Shannon’s Ugly Duckling Story

Ugly Duckling's Story - Shannon

My Name is Shannon. I am a daughter, sister, wife, and mother. I am outgoing, loving, loud, and stubborn.

I am all of these things but I am also a Survivor.

When I was 23 years old, I met the man who would be my partner in life and my soul mate, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Things could not be any better!

Then, during my annual women exam, my doctor was concerned with the pain I had been experiencing, and ordered a CT scan and ultrasound. That was when they found the tumor. While scared, I knew that my mom had had some cysts and things so I assumed I had them too. A few days after having the growth biopsied, the doctor called me with the news.

- “I’m sorry Shannon….but it’s cancer…”

Wait WHAT?! No.. this wasn’t right! I just found the love of my life; my life was on the right track for once! Since the cancer had already progressed pretty significantly, I really didn’t have too many options.

Shannon's Ugly Duckling StoryI had surgery to remove the tumor, but they had to remove a large portion of one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. I then proceeded to have radiation therapy because in my young mind nothing would be worse than to lose my hair. I also chose not to have a full hysterectomy. At the time it seemed like a rather stupid choice, however later it would prove to be the best thing I could have done. The next 8 weeks really went by like a blur: a whirlwind of cancer treatments, doctors’ appointments, working a full time retail job and at the same time trying to maintain the relationships I had built.

Fast forward to 2012

I had been happily married for 8 years, and after 3 years of infertility issues and being told I would never carry a child, we were blessed with a beautiful little boy who had just turned 2. I had renewed my faith and trust in the Lord and felt life could not be any better!

I had done it! I had beat cancer, defied the odds and had a baby, I had a wonderful new career and my marriage was truly a happily ever after with my prince charming.

In August of 2012, I went for my women exam like I do every year and told my doctor I had some tenderness, as well as other symptoms. Concerned, my doctor ordered a full range of tests just to be safe. I went home that day sort of on pins and needles, however trusting in God to see me through.

The next week we took our son for his 2 year checkup, and that’s when our world started to change. After talking to our son’s doctor, he confirmed our fears for our little man: that his delays were not just that he was a late bloomer, but that he might be autistic.

For a while I felt so angry. How could God do this to us? Was he punishing me for all the bad things I had done? Then, I realized that he had done nothing to us, he only gave me my heart’s desire to be a mother in the form of a sweet little boy whose brain worked a little different than everyone else’s. It was this special little boy who would give me strength in the darkest hours to come.

The next day my test results returned. Again, I received the worst phone call a person can get from their doctor.

- “I am so sorry Shannon, but the cancer is back…”

My journey to remission has taught me so many things about myselfI was stunned and dazed. WHY? I did not spend a lot of time trying to figure it all out or process, it was just too much. I just gave it all to God and hit the ground running. I made an appointment with an oncologist for later that same week.

Since there was no tumor this time and only cells, we were able to just do Radiation treatment for 6 weeks. While exhausted I was still able to work. I successfully completed my 6 weeks and things were looking good. I even took a trip to Jamaica to celebrate!

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Ugly Ducklings from Netherlands, Switzerland, and Argentina together

Ugly Ducklings Inc members get together

There are people who are very skeptical when it comes to cyber friends and meeting people you’ve only talked to via a computer screen.

Well, The Ugly Ducklings are an exception…

This past summer, Maaike, Maressa, and Marie had the incredible opportunity to meet each other, defying long distances (in the case of Argentina, especially), and other tiny obstacles. Below you’ll read the three diaries of these three duckies who got this great chance to meet.

Maaike story, summer with ugly ducklings

Having some of my best friends living abroad is a unique experience to say the least. Everything feels exactly the same as with friends living close to you, except for the *bloody* concept of distance (who came up with that anyway?).

You cannot just ring your friends on the other side of the world to ask if they feel like going out or to meet up. Conversations are only possible via text messaging applications or social media, and face to face contact is limited to online video chats. It’s weird feeling so close somehow, but so far away at the same time.

But sometimes… sometimes luck is at your side.

