After surviving two rounds of colon cancer, amassing almost a million dollars in medical bills, and struggling to provide for four children, 35 year-old Shanda Zapata was desperate to improve her lot. So in 2013, after just 6 weeks of basic combat training Zapata put down her Hooters uniform and picked up an assault rifle. Bounty hunting had become her salvation.
Shanda Zapata was only 19 years old when she was first diagnosed with colon cancer. Luckily, at the time, her mother’s health insurance covered the expenses accrued through surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. When the cancer returned 12 years later, she wasn’t so lucky.
With medical bills mounting to $800,000, Zapata began getting sued by hospitals seeking payment and bankruptcy seemed almost inevitable.
Yet, Zapata didn’t make the career change to bounty hunting purely for its potential to generate large payouts. In a recent article published by The Sun Zapata is quoted as saying, “I chose this job because I get to help people and sort of be a bad ass. When I put a child molester away, it feels great. It makes me feel that bit stronger that I can do this for my community.”
Today, Zapata has 3 years of bounty hunting experience as is legally allowed to practice her profession in 47 states. Since bounty hunting remains a largely unregulated job, it is often a dangerous one. As a result, Zapata often takes a “safety in numbers” approach by working collaboratively with other bounty hunters. To date, her greatest achievement is capturing an alleged child murderer, nabbing a cool $20,000 reward for her and her teammates.
Of course, not all cancer survivors can become bounty hunters. But considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls colon cancer the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the country, it’s still inspiring to see one woman prove that it’s possible.