Fighting Uterine Cancer Armed with a Smile
When you first meet Janeen Swartz, you immediately notice her vibrant personality, lively laugh and zest for life. The married, mother of four from Hilltown, has always maintained a healthy lifestyle – a combination of a positive attitude, a well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise.
“I’ve always been a happy and healthy person, so never in a million years did I think this would happen to me – that I would be diagnosed with cancer,” said Swartz.
In August 2018, Swartz was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
“I always felt very in tune with my body so more than anything else; I was upset with myself because I had no clue. I’ve never smoked, I’ve always eaten healthy, I’ve always exercised, I had four children. Why was this happening to me?” she said.
Swartz was referred to Mark S. Shahin, MD, chief of Clinical Gynecologic Oncology and director of the Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology.
The specific type of cancer Janeen was diagnosed with was stage 1B carcinosarcoma of the uterus.
“Uterine carcinosarcomas are rare tumors that account for less than five percent of all uterine malignancies,” said Dr. Shahin. “This type of tumor is associated with obesity, nulliparity (women who have never given birth), the use of exogenous estrogen and tamoxifen, and a history of exposure to pelvic radiation. Janeen really had none of these usual risk factors.”
Swartz had surgery in late August 2018 and a month later began a rigorous treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation.
“Since these tumors are highly aggressive, the initial surgery had to be very comprehensive,” said Dr. Shahin. “Following surgery, then we could offer a curative treatment by addressing local risk reduction using radiation and systematic recurrence risk reduction using chemotherapy.”
“I had my first chemo treatment on a Thursday and by the following Wednesday, I was back in my spin class. It got harder with each treatment but I still tried my best to keep myself moving,” she said.
Swartz admits that losing her hair was among one of the more difficult moments but not for reasons that people might think.
“It wasn’t so much about the hair itself. The hardest part was that it meant the secret was no longer mine,” she said. “People would look at me and ask questions and that really makes it real when you have to tell people.”
Even on her toughest days, Swartz still maintained a positive attitude. She would often walk in for her treatment sessions armed with a smile, determined to brighten the day of others, who just like her, were battling cancer.
“I remember one woman would say to me, ‘You are our sunshine every morning,’ and that made me feel good that I could be an inspiration to other people in similar circumstances.”
Now a year after her diagnosis, she remains cancer free. Swartz is happy to be in good health but also grateful for the compassion and support she received from her care team.
“People would ask me why I traveled all the way to Abington when there were other hospitals that I could have chosen. Abington provided the compassion that I needed,” she said. “Cancer is one of the worse things anyone could ever go through but with the team at Abington, I couldn’t have asked for a better care experience.”