Healing Charlotte Podcast: Shannon Routh, Teal Diva

Today’s podcast guest is Shannon Routh, the founder and Executive Director of Teal Diva. This non-profit organization supports women with ovarian and other types of gynecological cancer in Charlotte. Shannon got the idea to start the group during her 3rd chemotherapy appointment at age 32 when she realized there were no other support groups and she wanted to meet someone else going through ovarian cancer like herself. Previously, she knew one other woman who was much older and in a different stage of life. She knew if it happened to her, there had to be other woman in similar life stages to her.

Teal Diva supports the mental and emotional health of women diagnosed with gynecological cancers as well as those who have completed their treatment. Before Teal Diva was created, there wasn’t any local support for women with ovarian cancer. As time went by, Shannon learned of other types of gynecological cancers such as vulva and uterine that also did not have support locally, so they began to accept them as well.

Some challenges in the ovarian cancer space is that there is no early screening tool. Most women don’t know this and believe that during their annual visit, they are being checked for it. The symptoms are also vague which leaves many women undiagnosed until it is much further down the line. Some of the symptoms are bloating, feeling full quickly, back pain, changes in bowel habits, etc. Shannon recommends being your own advocate and if these symptoms come on or change and it doesn’t feel right to you, get checked by a specialist.

Shannon and Teal Diva originally used their fundraising efforts to fund research but shifted to supporting women locally as they felt it had the greatest impact and would go further to improve women’s lives here in Charlotte. Money raised and donated goes towards their custom infusion shirts, supporting the “honey-do lists,” and the sisterhood retreats. The Dignity Shirt program was inspired by one local woman who lost her life to ovarian cancer and her husband wanted to create a legacy. These custom shirts are teal for recognition and have zipper openings for the ports instead of stretching out the shirt. The “Yes Girl” program is help women with household projects that they are unable to complete. Teal Diva recruits volunteers to come together on one day and complete the list of projects. The idea of the “Sisterhood Retreats” came from Shannon’s love of retreats that she had been on. They will have group members apply for the retreats and will select 20 women to go. The women usually don’t know each other beforehand and spend a weekend immersed together for support, creativity, and relaxation. Another program that Teal Diva has came during covid isolation. They recruit volunteers to send encouragement cards to women who need support.

“For us to be able to provide this “life-changing” experience {sisterhood retreats} to someone, there are many women who have attended our retreat who pass away 3-6 months or a year later and we were able to touch them. We were able to provide for them in their final time a better experience at the life they had left.”

The elephant mascot came from a story originally told by Jen Hatmaker that was read at Shannon’s remission party. The story goes that when a female elephant is going through labor or a difficult time, the other female elephants circle around her, stomp, and kick up dust to protect her. The story stuck with Shannon and with the help of some professionals became the official mascot with a hidden set of ovaries in it as well.

“When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are under attack and they need their people to surround them so they can heal, and create, and recover, we all get in formation and close our ranks and we have each other’s backs.”

For self-care, Shannon enjoys taking weekends away, being in nature, with her dog. She has learned through the years that she needs to separate from being the leader at times to being the survivor. Shannon also knows the importance of therapy especially with the losses and hardships the group members go through.

If you would like to support Teal Diva, they are accepting of volunteers for events, the “Yes Girl” program, and card writing, and financial donations and company sponsorships will help support all programming and the Dignity Shirts.

Shannon wanted to Heal Charlotte as she was born and raised here and wanted to make a difference in her community.

“I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to get involved and I wanted to be a voice and I feel like if there is a need, then why not.”

You can connect with Teal Diva on the website, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, and Pinterest.