By Thomas Sellers Jr.
From domestic situations to unexpected emergencies, Millington Police Department dispatcher Ana Swanson is no stranger to life-changing moments.
But her personal world took an 180-degree turn earlier this year when doctors detected a lump in her breast. Swanson, 61, had a new challenge in her life.
“I found out March 4 I was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma,” she said. “It’s not spreadable in my case. They did the biopsy and they did a lumpectomy. I had 23 days of radiation and now they have me on medication.
“I’m trying to work through the ups and downs, the hot flashes,” Swanson continued. “I’ll be taking that for the next 5 years. I won’t know until Oct. 11 where I’m at really because they just got done with all of that. I’m newly in this fight.”
The mother of Chris Alexander and Ian Swanson had moments of disbelief after her diagnosis. When she underwent surgery in April, the California native was still trying to find inspirations and purposes to endure the fight.
“It was real tough,” she acknowledged. “It still is. I still have my days where it is hard to believe. I just want to sit and cry. Staying at work and coming to work makes me not think so much about that. I have sisters and cousins.
“My niece (Lisa Lee) just found out she has cancer,” Swanson continued. “She’s in California. So all my stuff I put aside and started thinking, caring about her. I just have to move on.”
Her sons, family in California and MPD colleagues became the reason for this woman with a Puerto Rican heritage to fight.
“It was after I had my surgery and my sister was here,” Swanson recalled, “sitting at home in my room crying to myself, I was telling myself, ‘What are you going to do? What about your kids, grandkids, your family?’
“Just the feeling of I can’t give up,” she declared. “I have to fight for them. The department, the girls and people I work with in dispatch have really, really helped me a lot. It takes a team in this fight. I have a bunch of friends there.”
Swanson’s support system is filled with friends who have survived the disease like Karen Craig. Craig’s battle began in 2012 with her diagnosis.
“Karen and I have been friends for years, even before we started working here,” Swanson said. “When she found out, it was devastating to me knowing my best friend had cancer. She confided in me. We confided in each other. I have good friends and good support around her. She’s one of the ones, we stick together. When I got my diagnosis, she was the first one I went to.”
The first ones to come to Swanson were the staff at the West Clinic.
“I’m going to fight like a girl,” she declared. “I go to West Clinic. I have the best doctors. The doctors and nurses call me often to make sure that I am OK. They check on me every week. Somebody from there is calling me. It is a great place. It is one of the best cancer centers.”
The team at the West Clinic, Millington community, MPD and family have helped Swanson process her life-changing moment.
“When you find out at first, it’s ‘Why me?’” she acknowledged. “I was telling my sister I wish I could reach in there and take it out and declare that I am OK. I’ll be OK. I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally OK. I’m going to fight it. I have to be strong. I’ve got to be able to keep control of me. It’s not all about me. It’s about my friends, the people I love to. Spend time with them because you’re not promised tomorrow.”
Today is another step in Swanson’s journey. On Oct. 11 Swanson returned to the doctors for a test that will determine her progress. She will share her results Saturday with the Pinky Promise for Breast Cancer benefiting Ana Swanson and Cindy Trejo. The event will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Babs Place located at 2791 Wilkinsville Road in Millington. The event will feature No-xit/Bonafide Band and karaoke at 8 p.m. There will be barbecue plates, a cake auction, raffle, a 50/50 drawing and an auction. All donations for the auction and raffle will be taken. For more information, call (901) 835-3609.
“Don’t put yourself in a box,” Swanson concluded. “Open up to people. Open up to your family, friends, somebody. Talk to them and let them know how you are feeling. Cry if you have to cry. I still cry. Sometimes I get in the shower, I don’t want people to see me doing it, but I’m doing it. It’s an emotional journey because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.”