“After all this, the love, the support, I want to say thanks for everything so many did for me,” Hall said. “I am so excited about the future and what that future holds.”

It’s time to celebrate. Time to be thankful. Time to spread awareness, to realize that breast cancer is not a death sentence. It is a life sentence that changes your entire perspective about what lies ahead and the promise the future holds.

That’s the message Shelby Hall wants to share after months of treatment for an aggressive type of breast cancer that, at her lowest point, she thought was going to kill her.

Hall’s life changed last year when around the Thanksgiving holiday she discovered a small tumor.

“I just blew it off,” she said. “I thought I was too young. I wasn’t even thinking cancer. It hurts to realize it strikes at any age. I thought breast cancer was something your grandma or great-aunt got, not someone my age or younger. It was scary.”

But within weeks right before Christmas, the tumor grew. Hall knew she had to seek medical help. Ellis Fischel in Columbia was the first provider who had an opening to see her. As she was meeting with the doctor, she said she couldn’t even begin to describe the feeling as she learned she had Stage 2 cancer.

The visit to Fischel turned out to be fateful. She said the care she received was amazing and the location allowed her longtime boyfriend, family and friends to take part in her treatment, offering support that she has come to understand was crucial to her recovery. Her family made the drive from Kansas City to every appointment.

Her boyfriend, Nathan Rowan, was her rock, keeping her focused and encouraging her. He even managed to make her laugh while waiting for her chemotherapy treatments. Sometimes friends and other teachers would show up just to be there for her.

Normally upbeat and full of hope and optimism, Hall said in the beginning she struggled to come to grips with the diagnosis and to deal with the whirlwind that it set in motion. For a short time, she tired to isolate herself; she thought it was the end. But she quickly learned that attitude is everything and she had to think positive.

In order to undergo aggressive treatment and to prevent complications due to a weak immune system, Hall had to take a leave of absence from her job in January. Not just any job — Hall is a kindergarten teacher at School of the Osage.

Leaving her students behind and unsure of what was to come was tough. Not being in the classroom and interacting with her students was difficult, she said.

“They are so sweet and innocent, and can be hilarious. Being with them in the classroom makes days so much better,” Hall said. “They are my kids.”

On her last day of work students and staff lined the hall wearing T-shirts that said, “Hope is in our Hall,” playing the fight song. It was a sendoff she will never forget. And that was just the beginning. Over the months that followed, the support of students, teachers, staff and even complete strangers never wavered. There was always someone lending a helping hand.

Originally from Kansas City, she had spent nearly her entire life visiting the lake. During the summer months when she got older, she worked at a lakefront venue.

She decided to apply at School of the Osage with the encouragement of friends who were also teachers. She started as a substitute and when a kindergarten position came open she felt like it was meant to be. She knew early on in her education that she wanted to be in early childhood so after graduating from what was then Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Hall headed to the lake — the place she now calls home.

The support of family and friends took on even more importance when she learned the tumor was growing. Over the summer she underwent a double mastectomy.

Her prognosis is good now. She continues to undergo frequent visits to the doctor. The cancer she battled requires her to take an estrogen blocker and shots to suppress the production of estrogen in her ovaries.

Her progress means that soon she will be able to return to teaching. She is anxious to be back in the classroom. Until then, Hall said she is concentrating on mentally and physically healing herself. She hopes to drop in and see her class of kindergarten students later this week. Just to visit and maybe read a book.

To those who ask if breast cancer has changed her life, yes, she says, it has. In so many ways. She’s learned why God brings people into your life; she is thankful, grateful and knows that every day is a gift, a chance to celebrate.

She has become more aware, an advocate of frequent self-exams sending monthly reminders to friends and she is willing to share with others the importance of staying positive and letting others help you through.

“After all this, the love, the support, I want to say thanks for everything so many did for me,” Hall said. “I am so excited about the future and what that future holds.”