Survivor Story: Kristie Swick

Kristie Swick-PhotoMy name is Kristie Swick and I am celebrating my one year cancer free Anniversary on Saturday, May 14th 2016.   In April 2015 I felt a hard small bump in my left breast.  I asked my husband to feel it, and see if he felt it too.  He did, and said that I should probably have it checked out.  I called my OBGYN the next day and made an appointment for a breast exam.  The exam went fine, my doctor said all felt ok, and that he just thought it was dense breast tissue, but wanted me to go have a mammogram and ultrasound that next week. After the mammogram was over I was sent over for an ultrasound.  The technician immediately went to the spot where I was concerned and started her procedures.  I had a feeling at that point, that there was definitely something there.  That day they found 3 suspicious spots and wanted me to have them biopsied.  They took samples off of all 3 spots and sent them in for testing.  The next day, I was advised that all 3 spots were indeed cancerous.  I then had an MRI done to see if they could see anything else.  I also scheduled to meet with a surgeon.  This was all happening very fast, and was very scary.  I met with my surgeon and was told that I would for sure need a mastectomy on my left breast.  He went over all my options, and it was my choice if I wanted just the one done, or have both done at once.  After thinking about it, I made the decision to have a bi-lateral (both) mastectomy so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the other one, and once reconstructive surgery was done, they would both look and feel more alike.

I had my bi-lateral mastectomy on May 14th, 2015.  I had one positive lymph node, 23 total removed.  Overall it was much better than I expected, the worst part was the week after the surgery, and having to empty and deal with the drain tubes, YUCK!  I met with my oncologist after my surgery and he advised me since I was so young, 45, and had 1 positive lymph node, that we were going to attack this very aggressively, just to make sure that there were no other cancer cells sitting there, ready to take off.

I started chemo in June 2015.  I did 16 rounds of chemo that lasted about 6 months.  I lost all my hair, had a lot of neuropathy in my feet, had a lot of oozing from my finger and toe nails, but overall felt good, just really tired. The nurses at the John Stoddard Cancer Center were amazing, they explained everything, gave me a list of all the side effects, and gave me ideas on what to watch for, and things that might help ease so of those effects. I also was assigned a cancer coordinator thru the Center, she visited me each week at my treatments, and was a big help with loads of information about anything regarding breast cancer.

I finished chemo in October and had my implant surgery over Christmas break.  I have since had nipple reconstruction surgery and am scheduled to have my areolas tattooed in June of this year. It has now been 7 months since I have completed chemo; I am still having neuropathy in my feet, and however with medication added it is much better than it originally was.  I am hoping this will eventually go away after time.

Through all of this the support that I have received is mind blowing.  I have had women, friends of friends that have also gone thru this, that have reached out to me and we exchanged a lot of information.  Our local community of friends set up a meal train for us during my surgeries and chemo; I received numerous gift cards and cards of support and love from so many people that were willing to help my family and I.

I am so happy that this year is over, and that I am getting back to my old self again and feeling pretty good.  I cannot stress enough, DO YOUR SELF BREAST EXAMS, know your body, and do your yearly mammograms.  Tell your daughters, friends, aunts, mothers and anyone you know to do the same.  I am very fortunate that I caught mine myself, and that I caught it early.

My family and friends did the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk in October of last year, and it was very exhilarating, and I plan on walking  year, after year to help promote and raise money for this cause that is so near and dear to my heart.

I just returned this week from a week’s vacation with my family in Florida to celebrate my one year Anniversary.  This year not only affected me, but my husband and children.  I can’t thank them enough for going to chemo with me, and for being my biggest supporters.  I knew I had to fight and conquer this not only for me, but for them!

Kristie Swick

Age 46, Urbandale Iowa

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