Editor's Note: The American Cancer Society Relay For Life movement is the world's largest support group for survivors. Communities across the country come together every year to hold more than 5,200 Relay For Life events in celebration of those continuing to fight and those who have won. In honor of Mifflin-Juniata's 20th Annual Relay For Life, local survivors are reaching out to the community with their own stories. Jean Swartz, of Port Royal, shares her survivor story:
"At the end of 1986, we were counting our blessings. We added two new healthy sons to our family of four. Only 14 months ago we had thought the family was complete. We were so happy. And then, the next summer, while still nursing the baby, I discovered a lump in my breast. Since I was breast feeding, it was assumed that the lump was probably mastitis, but by fall, and after the baby was weaned, the lump was still there. I also started to develop a lump in the throat area.
"Now the doctors were concerned. They sent me to a surgeon who aspirated the lump in my throat. Thankfully, it was just a cyst. But when I was getting the good news, as an afterthought, I asked the surgeon to check the lump in my breast. He took one look and sent me for a biopsy Monday morning.
"It turned out that I wasn't so lucky this time. This lump was breast cancer. The oncologist told me I had third stage breast cancer. The cancer had spread to the skin under my breast and into my lymph nodes.
"I vividly remember him saying, 'You have a 40 percent chance of being alive in five years.' What a thing to hear when you have a 2-year-old and 1-year-old at home.
"Then began the year of treatments: four chemo treatments, a mastectomy and then seven weeks of radiation treatments with chemo every 21 days. It was very hard, but I had lots of help from family, friends and neighbors. I think I was on every prayer chain in the county.
"When I think back on it though, the hardest day of all was the day my hair was falling out by the handfuls. How vain!
"Now, 26 years later, I got to see our eldest sons grow-up, my third son graduate from law school, the youngest graduate from college and meet my four wonderful grandchildren. Life is a blessing. Thanks be to God."