2018 Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions: Aiping Shao
When Sherry Wang was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, her mom, Aiping Shao, knew better than most the emotional and physical ups and downs that awaited her daughter—and the crucial role she would play as Sherry’s primary caregiver.
“At first, I was in shock,” Aiping says of her daughter’s February 2017 diagnosis. “I went through this with my husband, and Sherry is too young for this.”
Her husband, Jianjun “Jim” Wang, was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away in 2008 at the age of 53. “When my father was sick, my mother never left his side,” says Sherry, 24. “My mom stayed 76 consecutive nights in the hospital with him.”
Aiping quickly got over her initial shock and was there for her daughter every day and every step of the way. She never left her side. “I was scared and in shock, but I needed to be there for Sherry,” Aiping says. “In my mind, I said, ‘No matter what, I will 100 percent support her and we will fight together. That’s the only thing I can do.’”
In recognition of her love and support, Aiping is one of four 2018 Step Up for Stefanie Champions. This annual award from the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research honors some of the many exceptional caregivers. The four champions will be honored during the Step Up for Stefanie’s Champions Walk/Run on April 21.
“My mom has been there for every needle prick and every hard cry,” Sherry says. “She’s held my hand before every surgery, slept by my side every night in the hospital.”
Aiping also helped Sherry utilize scalp hypothermia in order to keep her hair from falling out. This labor-intensive technique uses a “cold cap” that really is cold and is placed on the scalp before, during and after every chemotherapy treatment (17 for Sherry). According to the American Cancer Society: “The cold also decreases the activity of the hair follicles and makes them less attractive to chemo, which targets rapidly dividing cells. This could reduce the effect of chemo on the follicle cells and, as a result, prevent or reduce hair loss from the scalp.”
It was hard work, as the caps had to be changed every 20 minutes in order to be effective.
“It takes an incredible amount of strength and manpower to continuously cool the caps and exchange them in 60 pounds of dry ice,” Sherry says. “My mother accompanied me to all 17 rounds and sat with me every Thursday for nine hours. In a span of 141 days, my mother put 228 cold caps on my head.”
The cold caps worked—Sherry didn’t lose her hair.
Aiping was also there holding Sherry’s hand on August 27 when her James doctor, David Cohn, MD, walked into the room with the results of her first post-chemotherapy scan. “He looked at me and said: ‘Sherry, your scan is crystal clear. You had a complete response to chemo. You’re cancer free.’”
Sherry is now back in school at The Ohio State University pursuing a graduate degree in nursing. Her goal is to become a nurse practitioner and specialize in OBGYN oncology.
Cohn has become her mentor—her mom remains her hero.
“I am only able to be me, because of my mother,” Sherry says. “I am a strong woman, because I come from a strong woman. My beautiful, strong, effervescent mother is forever my biggest role model, my greatest strength. My champion.”