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January 24, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Breast Cancer Survivor

But Not Just Any Day !   The Yearly Check-up Day !  Most of you who have been reading here for several months are aware that I AM A Breast Cancer Survivor ! One motivation for creating my blog last year was to know enough about blogging by October 2006 to share some information that could possibly save lives. Parts of my story are in the October Archives just above the PINK CLOCK  located on the left as you scroll down the page.  There are many links provided on those stories concerning Breast Cancer Awareness. Today's post is about my yearly check-up.  I can remember when those check-ups came every THREE months, then SIX months, then TWELVE months.  Follow along as I share with you my day...

I went outside to breathe some fresh air and take in my surroundings. It was very fresh. About 10 degrees worth of fresh.

"mindfulness of breathing in and breathing out" - anapanasati


Because I am a worry-wart, I decided to add some levity to the day by goofing around with some self-portraits in the mirror before I headed to the clinic.



Looking down the road and thinking about all the events that brought me down this road. (You can see Mt. Garfield in the distance - the farthest rounded formation - (click on the pics to enlarge them)


A wonderful, new facility. Not just a building but a building full of caring people.


How many times have I taken steps to some kind of registration the last 15 years?  Today, I chose to go by myself. Sometimes, I take theHansMan or a friend.


Mardean was the first smiling face of my day.


There are always papers to sign.


If you read this plaque, you will see the words," EARLY DETECTION and PREVENTION."  That's what this post is all about. "Ms. Bacon, I did not know you...I thank you for your compassion, dedication, and philanthropy."


A-w-w-w! The loverly gown. Does it tie in the front or the back? I can never remember.


As I step from my dressing room, I bump into a friend dressed in the same outfit as mine. This is Chris. She just turned 40 and is being a very smart woman by having her mammogram. Her first. See the smile on her face. She is not afraid.


So glad I didn't have "gaposis" for this photo.


This is Deborah. I have had my share of "boob-squishing" mammographers in my life. She is a gentle soul. I feel safe.


This does NOT hurt. If you have never had a mammogram because you are afraid, PLEASE understand there is nothing to fear. "Take a deep breath, hold it, breathe !"  Done ! It's over. Of course there are several "poses" but it's nothing.


Deborah leaves the room with "my life" in her hands. At this point, I tend to let my imagination get the best of me. I must focus on the positive and know that if the radiologist finds 'something', I can handle it. I think about my girls and how my breast cancer has put them in a certain statistical range. I think about a lot of things sitting there in my cute little cotton gown. I look up and see this bright yellow flower.


I focus on how bright and yellow it is. Like the sun that's shining outside. How bright and shining my life is.


I drown myself in its warmth and think happy thoughts. The warmth and thoughts envelope me. I let my family and friends who were my support system surround me with their love and hugs. They give me strength. I am strong.


After several minutes of calming my thoughts, I notice a magazine on the rack next to me. I like to play this game of letting a magazine just fall open to whatever page it wants to and read what's there. The magazine was "Rolling Stone."  One I'm not too familiar with, so I decide to live on the edge and see what's inside. I let the magazine fall open...here's what was on that page...


Just had to giggle at how ironic that was. "A Hooter's Job Application"...I need not even apply.

Reality sets in again, and I look at that door and that handle. Knowing it's going to open, praying that it's only Deborah and not a radiologist.  Historically, for me, when that doctor walks through the door, the word out of his/her mouth will generally be "suspicious."  Oh, how I hate that word.


Yee Haw ! A good report ! "Nothing has changed. " With my mammogram behind me, I do a little click of the heels, go to the coffee shop and buy a latte. I focus on the present and enjoy the colors of my day as I walk to another section of the clinic for more tests and an exam.


This is Kathleen. Another registration. Another smiling face. I am focusing on eyes and names and smiles today. I am focusing on smiling back.


These words are part of my life. They do not scare me. I had cancer. Cancer did not have me.


Donnie has been scheduling my appointments for 12 years. It's reassuring to hear a familiar voice like Donnie's.