That moment when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and you can actually be together with friends you love so very much. It happened to me this summer when I was the most fortunate girl in the world to be able to spend some time with my dear friends Maressa and Marie (a.k.a. Sisters from other Misters).

Last summer, Maressa and I were on a road trip for a week in her home country Switzerland (and we also shared our experience with The Ugly Ducklings here!)

Right away we agreed that we would meet up again next summer too, regardless of where that would be. Well, since Maressa never visited my home country, the Netherlands, we agreed that she would visit me this summer. We planned some day trips and even visited my second home, London, where I used to live in 2012. It was once again an amazing experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.

meeting ugly ducklings from other places

With our Ugly Ducklings t-shirts!

Then there’s this other peculiar case of faith I need to tell you about. Our dear Colombian friend living in Argentina (still following?), Marie, happened to attend a wedding in Rome in July… at the exact time Maressa was in the Netherlands. Everyone can do the math, right?

Exactly! Marie also took a flight to the Netherlands. I’ll spare you the details, but the journey to Europe entailed a lot of work and stress for her. But finally, she made it and the three of us were reunited.

I really have to say, it felt so natural to have these girls with me. So perfectly normal. Like we’re not living 450 and 7107 miles (!) apart, but just next door to each other. I was then also extremely sad to see them leave.

I had an amazing time with my Sisters and loved to show them my homeland. Also looking through their eyes at my own country and its culture taught me so much. It’s good to reflect upon these things from time to time and to open your eyes to your own country’s beauty and its unique aspects.

Friends enrich your life and having friends living so far away makes you appreciate that fact even more.

Maressa and Marie, I felt extremely privileged to be able to show you my country and to have you around me. Het was gezellig! Love you girls to the moon and back!

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Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Robin Williams was the voice of the Genie. Try to fight depression

Don’t you feel like you just lost a long-life friend?

Someone who taught you how to laugh, how to cry? How to laugh and cry at the same time?

Robin Williams passed away yesterday, August 11th, and according to media reports, he had been fighting some depression demons for a long time.

You think that people who are always doing funny things and making people laugh are just showing the rest of the world what they are experiencing inside… well, sometimes it’s just their own way to cope with the problems and aches they have inside.

Don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you feel depressed

“I’m sad”. We all go through moments when we cannot deal with our inner feelings and we look for ways to escape. Perhaps we can’t seem to see an exit door. Here, at Ugly Ducklings Inc, we have been fortunate enough to create a supportive community, where people in need might come to us and ask for advice. At the same time, we have some amazing group of people who are willing to say some words of encouragement at the moment they most need it.

After the sad news of Robin Williams’ passing, and how everyone has felt touched by his leaving us, it is very important that we reinstate, and encourage you to look for someone who can help you, as there will always be someone willing to be there for you. As Sky Williams said in his video “A message to the Depressed”, always try to look for someone who is near you, a friend, a therapist, a relative. If not, you can try the different hotlines available.

We have a list of resources that you can turn to if you need to. Just click here.

And to all those who have been in close contact with depression, either because of a friend, a relative, or because you yourself are suffering, this message is for you…

“I’d like to live in a world where happiness is as easy as buying a soda in a vending machine. But it’s harder than that.”

Special thanks to The Telegraph and MindFullUK for sharing this beautiful video.

I feel empty and alone

I feel empty and alone

Hello ducklings!

I have a problem that has been bothering me for quite a while.

I turned to a member of the Ugly Ducklings team and I got the idea of ​​publishing my problem here, since you are all amazing and you can probably help me.

A while ago I realized that I felt “empty” and alone, and I was filling my life with activities and hobbies that I did not necessarily want to do. But anyway I gave them a try. However, I realized it wasn’t really something I liked and I quit.

Since then I’ve been trying to find myself again.


But it is very difficult because that’s something I must do alone I think. So I started to engage in new activities that I like, in order to find where I want to go in life.

It went well, but when I’m home alone or at work where there is no people who are talking to me constantly I start feeling very apprehensive and nervous.

I’m worried, because I can’t focus and I keep thinking that time passes very slowly, and that makes me feel like I want to run away. When I’m alone in my house it’s not as drastic as when I’m at work, but still, I have days when I think about whether I’m doing things right or not.

