Monday, October 02, 2006

The Day My World Changed

"There are cancer cells !"

Have you ever seen black just before you passed out?
Have you ever had the breath knocked out of you?
Has your throat ever closed and you couldn't breathe?
Have you ears ever rung so loudly you couldn't hear?
Has your mouth ever been so dry you couldn't swallow?

Have you ever not been able to feel your hands?
Has your heart ever beaten so fast you thought it would jump out of your chest?

If you combine all these sensations, it might give you an idea of what it felt like for me to hear my doctor speak these words, "There are cancer cells."

I distinctly remember my very first thought.

"How do I tell my two daughters that I have breast cancer?"

On the day I turned 39, I wondered what it would feel like to be 40.
I had always heard the expression "Forty and pregnant."
I surely didn't want to be 40 and pregnant. I was in the midst of a divorce.
I just didn't know I would be 40 and bald.

In the amount of time it took Dr. H to say those four words, my life changed.
At first, I thought everything changed. My world seemed to turn black.
I heard words like mastectomy, lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, double-blind studies, support group, and then I stopped listening. My ears refused to hear.

At first, I thought my whole world would change, but it didn't take long to realize, some things never change. The unconditional love for my two daughters and their unconditional love for me would always be there. . . an even deeper love and understanding like we had never known developed. My family was still my family and my friends were still my friends. There would still be sunshine and rain and rainbows. The moon and stars would still glitter the night sky. The flowers would still bloom, the birds would still sing, and the dogs would still bark. My classroom would still be on the third floor at Central Middle School. My students would still be mine, they would just have a substitute teacher for awhile. Yes, life would still go on . . . with or without me. I had to make a choice whether to throw a pity-party for myself, mope, and be miserable or squeeze every ounce of life out of every minute I had and make the most of a bad situation. I chose the latter. Being a teacher, I knew the importance of being a good role-model. My girls needed their mother and I planned to be that role-model. . . strong yet vulnerable.
And so my journey began.

In the length of time it has taken you to read this post, approximately 3 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer (and possibly a man). Every 2 minutes, breast cancer is diagnosed. Of the next 7 women you see, 1 will probably be diagnosed with breast cancer. If you take the time to read the post again, someone has died of breast cancer. The statistics are startling.
Each of my posts have links. Just put your cursor on the colored words and that will take you to more information. Be informed. Be educated. Education is Power.

Scroll down the page to my previous post for more links.


Blogger MSUgal86 said...

this post is so well written i had to read it twice! now excuse me while i go get the mammogram my doctor told me to get last April.

10/02/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous LAW said...

Mom- My world would have gone dark if we'd lost you! I'm grateful for you everyday, and amazed at your strength. You truly are a role model for B, P, and myself. Thank you. I love you, LAW

10/02/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

Bravo for getting the message out. I posted a while back about IBC. My friend, who had quite a little readership going, posted and linked back to me. Neither one of us got a single comment on either post. It was so disheartening. I hope people will read this post and share.

10/02/2006 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Tiggerlane said...

What an inspiration! And how brave us you to post your story to all of us virtual strangers.

Kudos to you for reminding us to be educated. My first mammogram was akin to have my breast flattened underneath a tire truck in a concrete garage - and I was terrified when they had to look at something "suspicious" with another, more painful scan. I remember the horror of waiting for those results. 20 long minutes in that room by myself - and so many thoughts. I was lucky and was cleared.

You have such a wonderful attitude - survivor is a tame word to describe your magnificence!!!

10/02/2006 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I'm doing a breast walk for cancer on Sunday and while I will have a picture of my sister pinned to my chest, I will have you and all the other brave women who battled cancer in my heart.

10/02/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger C said...

This is startling. I have had two mammograms but I am always warned that mammograms don't catch breast cancer all the time so I do self breast exams.

10/02/2006 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous momto3cubs said...

I read it twice also. (40 and bald, yikes!) Thanks for sharing and getting the word out.

10/02/2006 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Karmyn R said...

What a wonderful post! Well written and brought me SNAP to attention. Scary, frightening, and yet promising - that you survived and remained positive!!!

DANG - I already chose my Weekly Delight this week - I am anxious to read more about your story and will kep my weekly delight open for you next week!!!!!

10/02/2006 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I lost my cousin to breast cancer and then my sis had her masectomy. She was about the same age as you when she heard those words.
I have my mammogram every year - never fail. Self exams.... even have had a steroptic needle biopsy. So far I have been benign.

But, I joined the Sister Study because I thought it was something that might make the world safer for my daughters and granddaughters.

It has been more involved then I thought.

I'm committed to ten years -- and I pray I will not be one of those that hears those words.

10/02/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger C. said...

