Ten years ago, Barbara Unell walked out of her doctors office a “cured” woman. She had beaten breast cancer!
She went home to celebrate with her husband Bob, adult twin children, and Molly, her dog. But, a question lingered in her mind, now what? What was she supposed to do now, to address her bones, heart, skin and fatigue? The doctors and nurses helped Barbara fight her cancer. Her life had revolved around this fight. But now she was left abruptly alone to fight the side effects of her treatments, and to “put herself back together.”
It was 2002, and many of the individuals recovering from cancer were in the same position. A road map of what to do next simply did not exist.
Barbara was not to be stymied. She went “shopping” for answers. She started working with other survivors and medical professionals to find information on how to improve her life after cancer. She addressed two main areas — exercise and nutrition. She came to realize that one’s survivorship care needed to be as personalized as one’s treatment.
Along the Way
As Barbara proceeded, she realized the power of many was greater than the power of one. She organized a retail-shopping event — it was called Back in the Swing Retail Therapy. The stores in Hawthorne Shopping Center participated in the first four-day, fundraising event in 2002. It was a success.
Back in the Swing, a non-profit organization, was born to focus on creating personalized, comprehensive, medical, post-treatment care for breast cancer survivors. With the help of seven area hospitals and community support organizations, Back in the Swing was able help launch survivorship services across the city. It helped others move past cancer and back to improving and protecting their health.
Pets and Cancer
Talk to any cancer survivor who is also a pet lover and you will get an overwhelming response. Phrases such as “I couldn’t have done it without her,” “He always met me at the door when I came home,” or “She slept with me after the chemo treatments, just to make sure I would be ok.” Coming home to unconditional love keeps many cancer survivors going.
Just ask Barbara. Molly, the family’s West Highland Terrier, was always waiting for her to come home. After every treatment or doctors appointment, it was Molly’s wet kisses and licks that made Barbara smile.
Molly even became her signature icon, showing up on the website, greeting visitors with a friendly bark, and holding Back in the Swing signs.
A National Event
Back in the Swing took off. Other stores in the Kansas City area wanted to participate. Other cities wanted to participate. National sponsors stepped up. Back in the Swing Retail Therapy became a national event.
Back in the Swing has helped thousands of individuals get back into everyday life. It’s mission: “Improving and protecting your health after breast cancer through education and awareness,” has become a reality.
This year, Back in the Swing Retail Therapy will be held from October 8-14, Mon-Sun. In conjunction with the retail shopping week, Back in the Swing is pleased to announce the national launch of a new, book — The Back in the Swing Cookbook: Recipes for Eating and Living Well Every Day After Breast Cancer.
More than a cookbook, this book shares the essentials of what every breast cancer survivor needs at her fingertips every day, from recipes to research, to help take care of herself and demand the best care from her healthcare providers.
The contents are based on Back in the Swing’s first decade of supporting the movement to care for this country’s nearly 3 million breast cancer survivors, protecting and improving their health after treatment. Also included are tips on living life — including time spent with your four-legged companion.
A Cookbook Celebration!
Back in the Swing will host the “Summer Celebration” with Cheryl Crow. This event will be held on July 14, at 8 pm at the Carlsen Center at Johnson County Community College.
During this enchanted evening, you will hear the voice of Grammy award-winning artist Sheryl Crow and her personal reflections about her journey through cancer. There will also be other voices of survivors, healthcare providers and community leaders sharing their powerful messages. The new cookbook will be available for purchase at this event. Details and tickets can be found at backintheswing.org.
Pets Are Good For You!
According to the new Back in the Swing Cookbook, pets aren’t only cuddly and lovable… they are good for your heart and cancer survivorship. Cancer research suggests that visits with animals may improve patient outcomes, decrease length of hospital stay, help with confusion, depression, and manage pain symptoms.
Researcher Karen Allen and colleagues at The State of New York University, Buffalo, NY, found that pet owners have significantly lower resting blood pressure and heart rate compared to non-pet owners. The research study, published in September of 2002, in Psychosomatic Medicine, reported that individuals had the smallest increases in heart responses to stress if they had a pet in the room with them, and they recovered from stress faster. Pets were even better stress reducers than spouses!
Survivorship and living a healthy life after breast cancer is the focus of Back in the Swing. Pet parents who are fighting cancer know the difference their four-legged furry family member has made for them in this fight. If you are interested in learning more about this wonderful organization visit backintheswing.org.
A Different Sort of Cookbook
“The cookbook is an empowering, informative Survivorship Center between two covers,” said Barbara Unell. “We need the best trained professionals inside every medical practice in America who know how to seamlessly provide survivorship care. And we need to know what lifestyle choices we can make in between medical visits to improve and protect our health. Healthy living after breast cancer is not a matter of living scan-to-scan, blood test to blood test.”
According to Unell, we need to know how to change the conversation after cancer from fear-based “waiting for the other shoe to drop” to confident “being back in the swing” every day.
Proceeds from the cookbook sales will benefit Back in the Swing USA. Back in the Swing USA is the first and only national nonprofit organization exclusively providing grassroots awareness, education and fundraising on behalf of the millions of breast cancer survivors to empower them to get back in the swing of life physically, emotionally and spiritually. More information, is available at backintheswing.org
. ($29.99, Andrews McMeel Publishing, August 7, 2012).