These are faces that make this day's journey easier. If you focus on their eyes and their smiles, you find a gentleness there. An understanding.


Another sign along the way. Thank Goodness for the people behind this sign and down this hallway.


People like this.



This is Lisa. She's a little wary of me because I have a camera hanging around my neck. I'm not sure how many patients come for a check-up taking pictures of everything, but from her reaction, not many.  Blood pressure...good !  Temperature...normal !  I've always wanted my temp taken during a hot flash to see if I can blow the end off a thermometer.


Vampire supplies !


Decisions, decisions .  Do I tell her that my "veins roll ?" Or do I let her find out for herself? I've found if I tell the nurse before she sticks me, it makes her nervous. If I don't tell her, she ends up asking if I knew that my veins roll.  Yes, I know they roll. They've been rolling for years. I get 're-stuck' all the time.


Just a little stick. Obviously, I'm not too uptight over the little stick. I'm trying to take a picture of it with my left hand.


See that tube? It's supposed to be red. Filled with my blood. Like I said, "My veins roll."


Ah-Ha ! Eureka ! Found it ! I forget how many of those little vials ended up with my blood in them. I didn't pay attention because I was trying to get a good picture.


And now, a short story. I lived in Oklahoma when I was diagnosed. My oncologist was Dr. Schneitzer.  I loved that man. I trusted him with my life. He saved my life. Actually, I helped to save my own life by doing a self-exam and following up with an appointment when I found that little b-b-sized bump.  When I moved to Colorado, I continued to fly back to Oklahoma for my 3 month check-ups. He finally convinced me that there were doctors in Colorado, too.  Doctors who would take good care of me. Doctors who I would learn to love and trust. I was skeptical but decided to take the leap. Dr. Schneitzer knew what he was talking about . . .


Meet Dr. McFadden ! Yes, I love and trust her. She understands my quirky, crazy personality. Or at least she tries to. She doesn't even care that I start stripping off my clothes when I step up to the scales to weigh. Not to mention, she has taken very good care of me for 12 years. That's the good news. The sad news is that she's retiring.  I know there are other good doctors here. I just don't like the idea of having to train another one.

I am still waiting on the results for some of the tests. But I know I'm fine. I'm healthly. I'm thankful. I drove to this spot in town. Got out of the truck and soaked up my day. It was a good day.


"...mindfulness of breathing in and breathing out"  - anapanasati


Click over to ERIK, The Electronic Firefly, to see what he is doing for Breast Cancer Research.

Please let me know of your or other bloggers' efforts to raise money for any type of medical research. 


Now for my sermon ! In the length of time it took you to read this post, approximately five women were diagnosed with breast cancer. (Possibly, a man, too!)  One died ! The reason I am alive, sitting here typing this, is because I found my b-b-sized bump early. If it's time for your mammogram, schedule it. If you don't know when you should have one, or how to do self-exams, there are web-site links in all of my October posts to guide you. Our daughter-in-law's dad is a breast cancer survivor. He found a small bump and had a mammogram. He didn't wait. He is alive. If there is a lady in your life, a mom, wife, girlfriend, sister, friend...encourage her to call her doctor and ask about having a mammogram. Get my point? You can e-mail me at swampwitch06@gmail.com if you don't have time to check out the links or call a doctor. I can provide you with the resources you need.


Click on these sites for other Breast Cancer Awareness Posts. There are many wonderful comments to read.

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Day My World Changed

Mammogram Cartoon

Light at the End of My Tunnel

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Bald Is Beautiful

Mammogram: Peat and Repeat

What Cancer Cannot Do

For a little levity to add to your day, Mark sent me this GIGGLE

Thank you, Dirty Uncle Mark.


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This is one of the most wonderful posts I have ever read. I felt through you that life is such a gift and we can choose to find the beauty in everything....eyes and smiles as well as taking pictures outside of town.

I'm an RN, home health and hospice, although a SAHM right now. I haven't done a breast exam in over a year. Thanks for the reminder in such an uplifting way.

