Shanna Adamic is the Senior Operations Manager at the First Hand Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Cerner Corporation. First Hand provides funds for children to receive health treatments such as necessary surgeries or travel. They also implement health-focused preventative programs for schools in low-income communities. When Shanna was suddenly derailed by a devastating diagnosis, her support network became critical to her successful recovery. Because of what she faced, Shanna learned how healthcare really is personal and was further inspired to continue her work at First Hand building support systems for those in need.

Her story in her own words:

“For years, I had felt exhausted and sometimes dizzy, but I just thought I was a tired mom. I’d also had some spells of vertigo and was losing a little bit of my hearing in my right ear. Over the years, I was diagnosed with chronic sinus infections, benign vertigo, bad allergies, and Meniere’s disease. Many times, I was just prescribed antibiotics.

It wasn’t until my husband saw an interview with Maria Menounos on the Today Show, where she was talking about her symptoms that had led doctors to find a golf ball-sized brain tumor. My husband anxiously said to me: “Babe, these symptoms sound like yours.”

I took action and after multiple visits to different specialists and more testing, I received the call that I, in fact, had a brain tumor. My official diagnosis was an acoustic neuroma; a tumor that had been growing on my hearing nerve for maybe 15 years. On that phone call, so much flashed before me: my kids, my husband, my family, friends, career  . . . my life. I fell to my knees and prayed for strength as I heard the doctor say, “This is a big tumor. It is life-threatening. And it needs to come out as soon as possible.”

a photo of her mri with a tumor clearly visible
Shanna’s MRI with the large tumor visible

On a whim, I reached out to Maria Menounos to thank her for sharing her story and to let her know that hearing it had saved my life. To my surprise, Maria responded right away and said that she had tears in her eyes reading my email. She offered encouragement and advice for our next steps. I posted my story on Instagram where I was flooded with responses from people I hadn’t heard from in years, including a great friend from college, Dr. Amy Pittman, who ultimately led me to reach out to two renowned surgeons in Chicago.

a photo of shanna with friend from college
Shanna and her college friend, Amy Pittman, who referred her to the Chicago specialists

I took her advice and after a few additional consultations, I was scheduled for brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible with these two doctors. As I prepared for surgery, my husband had a surprise for me: along with Maria Menounos, he had arranged for my favorite recording artist, Rachel Platten, to send me a personal video message of hope. I truly couldn’t believe how many people I had in my corner.

a photo of song lyrics to this is my fight song
Shanna’s anthem that kept her going.

Right before my nearly 12-hour surgery started my husband whispered in my right ear that he loved me — it was the last thing I would ever hear on that side.

a photo of shanna and her daughter ava
With her daughter, Ava, before surgery

Miraculously, they were able to remove 98% of the tumor and it was 100% benign. Those words gave me back my life. As expected, I permanently lost the hearing in my right ear. I had facial paralysis (which affected my ability to talk, close my right eye and swallow), which was temporary, and with therapy, I also regained strength to help me walk independently again.

a photo of shanna in the hospital post surgery
Shanna in the hospital post-surgery.
a photo of the side of shannas head with a massive scar
Her scar.

In the days to follow, I kissed my husband, got to Google chat with my kids, and experience all the things in life that are so easy to take for granted. I knew that I had a choice ahead of me. I could let this experience consume me, or I could continue my work as a mom, wife, and philanthropist and grow stronger than ever. This experience and continued recovery has not stopped me or held me back, but rather propelled me forward. I realize how fragile life is and I approach every day remembering that no barrier is too big to overcome. I recently heard Erik speak and I related to his message that we can be Alchemists; people that take the lead, the challenges that life gives them, and turn them into gold.

I believe my life is looking pretty golden.”

a photo of shanna with three children
Shanna on site with children as part of her role at First Hand Foundation
a photo of shanna and her family a husband and two kids
Shanna with her husband and two kids.

Listen to the No Barriers Podcast for more inspiring stories like Shanna’s.