I found myself holding my breath as I read this. I can't even imagine...

10/02/2006 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Pioneer Woman said...

Thank you, Swampy, for your post. I remember when you received the diagnosis...and I remember feeling oh, so chilled and vulnerable because you seemed like such a youthful woman at the time. It was surreal, and I'm so grateful you beat the shit out of those cancer cells.

10/02/2006 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Swampwitch said...

LAW:No matter how dark someone's world might be, there will always be rainbows to chase, sunshine to warm your face, flowers to smell, and stories to tell. Not to mention, nieces to spoil, boyfriends, to love, little sisters to harass, tennis matches to play, open-stanched forehands to learn, and computer crimes to solve...
I love you,too and thank y.o.u.!

MSUGal86:Yes,run, don't walk to your mammogram. And I hope you get those PomPoms fluffed.

Gawilli:First, thank you for your efforts on trying to get the word out on Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Even though no one posted, I'm sure you had readers who were reading. My site meter shows there are many people out there who are reading and don't post. I've found that most people aren't comfortable with topics like this and have little to say whether it's in a meeting or on a blog. I certainly do appreciate those who take the time and are comfortable enough to share their stories. Since this is Breast Cancer Awareness month, you might try again that IBC post again. No telling who might benefit from it. If only one person does, it is worth it.I will have a video on IBC this month. Well worth the time to watch.

Tiggerlane: Thank you for your kind words. I will have a picture posted later this of week of what your mammogram may have looked liked. Just a little smile or two.

Laura: Thank you for doing the walk for your sister and every other woman.

C: Good for you. With the combination of mammograms and self-exams you are doing about all you can do.

MomTo3Cubs:Actually, there were up sides to being bald which I will post soon.

KarmynR:Being positive is a crucial part of survival. I look forward to seeing next week's Weekly Delight notice.

Pamela: First, I hope to learn how to put those links in my comments soon. Pam has sent the intstructions, now I need the time. I will go to your links today to read more. The needle biospy is not fun, but does seem to be fairly reliable.

C: Thanks for reading today.Now you can breathe.

Ree: Yup, beat the shit out of those cancer cells is a good way to put it. But I didn't do it by myself. I had a huge support team who pushed and pulled me through it. Your mom was one of those people who was there pushing and pulling and I will always be grateful. Tell her hi from Swampwitch. And, not to mention my girls had their own support systems, too. Wetsy was always there for LAW and I thank her, too.

10/03/2006 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Pioneer Woman said...

Swampwitch, I use Mozilla Firefox when I need to upload photos.

Just google "Mozilla Firefox" and go to their website and do the free download. Then, whenever you want to post photos, use Firefox to go to Blogger instead of Internet Explorer. The photos load much faster and it doesn't seem to have the problems Internet Explorer has.

I still use IE on a daily basis, when I want to visit blogs, etc., but when it comes to posting photos to my blog, I use Firefox. Blogger just seems to get along with it much better.

If you're confused, just consult with your brilliant daughter. She can probably translate all this stuff for you. :)

10/03/2006 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Swampwitch said...

Ree: Thanks for taking the time to give me the information. Julie (Another Chance Ranch) and I are both having problems and we think it has to do with Flickr. Will take your suggestions and try this. And, what do you mean I.F. I'm confused? I live in the state of Confusion.My brilliant daughter is still shell-shocked that her mother has a "glob" and is posting on the internet for the world to see. She is contemplating starting her own blog and calling it: "Oh my God my mother has a blog." But, nevertheless, she would be glad to translate this for me.

10/03/2006 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger BarnGoddess said...

swampwitch, your post is inspiring. In fact, it has prompted me to ask my MD next week to get that mammogram scheduled Ive put off for so long. Those things arent pleasant but after reading your posts and hearing your story, a little bit of uncomfortableness is worth it.
Thank you!

10/03/2006 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger brian said...

Thanks SW for your courage and frankness in telling your story. (((hugs)))


they stretch from side to side
a perfect arc of color
all shades are there
where ever you turn

young and old of all races
men and women dressed in pink
a rainbow of compassion
united in a common cause

10/03/2006 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Silly Hily said...

I didn't realize you were diagnosed at the age of 39. That is so young. I admire you for realizing that nothing would change if you didn't let it. That you stayed strong for the the ones you love and that in turn helped you beat it. I do look forward to reading more of your journey and how you SURVIVED it. Big hug.

10/03/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Katie C said...

Thank you for sharing.

10/03/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger RedNeckGirl said...

Beautifully written....brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing something so personal and thank you for being an inspiration to everyone who knows you and to us are amazing!

10/03/2006 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger mysti said...