BTW, Loved the hooters application!

Okay, okay, okay!! Are you channeling my mother?!!

We get mammograms in our family at 35 since breast cancer is so prevalent. My mother (thank You, Jesus) is a 3-year survivor. I haven't had my boobies squished since Bethany was born, so I'm overdue.

Yeah, and I'm a nurse. Yeah, I know better.

You, my friend, are doing God's work. Keep it up!!!!

Oh, and totally loving my fellow RN's (Devon) little "uplifting" comment!! Hee!

Great post. I always put the little cotton gown on the wrong way. Why is there no tag?

It's about that time of year for me.
I've had those scary ones, where they call me back. They do a 2nd set of MMg's. Then they do the Ultrasound, and then the sterioptic core biopsy.
... yes... it's scary. I've been scared.

If I have to do that again... I'm calling you for a little hand holding!!!

Excellent post, and Congratulations on the good report! My mom is 21 years in remission now and doing well. Have you ever seen the Canadian commercial that goes a little something like: "So put your Breasts in my hands, let Cam do your breast exam." Marnie, do you remember it? I love that commercial. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOV3Kq6hKXI

What a wonderful post!!! We need to remember this even when it isn't October.

My veins roll too - and it is always a toss up - do you tell them BEFORE they stick you (and make them nervous) or let them figure it out as they have to dig around for the vein? Whenever I give blood - I come out bruised. HATE IT!!!!

Congratulations on your good news and thanks for helping to make everyone aware.


That has to be the most moving, informative, upbeat post I have EVER read! Thank you so much for sharing that! I'm sitting here in my Mum and Dad's lounge, looking out at the sea and hills on the West Coast of Scotland, as my daughter (23 months) puts her shoes on the wrong feet ..... with tears streaming down my face!

My Dad had a tumour removed from his elbow a couple of years ago, so we know all about the checks! And my sister-in-law has a masectomy ('scuse spelling) last year. Congrats on a clear mammogram!

Oh ... and I have a needle phobia, so am blown away that you could take such amazingly clear photos!

Hugs, Susan <><

You made me giggle and cry all in the same post.

Breast Cancer is a huge part of my life for unfortunate reasons. I am so happy to have found you. You make it so much easier to deal with.

I am so grateful that you are posting stories like this. It makes me feel so much better about things. (I fear I will get it) You make self-checking fun and mammographies a party...I appreciate your humor and your honesty.

The entore world is lucky to have you!!!!


DEVON: I am so glad you "followed" my intent with this post and that you enjoyed it in an "uplifting" way." The Hooter application was just too funny while I was sitting there in that silly gown. I kept thinking Carrot Top might come through the door and say, "Next !"

STEPHANIE: Your mom is an SOS ! Sister of Survival ! Give her a hug from me, first, then go schedule that mammogram.

MIST1: I think the next time I go, I'll take a black magic marker and label all of them. The only problem is that some docs want it open in the back and others in the front. I just tie it around my neck and spin it like a cape.

PAMELAJAMELA: You can call me ANYTIME. I have held a lot of hands, believe me. I've had that sterioptic core biopsy, too. Thank goodness I didn't have to have one this time. It would have been difficult to photograph that one.

MARK: Your mom is an SOS, too...Sister of Survival ! Give her a hug from the Swampwitch. Bet that'll be a first. Love the video. I added it to my post.

KARMYNR: Yes, every month should be Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Rockin' and Rollin' veins...this is the first time my arm isn't bruised from wrist to shoulder. Yippee!

NESSA: Thank you. I enjoyed doing this post knowing that it might save one life.

SUSANS: Thanks for the visit. Be sure to come back again. AH-h-h! Scotland ! We've never been there. So glad your dad is fine. Give him a hug for me. Tell your sister-in-law she has an SOS in Colorado. Sister of Survival. Hug her for me. Next time you have needle phobia, just picture me trying to focus on my arm with the nurse telling me to be still so she can "stick" me.