Anxiety comes to me like a storm, so I end up eating a lot of sweets. The last time I did that was two days ago. I’m triying to stay calm and think positively and I would really love it if you guys could help me with any kind of advice or encouraging words.

Thanks in advance!

- Ariel*

Ariel is a fellow ugly duckling who has been part of the community for around a year. She is 19 years old, and she wrote an Ugly Duckling Story that we posted a few months ago.

If you have any words of advice please add them as a comment below. Thank you. We will make sure she reads them.

Josh Dallas NAHS charity fundraiser

Hello Ugly Ducklings. 

Today’s post is dedicated to our great friends, partners, and favorite people from the Charming Angels community and the fans and admirers of actor Josh Dallas from the tv show Once Upon a Time.

Last year we united forces for our first charity competition, where we had the support of these wonderful people. With their help, we raised $600 for Mental Fitness Inc!

Now, we want to help them spread the word on their new campaign in favor of Josh Dallas’ high school’s theater department.

They’ll do a series of raffles starting on June 9th and you only need to donate a small amount of money to participate and get a chance to win one of these!!!

Josh Dallas Charity Drive

Item from Lot 1 – Novel signed by Josh

Josh Dallas Charity Drive

Item from Lot 2. Complete Season 1 DVD signed twice by Josh

Make sure you read all the instructions over at their website: Josh Dallas NAHS Theater Dept. Charity Drive.

If you can’t donate money, then there’s something that’s free and super easy to do: tell others about this, so more people can help and support this great cause.

Stay awesome Ugly Ducklings. And thank you!

Swan Out,
- Marie

30 days of hope project

JUNE is HERE! That means that #30DaysOfHope begins now!

Ugly Ducklings, we know that through this community we have helped, support and encourage lots of people, and both our lives as well as theirs have been touched by the positivity and the advice that we post here.

Two of our dear friends from when we got this movement going, Zachery, and Amy  -who are part of the Once Upon a Fan website- came to us to get this thing going. What better way to bring each other up than with #30DaysOfHope? 

So come! Don’t miss this for the world! Remember to follow us on Twitter, @UDucklingsInc, as well as @TheZachVan, and @Amylia403

30 Days of Hope

Women who inspire Ugly Ducklings Inc and beyond

The founders of Ugly Ducklings Inc couldn’t let this opportunity pass. That is why they also wanted to share women that have inspired, are inspiring and will inspire this movement and our lives.

Banner, inspiring women for Ugly Ducklings Inc

We recently celebrated our first anniversary as Ugly Ducklings Inc. I think Erin and I had never thought that our community would be made of more than a thousand members, but most importantly, a community full of respect, kindness, positivity, and care for one another. Many of you might know how this whole movement started, but just in case you don’t, the main person who inspired what Ugly Ducklings Inc is today is Jennifer Morrison. So many days later I want to thank her once again, and let her know that every day that goes by more and more people are finding out how they can turn into beautiful swans, and that we will be here to help them out.RobynUDI

Robyn Hussa Farrell is the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness, Inc., the non-profit we support here at Ugly Ducklings Inc.  Marie and I have been in touch with her for over a year now, and she is a constant inspiration to us.  Robyn works incredibly hard to ensure that children grow up with a healthy mental fitness; something that is very important and inspiring work.  We are so happy and proud to be a part of such an amazing organization that really is changing the lives of children in America.  

Malala Yousafzai“Death didn’t want to kill me”. Those are the words Malala Yousafzai told Diane Sawyer in a recent interview. This Pakistani girl is not even 20 years old yet, but she has the strength, the determination, the talents, and the influence to empower the people to do better things of any world leader today. She inspires me greatly because her life is a miracle, and she is helping both children in Pakistan to get educaction, and adults to change their mindset, and understand that girls can achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves in life.

If there is anything we know as Ugly Ducklings, it is that the human experience can be enduring terrible or catastrophic circumstances.  One thing that inspires us every day is reading the stories of the women (or men) who have had these crazy things happen but have made the choice to continue standing or to use those circumstances for good.  When one shares their story, they inspire others to do the same.  That brings light to the darkness.

