Susan S. Swanson
"I believe that I am my best advocate and to do that I need to be educated. Understanding what's happening in breast cancer research is important to me." -Susan Swanson
Susan was first diagnosed with stage I breast cancer when she was 48. Susan’s intuition that something wasn’t quite right lead her to push her doctors for testing beyond her routine mammogram, which lead to the discovery of her ER/PR positive tumor. Two years later, after more insistence from Susan for more testing, she learned her cancer had metastasized to her skin and her spine. She and her husband had just sold the Connecticut home where they’d lived in for 20 years for a planned move to Paoli, Pennsylvania, and her three kids were about to graduate from high school and college. Susan was not prepared to take her metastatic diagnosis sitting still, so she approached this the way she had other obstacles life had thrown at her: knowledge. She began researching available clinical trials, and decided to move her care to Dana Farber, where she was fortunate to be placed in a phase 1 trial that would shape how she handled living with metastataic breast cancer moving forward.
Successfully navigating the world of clinical trials was a complicated puzzle Susan became determined to figure out. She would come to view her treatment decisions as an unlikely game of chess. For Susan, having the ability to look two or three moves in the future meant she was less likely to be shut out of other clinical trials or drugs that promised to be ‘the next best thing’.
Like so many people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Susan found herself needing to supplement the support of her family and friends with a community of people who could empathize and understand her feelings and concerns surrounding her diagnosis. The metastatic community led Susan to Living Beyond Breast Cancer online, where she found she was especially impressed by the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Fund and the Cis B. Golder Quality of Life grant. A friend, Stephanie Lawrence, suggested Susan meet with Jean Sachs, and they decided that becoming a Helpline would be a good fit. Susan felt strongly about being available to share her wisdom and experience by connecting with women with similar diagnoses who were looking for guidance as she once was. Since then, Susan has been using her vast knowledge of pharmaceutical companies and their practices to connect Jean with companies whose mission statements match with LBBC.
Now 55, Susan and her husband have lived happily in Paoli for the last five years with their dog, Sophie. All out of college, her children have successful careers and are thriving adults. Susan stays active by walking, attending barre classes, and managing renovations on her home. When she needs to re-center, Susan escapes to her beach house in Sea Girt, NJ, or back to Connecticut. Both locales offer her comforting respite, and are filled with supportive friends. Her drive to research and learn has never quieted, and she remains connected to the cancer community by attending conferences, continuing her research, and volunteering.