JANETaka:WONDERMOM: Instead of fearing that you'll get it, try to focus on being mindful of the present. You don't have it now, and worry won't keep you from having it. I hope reading this post will ease your fears.


What an outstanding post. This should be read by everyone, everywhere. I am so blessed to know you through your glob. :)

That giggle from Mark was hilarious! And Carrot Top's Hooters thingy, too funny!

I have been really bad about doing self exams... thanks for talking about this! I have to remember that I'm not Super Woman. :O)

I loved todays post Mom!! I was very very glad to get such a WONDERFUL birthday present and know the check-up was clear!!

Superb post, my dear friend!!
I admire you courage and good works you do! We all must take up our stance against this horrible affliction and work together to support those who are striving to rid us of this curse!
Be greatly blessed and if I can support you in any way, please scoot over to my blog and email me as to how I can do this!

PS now I know where I get rolly veins from!!

BRIAN: Thank you, and I am lucky to know you through your writing and photography. Just be sure to mention mammograms to the ladies in your world.

MARY(MERT): GGG: Glad to Give a Giggle !

SWAMPSPAWN: Yup! I thought it was a pretty good birthday present too. Not only the rolly veins, but the good looks, and intelligence come from my side of the family, too. TEE-HEE-HEE!

ERIK: Thank You! I have e-mailed !

Great post mom, one of the best! I'm so thankful for your wonderful news. I always get nervous when I know it's been about a year. You're good at moving them around so it throws me off. Thanks for being so brave and strong! Love you!

That was a beautiful, beautiful post. I hope that everyone that reads this goes home and does that self-exam, because they are so important.

Congratulations to you on a great mammogram. I myself have never had one although I am only 27 and have no history in my family so it has never been suggested that I get one.

Your survival story is very moving and thank you for sharing your story with us.

I am so happy that I found your blog through blogging chicks. That was an amazing post and you are an amazing woman.

What an inspiring post. I love that you took all those photos during your visit...cracks me up!

I remember my first mammogram - and the scary thoughts I was having, while sitting alone in that little room. Hearing the word "suspicious" almost made me black out - but I didn't fall apart. I wanted to, but I tried hard to focus. Thankfully, it was nothing...

Thanks for the wake-up call, and the insistence that we do what we KNOW we need to do. You are a good egg!

You're so pretty, Swampy ;) And this was a great post!

But, I've gotta know where you got the cute gloves! They're great!

Did you notice that I put exclamation points at the end of every sentence?! Overkill?!

WICKEDWITCH: That name so doesn't fit you but it makes me giggle everytime I see it in the comments. About the only thing that even comes close to you ever being wicked was when you would line up your dolls and stuffed animals and whack them with the yardstick. Keeping you "thrown off" is one of my jobs. I do it well, don't you think?

RACHEL: Thank you. The self-exams are important, and you have many years to go before you will probably need to schedule a mammogram.

AMANDA: I'm glad you found me, too. Amanda is my youngest daughter's first name. It's one of my favorites. I noticed you are a list-maker. Go to my October Archives on about the 22nd - 24th. You will giggle.

TIGGERLANE: May I suggest the next time you go, take a friend to sit in that little room with you. Or a friend that is in the waiting room close by. That wait can seem like and eternity. Very seldom do I not have to have extra 'pictures' taken, so I get to wait twice. Sometimes I'm a rotten little egg...most of the time a good one, though.

SUSANinVA! One ! Can ! Never ! Use ! Too ! Many ! Exclamation ! Marks ! Thanks for the compliment. I call those my Dr. Seuss gloves. They are fleece and I ! Love ! Them ! My sister-in-law gave them to me years ago. I can't believe I still have both of them.

Wow, no one can top your number of photos! Great photos too! Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

And what beautiful scenery you have on your ride (the one down the road).

Congratulations on your good checkup!

One more comment... about the rolling veins. I always appreciate it when a patient tells me if they have them. I do the draw in a little different way, using a finger to try to stabilize the area. That way I usually only have to stick them once!

Kathy, I feel honored to know you. You are doing a really good thing here... sharing information, your experiences.. a really good thing.

