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To Maretta House Swartz, the birth of her daughter, Ryleigh, in 2010 was a true blessing that Swartz had wanted for a long time. It may have been more of a blessing than she realized.
At 34, she was experiencing the joy of being a mother but just months after giving
birth, Swartz, an Owen County native, discovered a lump in her breast. At that time, she faced the fear of possible breast cancer.
“It seemed like forever,” she recalled of the mammogram, ultrasound and further examination at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington before getting the final confirmation and diagnosis of breast cancer.
“It was complicated even though it was still within margins, it covered a great portion of my breast,” Swartz said. “My surgeon suggested the best thing to do would be a mastectomy.”
While she didn’t have to take chemotherapy or radiation treatments, Swartz admitted she didn’t feel like she was able to do her motherly duties.
“It’s my first child and it seemed like all I did was ‘boo-hoo,’” Swartz said. “I felt like less of a mom, that I was not up to par.”
Swartz and her husband, Stamping Ground Mayor Billy Swartz, believe the pregnancy
may have actually revealed the cancer. “They found it before it spread,” she said. “The pregnancy was a good thing. That’s what my husband kept telling me. I asked God what I could have done but Billy said that maybe it was a blessing in disguise.”
Her whole family went through the cancer journey with Maretta Swartz. Her parents, Ricky and Barbara House, were familiar with it since Ricky is a colon cancer survivor, himself.
Swartz said she also found support through Relay For Life and the Owen County event. She explained that her grandmother had passed away from lung cancer and her aunts walk in her memory.
Swartz and her parents have visited the Relay For Life event to support them.
“So before, I was just there,” Swartz said of her experience with Relay. But she eventually was reunited with her former Owen County school librarian at a festival and Relay For Life information was on display.
“I told her what I’d been through and I didn’t realize she’d been through it too,” Swartz said. From that, she learned more about Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society, and the work done to fight cancer.
Relay For Life is a community-based fundraising event that helps support the American Cancer Society and its mission to save lives and create a world with more birthdays. This is done through educating people about cancer prevention and early detection to live healthier lives; providing programs and services to help cancer patients and caregivers get information and help to deal with issues they may face; conducting research into better ways to detect, prevent and treat cancer; and also by advocating for cancer patients and for more research funding and screening programs at the state and federal levels.
The Relay For Life of Owen County will be June 15, from 7 p.m.-7 a.m., at Owen County Park. Swartz said even though she lives in Scott County, she wants to go back and be part of Owen County’s event too.
“It’s home and I’m a home girl,” Swartz said.
So being a survivor, being recognized as a survivor, seeing a luminaria in her honor and in honor and memory of her loved ones, and having her family and Ryleigh by her side, will continue to give her support.
Plus she’ll be getting additional support from new friends with their connection to cancer – and hope.
“I’m excited about going,” Swartz said. “I’ll pay more attention to who’s around, talk and mingle more,” Swartz said. “Even though I am facing more surgeries down the road, I am thankful to be here. The key for a better chance to win the battle is put your faith in God’s hands, early detection and a great medical staff.”
For additional information, call the American Cancer Society at (859) 647-2911 or visit www.relayforlife.org/owenky.