Happy Sunday and welcome to day two of the weekend, everyone! Today’s a special day. Heck, all days are special, but today is extra special since today I am welcoming Bridget Swinney-Kajzer to my blog. Not only is Bridget a great teacher and a great mom, she’s also my niece, and is battling the nastiest form of breast cancer around. It is my pleasure and honor to turn the floor over to Bridget.
My name is Bridget Swinney-Kajzer. I am 35 year-old mother, wife, and full time elementary art teacher. I lead a fairly normal life for someone my age. Balancing work, a home life with a preschooler and husband, and a social life with friends can be hectic, but I love it. The only exception is that I have been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Most people know what breast cancer is, but many are unsure what metastatic breast cancer means. Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer has no cure, which means that it is terminal. This type of cancer occurs when the cancer has left the primary spot of origin, for me my breast, and moved to other organs or bones within the body. Breast cancer typically metastasizes to the bones, liver, lungs or brain. In my case, all four areas plus my spleen and lymph.
Imagine my disbelief/shock/terror to hear about the vast extent this disease had spread throughout my body. I was happily living my life. 1½ years out from my original stage 2 diagnosis, I was feeling totally healthy and chasing my toddler around. I went to each of routine check up every 3 months with both my surgeon and oncologist, each time given a clean bill of health. I was eating clean foods, organic fruits /veggies and antibiotic free meats and dairy. I even started using all natural beauty and bath products. In my mind, I was doing everything within my power to be as cancer-free as I could be.
Then one beautiful and sunny July afternoon, I was putting my daughter down for a nap and it all came crumbling down. It is hard to explain what you experience during a seizure. I remember little after the first few moments, just that I had no control. After I awoke on the floor from the seizure, I grabbed my daughter and we ran to the neighbors where an ambulance was called and I continued to have multiple seizures. My initial diagnosis of a very aggressive form of breast cancer (HER2 Neu+) had returned in a major way. It had moved to my brain. My doctors, family, and I were hoping that I was going to be part of the 70% of women who survive breast cancer. Unfortunately, I am part of the 30% whose cancer metastasizes.
1 craniotomy, 11 brain lesion treated with radiation treatments, and 13 months of continuous chemotherapy later and I am still here! My drugs have been successful for me. I receive chemotherapy 3 out of 4 Fridays a month and continue to have stable scans. I recently received my first “clean” brain MRI. Big reasons to celebrate! I pray my stable status continues for a very long time and am so very grateful. My new mantra is that tomorrow is promised to no one, and I try not to borrow trouble by worrying about the future. I also encourage people to donate to breast cancer research. It is because of the new treatments funded by research that I am able to continue on.
Wow. Thank you so much, Bridget. You are one amazing woman and I am so lucky to have you in my family. All my love you, Ryan and Fritzie!
I have one final visit from a survivor this month. My wife Nancy will be there on Friday, October 31 to wrap up Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Until then, wishing you blue skies!