Breaking the Silence: Sharnee McCoy

By Charmayne Allison

As part of Mental Health Week, nine locals from Echuca-Moama and surrounds will share their stories.

After battling – and defeating – aggressive stage three breast cancer, Sharnee McCoy found herself in a mental health hole as she adjusted to life after a life-threatening illness.

This is her story.

Produced by Cath Grey and Charmayne Allison

LIKE far too many women, Moama’s Sharnee McCoy has had to sit in a doctor’s office and hear the horrific words: “you have breast cancer”.

Unsure what the future would hold, unsure if she’d even have a future, she then had to return home and tell her family before being plunged into the bewildering world of chemo and doctor’s appointments as her body battled aggressive stage three cancer.

When she was finally given the all-clear, Sharnee thought her battle was over.

But it had only begun.

“Four or five months later I fell in a hole – because you don’t come out the same person that you went in,” she said.

“You’re in a cocoon while you’re going through it. You’re in a safe place of appointments and people supporting you and telling you where you need to be and what’s supposed to be happening. Your days and your weeks are all planned for you.

“But when it’s over you’re just left. Not in a mean way. It’s more that you’ve got to try to find yourself – but the new person you are.”

Looking back, Sharnee believes she put a barrier around her feelings while she was going through treatment.

“I think I was trying to take care of everybody else,” she said.

“But eventually I got to a place where I couldn’t move forward by myself anymore and I went to the hospital and saw a counsellor.”

In addition to seeking mental health support, Sharnee began making changes in her life.

Like moving out of the house that, while filled with happy memories, had a dark cloud over it from that treatment period. She also began journaling, yoga and meditation.

“Having five children and being a mum that’s heavily involved with my kids, it was very hard for me to suddenly put myself first and focus on that,” she admitted.

“I did a lot of internal stuff for myself and had unbelievable changes happen because of that.”

Reflecting on her journey, Sharnee said it was crucial people didn’t feel guilt about struggling with mental health after a life-altering illness.

“It doesn’t matter what treatment we’ve had, whoever has been through a cancer or another significant life change – we’ve all had to sit at a doctors and be told that’s what we have before even knowing what’s going to happen,” she said. “And we’ve all had to go home and tell our loved ones. No-one should ever feel any guilt about that.”

If you or someone you know needs help now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. If it becomes a crisis go immediately to the nearest hospital or phone 000.