So, one of the reasons we are here and we, as ugly ducklings, are working hard on is trying to help out all those victims of bullying we see both in real life and online. We have mentioned it many times, but remember that our Facebook, our Twitter forum and our website are places where you can come and talk about your experience, and get support from friends that will help you out in any way they can. 2

And how about sending a shout out to our incredible assistants? These girls also inspire us, because their support and the time they put into this cause makes us really happy. Mariah is our Resource Assistant and she helped us put together the Resource page, for all those who might need assistance. Maaike is our Research assistant and she has collaborated with our blog. Read her latest contribution here! And Camilla is our wonderful Social Media assistant and Ducklinspiration hunter. All those inspiring quotes you see everyday are found by this amazing lady.

ALL OF YOU inspire us EVERY DAY!  Every time we hear a story, see a photo, or simply see who you are, we are inspired.  You inspire us to keep going when we feel like we are out of energy.  You encourage us to continue to build this community.  

I have to say that actors inspire me greatly, because they are doing things that I want to accomplish one day. One of them is Nicole Kidman. She has said in some interviews that she felt like an outcast in school, and that’s why she decided to act. She is also a spokesperson for the United Nations. Other inspiring women for me are girls and women who fight and stand up for themselves every day.

There are so many women in my life who are inspiring.  I feel so blessed to be in touch with women who have a genuine love for life and people and a genuine compassion for others.  My sister is probably my greatest inspiration: she devotes her life to helping others and has impacted every facet of my life.  But really, I look for inspiration everywhere.  And I usually find it.  So if you need to be inspired, make sure you’re constantly seeking it!

Thank you to all the women in our lives who inspire us to be better, to be creative, to take risks and to change our lives.  Love to all of you!

- Swan Out.


Nicole Markardt – “The Tao of Freedom”


“Pretend to be the person you want to be until you finally become her.”

When I read this amazing blog by Nicole Markardt, I immediately thought of Ugly Ducklings and everything we try to promote and embrace in life. I just had to share it with you!

“We kick and scream, hold our breath. We resist. We hold onto our shadows.”

We’re all becoming the person we want to be. But how often do we resist that? How often do we hide away our stories, our journeys, and continue on as if they won’t shape who we are or who we’ll become?

“Be a mess. Screw it up.”

As Ugly Ducklings, we all know that life happens. When life happens, we need to remember we are all on our journey to becoming beautiful swans. The journeys can be so painful, and we can really mess it up sometimes. We can make bad choices. But Nicole has some good advice about that:

“Be where you are and know that you will be somewhere else shortly.”

This is great advice. This is the attitude that runs through the veins of Ugly Ducklings Inc. You’re on a journey. I’m on a journey. We’re becoming. We’re not going to remain where we are forever. Everyday is a new day and we can try again tomorrow.

I love this idea. The idea of second chances. Of each day being a new day. I’ve utilized many second chances in my life; and I try to go to sleep each day with the notion in my mind that when I wake up, it is a new day and I can try again at anything I’ve failed at the day before.

When I was a nanny, I used this tool a lot too. I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to unacceptable behaviour; but I never diminish the idea of a second chance. When one of my charges was acting up, there’s an immediate second chance to behave (I use “when/then”: “When you throw your toys, then I take them away. Do you want to continue throwing your toys?”). Sometimes, the stubborn toddler chooses not to take this second chance (don’t we all do this sometimes?). Then there’s usually a consequence: I once had to walk with a hysterical two-year-old, begging for a third or fourth or fifth chance, through a community centre when the consequence for his disobedience was leaving the play area.

I calmly knelt down to his level, wiped away his tears and explained to him that his behaviour wasn’t acceptable, that he’d had a few chances to correct it, and that we would try again tomorrow.

There’s always tomorrow. We’re always moving. We’re always becoming. Be free to do these things. Be free to become you.

Check out Nicole’s full blog here: It is really incredible!

swan out

Support Mosaics, an independent short film

A little inspiration banner

Hi Ducklings!

Have you ever heard of the word animal-human hybrids?