What a powerful post. I have been putting off getting a mammogram done, and now as soon as I write this comment I am going to go pick up that phone and make the appt. It is over an hour drive for me to go get it done, and I tend to not like being around strangers. (A long story.) Your post hit home with me though. Thank you. I am a firm believer that God brings certain people into our lives for a reason. I believe he just sent me a loud and very clear message delivered through you. To think if you had not stopped by my post and introduced yourself I would not have heard that message. I will also be back to visit your blog. Blessings (((hugs))))

10/03/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Wonderful post! (Somehow I got your glob and Ree's to open in Safari.) Anyway, when I worked for the good doctor and I would schedule mammograms for people (men get them too you know), I would give them their written orders for the mammy and say, "Have a smashing good time!" It always lightened the mood a little. :)

Thanks for sharing your story!

10/03/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger ~*~ D ~*~ said...

That was very thought provoking...

Cancer is my one fear. I don't know what I would ever do hearing those words coming out of a doctors mouth and I can't even bear to think about it!

10/03/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger her indoors said...

thank you, well writen and well done to you. my mum had breast cancer i do examine myself regularly.
hugs and kissed for you xxx

10/03/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Susan in va said...

39? You were so young! I keep hearing more and more stories of people in their 30's being diagnosed with some form of cancer. It really hits close to home.

10/03/2006 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Pam said... is power and I am sorry yet glad to hear your story. I know you will be busy this month.
If I can be of any personal help to you this month, I'd be delighted to help.

10/03/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

That was so well written it took me there. My heart was pounding harder in my chest and I had tunnel vision to read to the end.

10/03/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jodi said...

Thanks for getting the word out!!

My sister was just diagnosed in June. She went through surgery (partial masectomy) and has just finished her radiation. Our family was lucky that it was caught in the early stages. So many people aren't as fortunate!

And I've already signed up for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on October 21 in Lansing.

Thanks again... awareness, self examination, and mammograms are the only way to fight this until they find a cure!!

10/03/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ms.L said...

This is a beautiful,powerful post.
Thank YOU!

10/03/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous wolfbaby said...

my mom died back in 86 from breast cancer ironically enough in october.. i plan to do a series of post dedicated to her... im glad that now days medicine has gotten so much better thta the odds of surving have improved!!!..

10/03/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Minka said...

I went to a check up a couple of months ago...very scary stuff!
Iceland is so related bloodwise, that it is almost down teh entire family line here.
I am aware and Thank you!

10/03/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Swampwitch said...

BarnGoddess: I'm glad you have scheduled your mammogram. I enjoyed your post today.

Brian: I am so honored to have one of your poems to post with one of my pictures. It will be sometime this month. Thank You.

SillyHily: Yup! 39 going on 40 and bald. Thanks for the ((hug)).

Katie T: You are welcome. Did you finish your invitations?

RedNeckGirl: Thank you, but it was the people who supported me who were amazing.

Mysti: You have the most beautiful blog I've seen. I'm glad I stumbled upon it today, and that we "met" so I could give you that message. Welcome and please visit again.

Julie: BloggerGlobberBuggerBear ! Yes, I think I mentioned that men have breast cancer somewhere. Can't find it though. Our daughter-in-law's father is a breast cancer survivor.

~*d*~: Like I always say, you add so much Bling Bling to this place and I love it! Fear? Yes, but I had cancer it didn't have me.

HerIndoors: Thank you for the (hugs) and **kisses**.

Susan: 39! Seems like yesterday but it seemed like I was 39/40 for an eternity when I was being treated.

Pam: Thank You Thank You!! I may be on your doorstep asking for help.

Vicki: Welcome to the GlobAsylum. Thanks for reading. Be sure to visit again.

Jodi: And a welcome to you, too. Good for your sister and thank you for doing your part for research.

MJ: Welcome to you, too. I am so sorry about your mom and I will certainly watch for your posts about her. Research has helped with the survival rates in the last couple of decades.

Minka: I always appreciate you visiting all the way from Iceland. What a commute. I'm happy you have had your check-up.

To future posting friends: I try very hard to make a personal reply each day, but with my schedule, please excuse me if I don't everyday. I'll be doing well to just have a new post up everyday.

10/03/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger G said...

Thank you for sharing this Swampwitch. I've loved your blog and felt a special feeling from my first stop here. Now I know why. Thank you for this important reminder and for sharing your story. I think I'll need to read it again. You are truly an inspiration.

10/03/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't even begin to imagine what you went through. I walked 26 miles through London earlier this year in the Moonwalk for breast cancer and I will be doing it again next year. Thank you for sharing your story. x

10/04/2006 01:07:00 AM  
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12/15/2006 11:51:00 PM  

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