how many people don’t survive my type of cancer. And how difficult it can be for them (the doctors and surgeons) to go through what they see day in and day out including the deaths of those they’ve tried to save. He told me to keep doing what I was doing because I gave them all hope. If I can survive, others can. I’m not blind to the risks or that cancer could kill me, but I choose to be grateful to be alive and to cherish every moment. Being negative about your cancer will not help you survive it, so why not try being positive? What do you have to lose?
  3. Lean on others — as I mentioned, I didn’t do this initially. I thought I could do everything on my own and get through it. I was so wrong. I had been denying my friends and my family of the opportunity to help me, to be there for me. Once I let them in and leaned on them, I knew I had a team in this fight. It gave me even more to fight for. I wanted to be here for them, for me, for the future experiences and joys we would have. When you’re going through something life-threatening, knowing you are loved, is huge in giving you the strength to keep going even when you might want to just give up.
  4. Don’t get caught up in statistics — in our digital society, it is way too easy to look up your type of cancer online along with all the death rates, the complications, the things that can go wrong with surgery, with treatments, and so on. When I met with my first oncologist, they handed me a printout of the only study (at the time) that had been done on my type of cancer, leiomyosarcoma. It was a 10-year study through Sloane-Kettering and they casually told me I had a 50% chance to live based on this study. Well, this study was only 100 patients and many had inoperable tumors. Mine was able to be operated on. And all the facts online at that point in time said the same thing about the danger of this cancer and the survival rate. I even read that they used to amputate limbs years ago when the tumors got too big. At that point, I realized I could either focus on my meager chances of survival — per the limited studies — or I could chuck the statistics and data to the side and just believe I would make it. Are statistics important and sometimes helpful? Yes. But don’t let them make your fight seem futile.
  5. Have something to live for — it’s easy to focus on what you’re going through including all the fear, the pain, the treatments, the unknown, everything. But I also found it very helpful to think about the future. What was I going to do when I recovered from my latest surgery? What plans did I have? What were the fun times I would enjoy with my friends and my family and my kitties? What did I want to do next with my life? What was something I hadn’t tried yet that I’d been meaning to? Making plans helped me with my belief that I would still be there to see them through. This is where the mindset piece comes in and I know it can be hard. But there’s no harm in being excited for the future. And for looking toward when you’ll feel better and able to do the things you enjoy. Holding onto that future can help pull you through when you’re feeling like you can’t take another step.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?

Such a great question. I love what you’re doing here with gathering stories of survival. I think it would be incredible to have a video series where cancer survivors can talk briefly about what they went through and then give one life lesson they discovered. I’ve found cancer survivors, and survivors of other life-threatening experiences, often change for the better. They get perspective, they understand the fragility of life in a way that allows them to hold it even more dearly to their hearts. We don’t want everyone to go through something awful to have that perspective. We can help change their viewpoint now, by sharing our stories and our lessons learned.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)

I have always dreamed of meeting Stephen King. He kept going even when he was rejected time and time again. He never gave up because he loved writing so much. He was one of my mother’s favorite authors and he really showed me the importance and power of characters in stories. When you create characters your readers instantly relate to, you’ve hooked them. And when your readers identify with your characters, they will absorb the themes and lessons you’ve included. Fiction is an incredible medium to change minds and lives. It sneaks past internal walls and barriers because it’s fiction. But the messages it delivers can be life changing.

As writers, we’re always learning and evolving. I know I would learn so much just meeting him and talking about the craft (and joy) of writing.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is You can also find me on Twitter & Instagram at @traceylshearer. My books are available on Amazon and other online retailers as well.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor