Untying the Pink Ribbon: How Local Coach Won the Biggest Game of Her Life


Patrick Johnson

Coach Shanna Johnson proudly poses in pink with daughter Ashanti Johnson

Allison Woods and Anna Valls

What do you think of when you hear the word “October”? Dressing up in scary costumes? Candy apples and trick-or-treating? Those things are nice and all, but October is also the month of Breast Cancer Awareness and these pink warriors deserve a spotlight.  

Here in Harleton, many women have faced the fierce battle of breast cancer and high school coach Shanna Johnson, or Coach C, just happens to have a remarkable story.

When Coach C. found out she had breast cancer, the doctor diagnosed her with stage 1 and she went through 33 treatments of radiation.

“When I had overcome it, I felt an extreme sense of relief. My family support was beyond great and never ended, even today. None of my relationships were really affected much. Elijah is the type of kid to be a freelancer, and Ashanti is more of the worrisome kind. My husband went through a little ordeal but, it wasn’t that bad. He was strong throughout the entire thing.”

Johnson wanted her kids to be informed about her diagnosis.

“I remember one day I had to go to the doctor and I pulled Ashanti out of school and she asked me, “What’s going on, where are we going, Momma?” I responded with, “Well, we’re going to the doctor. That way you can ask him any question that you want to.” She asked me, “Seriously, whatever I want?” 

Ashanti walked in and began asking the doctor questions about medications and treatment.

“My mom and I are basically the same person,” Ashanti Johnson, daughter of Coach C, shared. “We can laugh together one minute and be serious the next. She’s my rock and I don’t know what I would do without that woman.”

The road was not always easy for the Johnson family.

“The hardest part of this journey was seeing everything my mom had to deal with and believing that God was who He says He is,” Ashanti admitted. “I’m not gonna lie, I had doubts. You hear all these stories about women having breast cancer and you never think it’ll happen to someone close to you.””

— Ashanti Johnson

Even though her faith was tested, she powered through the hardships.

“It was very hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that my mom had cancer, and it was hard to understand why God chose my mom to give it to. I struggled with understanding those things for a while, but I think this battle has definitely changed not only my mom but also me as a person and shaped my relationship with the Lord.”

 Coach C. knows her family would not have made it through this battle without knowing God and how merciful He can be. 

“The hardest moment for me was that first initial call. You know, when you hear you have cancer it’s almost like a death threat. Also, I couldn’t ask the doctor any questions because I was driving a van full of kids.”

While statistics show that most cancer cases are not hereditary in the first place, about one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, even though the rate has gone down significantly since the 1970’s.  

“I definitely have a different outlook on cancer now, not just because I had it, but because my dad died of cancer and I’ve had family be affected by it as well.” stated Johnson.

Eight out of ten women have no family history of having breast cancer, so there’s no way to predict or prevent it unless it’s caught early. Fortunately enough, Coach C took precautions and defeated her disease.

At Fields of Faith on Wednesday, October 10th, Coach C shared her testimony with the community, saying, “The last thing I have to say is, no matter what hits you in life or how hard it gets, remember that God loves you. Without his love and guidance, I would not have made it through everything. God does miraculous things.”