It’s rare to find someone who feels thankful for the journey to defeat breast cancer. Count Christine Swinford among the few.
The Springfield resident spent the last 10 months fighting to overcome the disease, and it’s changed her, not just physically.
“I’m a better, stronger person for having gone through it. Everybody’s journey is their own,” said Swinford, a wife and mother.
It all happened so quickly. On Dec. 10, 2018, Swinford got a call from her nurse practitioner, Ellen Spinner, informing her that she had invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 1 breast cancer that had to be dealt with immediately. That meant making choices quickly.
Spinner recommended Mercy Health Springfield Regional Cancer Center. A week before Christmas, Swinford found herself undergoing a lumpectomy performed by Dr. Pamela Bucklew-Wilder to remove the growth, followed by four rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and 21 sessions of radiation in the new year.
On Sept. 10, surrounded by family sporting “Team Tine” shirts, Swinford completed her final round of radiation and reached the ultimate goal of those treated here — ringing a bell signifying she is a cancer survivor.
It was admittedly frustrating at first, Swinford said.
After years of faithfully having mammograms, Swinford discovered a former company that moved lost her records. That gave her a convenient excuse to put off the recommended annual check-up, she said.
The time leading up to her diagnosis brought things into perspective for Swinford.
She’d suddenly lost a job of 18 years and took the first job offered to her in Cincinnati.
It was a co-worker who urged Swinford to get a checkup. The woman is a breast cancer survivor herself.
The health professionals found the cancer very early.
After the diagnosis, Swinford found further support from her supervisor, who is also a survivor and told Swinford she could work from home.
“She told me ‘you’re my pay it forward. Whatever your doctor thinks works for you,’” Swinford said.
Rather than dwell on the devastating nature of her diagnosis, she was ready to trade her emotions for a fight to live. Swinford attributes it to her being a Type A personality.
“The information is so voluminous, you can waste time trying to make sense of it, and I turned myself over to the experts and let them run it,” she said.
Being diagnosed with cancer can leave a person feeling alone, and Swinford never experienced that. Support from all sides may have been a contributing factor to her overcoming the disease.
Her husband, Brian, created a website to document and support her journey. Breast health navigator Tracy Adrian and infusion nurse Stephanie Bonomo were great supporters at the cancer center.
“I never saw her have a bad day,” Adrian said. “Never did she show negativity, and that’s unusual. A smile is what you’d get from Christine.”
It didn’t end once Swinford’s sessions ended. She said Adrian would text her on a Saturday night just to see how she was and got one from another supporter on vacation in Italy.
“It’s amazing how much a hug and a smile can mean. This is like the ‘Cheers’ of cancer centers; it’s where everybody knows your name,” Swinford said.
Swinford has beaten her cancer, but the journey continues. She will continue getting check-ups and taking medication for five years.
Now she wants to use her experience to give back. Swinford was the survivor speaker at the recent Ladies Night Out for Breast Health event and may become a mentor or support group worker.
“I told myself I was going to live. I found hope here, and I want to help others,” she said.
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