I'm on the fence about something. I really want to do the Weekend to End Breast Cancer.


I gotta say that walking 60 kilometers (38 miles) in one weekend scares the beejesus outta me. Committing to raising $2,000 scares me too. But breast cancer scares me more.

I think I am going to click that "register now" button. I think you've inspired me once again.

Hi! That was a truly amazing post--absolutely beautiful. The photos were fabulous. What you are doing is so important for other women. Thank you! Congrats on being a survivor, even though "congrats" doesn't feel like the right thing to say.

MOMto3CUBS: That was about half of the photos. I had to make myself stop uploading them, but I had so much to say. I always try to not take my trip into town and home again for granted. It is beautiful.

DEVON: I always tell the nurse about my veins. Even though some tell me it makes them nervous. Usually, it only takes one stick, but once this young man just couldn't do it. After the fourth poke, he gave up and was in tears.

MARNIE: You Go Girl ! I checked out the site and only wish I could do it with you. Go click that 'register now' button !

LINDSEY: Thanks for the visit. Be sure to come back again. Congrats is just fine. Thank you.

Congratulations!! My sister has just had her 5 month check.... all is clear! I appreciate you sharing your check-up with us. It's so important to be continually aware of breast cancer year around... not just October!

Here's to you... and a lifetime of cancer-free check-ups!!

wow, the pictures are awesome! you live in a gorgous place. How can you NOT have a horse to ride out there in all that beautiful country?

This is such a good post, your best by far! Very inspiring...and I am not easily inspired. I am scheduled for my mammy in April...not excitied about it but Ill be there to get squished.

I have to say it, Swampy you rock more than Hansman!

I agree, one of the most poignant posts I have read...

Going to do a self exam now...

JODI: Here's to your sister. SOS! :) And, thank you.

BARNGODDESS: I don't think the neighbors would go for us having horses in the yard, although, we have been known to herd in some Longhorns, occasionally. Glad you have your mammy scheduled. theHansMans rocks more than I...

AMYW: Thanks for the visit. Glad you were inspired.

Thank goodness you found that lump early. A friend of mine was diagnosed with Breast Cancer last year and your story gives me hope that she will be ok.

Waht a great post.


You put a lot of work into this post to get a simple message across. You inspire us all. I am glad to know you are a survivor. As in all of life, we don't know why some make it and some don't, but in my belief system, the Creator gives us what we can handle, then allows us to teach others from what we've learned. Great job.

Leave it to Susan in Va to comment on what I was gonna comment on...THE GLOVES! Me likey those Suessable gloves! They warrant an exclamation point :).

But seriously, you're a true, blue blogomaniac if ever I saw one...YOU ARE SOOO BRAVE TO TAKE PICTURES OF ROLLING VEINS AND BLOOD AND TORTURE DEVICES THAT SAVE LIVES!!! Gotta love your quirks, they make you lovable, Swampster.

And I THINK I told you cancer has touched my life again and again and again--I lost my maternal grandmother to it, my own mother, and my sister is an 8 year survivor--WAHHOOOO! Why I think I'll send her a link to this page. She'd be grateful for how you're spreading the word :). Me, too!

thank you for that beautiful post. and congratulations on another year of healthiness.

Thought you would appreciate that I read your post today and am glad you are healthy. Your pictures of the winter in Colorado would make someone think that you are in Heaven.
Your Guardian Angel

SALLY: Please keep me updated on your friend and give her a hug for me. ((Friend))

SPADOMAN: Thanks for the comment and especially for the e-mail. I appreciate it.

ROBIN: I have looked everywhere for another pair of the Seuss-a-licious gloves. If I ever find them, I'll all they have and mail you and Susan a pair. I am so sorry about your losses. Please give your sister a hug from your favorite witch. ((SOS))

LAURIE: Thank you. Every day is a blessing and I try not to take any of them for granted.

HANSMAN: Thanks for stopping by today. Those pics are ready to post this week.
((Guardian Angel))

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