Things I’d like to say (but my mama raised me right) by Andi Swatts


Andi SwattsQ: WOW! You’re stage 4? You look great! You must not be taking treatments.

A: Thank you, I do. YES I’m IN treatment. And, without a miraculous intervention, will be until I stop treatment for quality of life or because there is no longer an effective treatment. Not every chemo or maintenance therapy causes you to lose your hair. And yes, treatment comes in many forms, not all of them are intravenous.  There are chemo pills as well.

Q: How do you stay so positive?

A:  I stay so positive by choosing to look for the bright side because I don’t want to be miserable for the time I have left. I want to enjoy life and make great memories with the ones I’m leaving behind. Yes, I am dying. So are you. I will go when it’s my time. God’s not done with me yet, so I’m still here. Actually, I think I’ve got it a little easier.  I am free to be me and enjoy life. I’m free to say “No” to things without social pressure.

Q: No, how are you REEEAALLY feeling?

A: Yes, I really am fine. Or that’s as much as I’m comfortable saying to you, so leave it alone. Asking me how I REALLY feel after I answer you the first time is pretty much calling me a liar. We won’t get along very well after that.

And please remember, when you are accompanying your family member to an oncologist’s clinic, you aren’t going on a date. Please limit your perfume/cologne/body spray/any scented anything. I’m wearing this bracelet scented with peppermint essential oils to block your scent AND combat the nausea your overwhelming scent is causing in me. And while I’m on that subject, children under 18 don’t belong at an adult oncology clinic unless they are the patient. The waiting areas are full enough without you bringing 6 people (4 of whom are children) along with the patient and their driver.

I’m not a pink girl. I didn’t have a single article of pink clothing before my initial diagnosis in November 2007. Family and friends bought me tons of stuff! Again when I was diagnosed with metastases in October 2011. I don’t buy things with the “$1 or x% of every purchase goes to fund breast cancer awareness” because, quite frankly, I am disillusioned with “awareness”.  If you’ve gone to a GYN in your lifetime, you’ve been educated and are aware. Where is that money really going?  There is a famous name hosting races around the country. Have you checked the salaries for that or any other foundation?

What we really need is more research into metastatic disease. Thirty percent of breast cancer survivors will reach Stage IV no matter the initial stage of diagnosis. This statistic is unchanged.  Have you asked yourself why this is still happening despite the “awareness and early diagnosis”? Genetics? Environment? Food? Chemicals? Why?

About Andi: Andi was initially diagnosed ER+/PR+/HER2Neu- in November 2007. Standard neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by lumpectomy and node dissection then radiation. By tumor markers she was disease free (although afflicted with lymphadema on the affected side) until October 2011. By biopsy, she is now Triple Negative in several locations in her bones. She lives with metastatic disease, moderating her activity level, and enjoying RV trips with her family.

Project Occupy Pinktober: Throughout the month of October 2014, I am bringing guest posts from people who have been touched by metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer is not pink and fluffy; it is a killer disease. This is not about saving breasts; it’s about saving lives. Thirty percent of everyone who gets breast cancer will develop metastasis. There is no cure. The goal of treatment is merely to prolong life and reduce suffering. We deserve better. Please like and share these posts to spread the word. Thank you, Knot Telling

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8 Responses

  1. Judy says:

    I agree. Why do people think you have to “Look sick” to be sick?? What does “sick” look like? I have stage II breast cancer but I also have osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia , bad feet, etc. I’ve been “sick” for years – why should I look different because I am battling cancer?

    Keep up the positive fight

    Judy 🙂

  2. Elizabeth J. says:

    I am bothered by the “you don’t look sick” and “you look so healthy” comments, too. If they want to compliment me, say that I have a cute outfit or pretty eyes or they like my piano playing. Do we go around telling people without cancer stuff like “you don’t look sick?”

    • Judy says:

      “People” don’t know how to reply to an illness, especially something like the big C. In my mind, they are so grateful that it’s you and not them that they thinking by telling you you don’t look sick they’re lifting your spirits and you’ll forget ll about your cancer.

      I say, that’s not going to happen. Fighting cancer is like riding a unicorn – an experience you’ll never forget!!!!!

      Judy :_)

  3. Maxine D says:

    ARghhhhhhh – the noisy waiting rooms with ‘surplus’ people, who really don’t understand why they are there and are all about themselves, the perfumes – the general thoughtlessness of the human race gets to me too – and I am not ill!

    I do not/cannot wear perfumes and cannot tolerate strong scents of any kind, so I completely understand that issue.

    Having spent hours upon hours in waiting areas of late, at times under acute stress, I (to put it mildly) dislike the hangers-on that talk endlessly on needless phone calls, do not discipline or attempt to curb the behaviour of youngsters they have with them. They are a real bane/thorn in my flesh. I so hear what you are saying Andi.

    Thank you too for sharing your frustration with us about folks who do not choose to listen to what you are saying on the ‘how are you’ front – rather they want to voyeuristically probe to know that you really aren’t all right and that they were correct all along.

    Thank you for sharing – just maybe someone will learn from this post and be more sensitive towards those battling cancer (of any kind)

    Blessings and prayers

  4. Kathi says:

    Thank you for telling it like it is.

  5. shelly cheng says:

    Love you Andi! Thank you for sharing your life, struggles, hopes and opinions. You are who I go to for education about this because I haven’t experienced this in our family so this helps to educate me. I’m hoping to share your story so others can be educated and make wise choices and words. God’s blessings to you and your family!

  6. Tracy says:

    Well said and all too true. I wish some of the people around me who spend their time complaining and moaning about nothing at all would wake up and realise just how previous life is.

  7. Barbara says:

    Andi, thank you for saying the things other are too afraid to say. I had a very dear friend that lost her battle with breast cancer 9 years ago and I have never believed that enough of the so called ” donations” go toward research. If they did woman like you would be healed !! May God have his hand upon you and your family, stay strong, I admire you and your courage and pray for you and lift you and your family up to the Lord.

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