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Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Ann Swanson

I never thought much about getting a mammogram – that is until a routine mammogram revealed an abnormality. At first, I was mad! Not this again was my thought pattern. Ten years before this happened, I underwent a test, followed by surgery and nothing was wrong. I still have the scar to prove it!

This time the abnormality was something. After the mammogram, the doctor took time to talk to me. Of course, I was experiencing this on my own since my husband had been dead for just over nine years.

I asked the doctor about the time table to get an exam done. I had a trip scheduled for the next week and I wanted to know if I should cancel it. He asked how long the trip was and when I told him he said to relax, go, and have a good time. At this point, I had not even shared the news with my family. I did not want to disappear just after I told them and leave them to worry.

I took my trip to Savanah and the surrounding area. Somehow, I was able to compartmentalize what was happening in my life and put it on the back burner.

When I returned from my trip, I called my doctor. He received all of the information from my mammogram and wanted to see me.

While I was making this appointment, I got a message. I distinctly heard a voice say, “You are going to be all right.” That message was all I needed to create a positive attitude.

I was no longer mad at the technician who found it. I relaxed and vowed to follow the advice of the doctor.

When I saw the surgeon, he recommended surgery the following week. My first surgery was the day after Memorial Day. Now I told the children. I needed their help. I needed a ride to the hospital and transportation back home. They were encouraging. They were available to see to my needs.

My son, the veterinarian, was with me early. My daughter would be there to take me home. The nurse could not get any blood no matter how hard she tried. She poked me five times without success. I was wishing that my son could try because I had seen him draw blood on animals where he could not even see the veins.

When you have surgery, you do not immediately get a diagnosis. I was told I would know the results by the next week. Come on doctors — do you not know how worried your patients are?

I accompanied my daughter and granddaughter to an appointment in Pittsburgh. I had my cell phone with me since this was the day the doctor was to call. We went down and back and I heard nothing. As I stopped at my son’s, on my way home, my cell phone rang. This was it. My future was on the line.

The doctor told me the lump they removed was cancer. He wanted to test my lymph nodes the following Monday. Surgery was once again scheduled. This time I would get immediate results I was told. I would know where I stood that day.

The diagnosis was that I had cancer, but the lymph nodes were not involved. That was good news. The spot they removed was less than a centimeter in diameter.

Now I was happy that the technician found it. If I had waited until I could feel it I would have been in deep trouble.

Another visit to the doctor revealed that I would only need to take radiation, not chemotherapy. I looked at that as a positive sign.

I underwent 36 radiation treatments. Incidentally, now I have a tattoo to show where I had the radiation. During treatment, I developed a rash. They determined that it was from the table I was on during the treatment. Once they covered it with towels things got better.

That year we were going to Chautauqua Institution the first week. That meant I did not have long to recover. I was sore when I went, but I managed for the week. The radiation had not yet begun.

Once I knew what the treatment plan was, I told my church family. The minister prayed for his wife who was also going through cancer treatments and for me.

At this point I want to say, I am not sure why the Lord saw fit to heal me, but I am so glad he did.

I was still going for radiation treatments when I camped at the fair. Each day I left the grounds for treatment. I was able to drive to these myself. That was a plus.

I made arrangements to take the children and grandchildren to New York City around Christmas time. I was in treatment at the time so you can see that I had a positive attitude.

My faith and my positive attitude played a part in my recovery. The next spring, I chose to take classes to become a volunteer for Hospice. I felt that my results were positive so now it was time for me to give back. I was spared for a reason. There was work for me to do.

Since that time, I have felt that I was in the right spot at the right time on numerous occasions. Talking about the disease gives its own sense of wellbeing. If I can be of help to anyone going through this process, I am always available.

The Lord even made it possible for me to find a second chance at love if you will. With my marriage, everything has changed, but it is good. I am no longer on my own. I am trying new things, getting acquainted with extended family, and traveling. When Don was asked where we would go next (after the Alaska excursion) his reply was, “She hasn’t told me yet!” That is not really true, we made the decisions together. I did, however, make the arrangements for the last trip!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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