Actually, I hadn’t heard of it until quite recently, when a team of two rockstars introduced me to it. I’m talking about Florian and Joshua, and to be more precise they are a film director and a producer, contributing with their ideas and creations to gender equality and acceptance.

They embarked upon an amazing project last year, and the best part? they used the innovative crowdfunding strategy to get the resources to make the short film Whispers of Life a reality. They got funds from celebrities, fans, crew members, and friends after they released the synopsis of their movie:

Whispers of life movie posterWhispers of Life is a short film about the interdependence of imagination and survival and their life-changing connection in Tom’s story. Tom, a fifteen-year old gay teenager, meets Charles, a man in his sixties, after having been bullied by classmates on a park bench. Charles, having witnessed the bullying, approaches Tom afterward and initiates a conversation. When Tom frankly asks Charles if he has ever thought about suicide, Charles takes Tom on a fantastical journey into Tom’s imagination that will forever change the course of Tom’s future and ability to appreciate his life.

2013 became like a magical ship to this film, because every month blew winds to it and sent it to festivals around the world: it was selected to make part of Film Festivals in Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Canada, the United States, and Australia.

But that’s not all! The film got praises, great reviews and awards!


Now, they have decided to push themselves harder and take their next big idea to the screen. And here’s where the animal-human hybrids come in.

Florian and Joshua have launched a new funding campaign for an enticing sci-fi short film set in the near future and featuring interactions between human and animal-human hybrids that make their way in this world amidst constant oppression, and marginalization.

Sounds fascinating, and us, ugly ducklings want to make part of the campaign by

  • Spreading the word
  • Donating

Their story of success is truly inspiring, and they are living proof that when you have a great idea that you want to show the world, and you set your mind to it, you can make it something worthwhile and valuable.

SO!! for those of you who want to send a donation to Mosaics, don’t hesitate for one second. Click here to go straight to the Indiegogo campaign.

And you can hear more about it:

Donate here!.

You can do ANYTHING!


The Olympics is always an inspiring time of year.  It reminds everyone what hard-work and dedication can get you – those athletes do not have an easy life. I know we don’t all dream of being world-class athletes (or maybe YOU do).  But we all dream of being something or doing something.

There’s an amazing song by Hedley called “ANYTHING”.  Check out the video here:

In case the video didn’t work, here are the lyrics:

Everybody said, you better stay in school,
Get a real job, boy, don’t be a fool,
Burn that guitar, you can never be a star,
I can, I can, I can, soA thousand disbelievers couldn’t keep me on the ground,
I’ve invented a momentum that’ll never slow me down,
I believe it ’cause I feel it, and I shout it out loud,
I can, I can, I can, soEverybody said, boy, don’t go any higher,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Never push the limit, and don’t play with fire,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Wear my heart on my fist take
You by surprise fighter,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anythingBe a movie star or rock a main stage,
An Xbox tester, or an astronaut in space,
If they tell you that you can’t,
You can shove it in their face,
I can, I can, I can, soA hundred thousand disbelievers couldn’t keep me on the ground,
I’ve invented a momentum that’ll never slow me down,
I believe it ’cause I feel it, and I shout it out loud,
I can, I can, I can, soEverybody said, boy, don’t go any higher,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Never push the limit, and don’t play with fire,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Wear my heart on my fist take
You by surprise fighter,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything

I can do anything,
Never try, never win, never get a break,
You miss a hundred percent of the shots
You never take,

Everybody said boy, don’t go any higher,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Never push the limit, and don’t play with fire,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,

Everybody said, boy, don’t go any higher,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Never push the limit, and don’t play with fire,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything,
Wear my heart on my fist take
You by surprise fighter,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything

Everybody said, boy, don’t go any higher,
Uh uh, forget that, I can do anything

Isn’t that great?  I find it really inspiring and I hope it inspires you too!
So tell me, Ugly Duckling… what are YOU going to do?  What’s a dream you have or had that everyone told you you couldn’t do?  What are you pursuing that seems impossible?  We’d really like to hear from you if there’s something you want to share!  Tweet us, facebook us or email us :)  Remember, dream until your dreams come true.  YOU can do ANYTHING!
swan out