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Face Off - Meet Shane Totten

02/08/2016 9:10 PM -

"Receiving scholarship money has been probably the number one reason I was able to return to school."
-Shane Totten

What type of cancer were you diagnosed with and when?

Stage 3A Hodgkin Lymphoma, October 2012


How did the diagnosis of cancer rock your world?

To this day, it feels like treatment and my diagnosis was last week and like it was forever ago. Cancer rocked my world in what I would imagine it to do to most people… it puts things into perspective in life along with making things extremely confusing. I was just getting into my first year at a new college and started playing hockey. Cancer turned my world upside down and I wasn’t sure what direction my “normal” life was going to go.


Describe the process of getting back into life after treatment.

Life after treatment was definitely a struggle, but cancer was something I wouldn’t allow to get in my way. Once I finished six months of treatment, I just back into normal life as quickly and urgently as I could. I went straight back to work and began training immediately to get my hockey career back on track. It has taken me the past two years since the end of my treatment to feel remotely back to myself. However, I do not ever think I will be who I was. But to me, that is for the better. I am a new person with a new lease on life.


How has over coming cancer made you stronger?

Cancer, like I said, has given me a new perspective. It has made me stronger in the sense that If I ever feel defeated or like giving up, I can always look back and say to myself “I could have given up when I was diagnosed, but I wouldn’t then and why should I now?!”


Many people don’t understand the financial, physical, and emotional toll when treatment is over.  Describe your process of recovery after treatment spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

The process of recovery after treatment will be a task that I will cross for the rest of my life. Spirtitually, I struggled with the idea that something like cancer could keep me down but in the end, it showed me that there is a higher purpose and god only gives his strongest warriors the hardest tasks. Without faith in something higher, I have no purpose. Without that belief, I would not be where I am at today.

I have been on an emotional rollercoaster since the day I was diagnosed. I will always be on that rollercoaster, but, I will not let that rollercoaster control my life. The best way to get over that hump is to take it one day at a time and be thankful for the time I have with my friends and family. Nothing can bring me down, not even cancer.

Financially, I cannot say enough for the support I have received from friends and family and especially my school and My Hometown Heroes. Medical bills are never an easy thing to deal with but I have reached a point where finances don’t come first. My health comes first and finances will figure themselves out one bill at a time.


What does it mean to have a support community during cancer treatment? 

Without a support community, cancer would be a struggle you could not get through. Having the support of your family, friends, businesses, or anyone that is willing to lend a helping hand is essential. Whether it is someone sending you a quick pick me up text, or sitting by your treatment chair keeping your mind off of what is happening, that support you get is worth more than my weight in gold.  


What does it mean to receive scholarship money to help you achieve your academic goals?

Receiving scholarship money has been probably the number one reason I was able to return to school. The scholarships I have received have allowed me to pursue a degree from an outstanding college in Massachusetts and have helped me reach my goals of continuing my education and hockey career at the collegiate level.


How has the MHH scholarship helped you?

Receiving the MHH scholarship has helped me not only in the finance part but it has also opened many doors to be able to help out with other cancer survivors. Since receiving the scholarship, I have wanted to give back to what MHH has given me and has inspired me to raise awareness of the organization as well as cancer. It has helped me meet many new people and form friendships that I otherwise don’t think I would have had.


Where do you see yourself 5 years after graduation?

In five years, I see myself back in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan (or somewhere nearby). I would like to open my own marketing firm that caters to craft and microbreweries in the Michigan and local areas.


Top 3 personal achievements since remission?

1.     Returning to my hockey team and playing in my first game and scoring my first collegiate goal.

2.     Reaching my two year remission stage. They say that after two years my chances of relapsing are almost non-existent.

3.     Returning to college and feeling a little bit more normal each day that passes.


Top 3 life goals (places you’d like to visit, things you want to do, etc).

1.      Visit and spend some time in Ireland. I have always been fascinated with the Irish culture and the history there.

2.      Open my own marketing firm in the Michigan area.

3.      Play every game in my senior season of college hockey.


Biggest Take-away(s) from your cancer experience.

Anything you put your mind to you can achieve. It may be cliché but it is the truth. If you give up on something before the end, you will never know how truly strong you are and can be.


How do you want to change the world? 

I am not so worried about changing the world as I am of leaving the world a better place. Any little thing I can do to make the world a bit better is an amazing feat in itself.


Words to live by.

Tough times don’t last, tough people do.


Any other comments about survivorship and resilience?

 “Time is shortening. But every day that I challenge this cancer and survive is a victory for me.” – Ingrid Bergman



Don't forget to check out this article that features Shane from 2014.