New Beginnings


First, let me say that I am thrilled to have been accepted into the nursing program.  It has been a long time coming for me.  I first applied to the program in 2000 and was accepted.

When I received my letter, I was beyond excited, however, I had two small children at home, I was a single mom working nights to be with the kids during the day.  I was recovering from treatment for ovarian cancer and I passed on the opportunity.  At the time, I had numerous credits that would have transferred.  I had no idea that child care was available on campus and my goal seemed temporarily out of reach.

I had developed a passion for expectant moms and birthing women prior to the birth of my own daughter.  My own pregnancy greatly heightened this passion and I began completing trainings to become a doula, a monitrice and then a lay-support midwife.  I read voraciously and felt like I couldn’t get enough.  I became a legislative advocate for the rights of women and for breastfeeding, both public and private.  I felt like brining my own child into the world had rebirthed me, had given me a cause to have a voice, and had made me love and appreciate my body in ways that I never had before.

At the time, I owned a restaurant and coffeehouse in Bowling Green, Ohio which my husband and I sold in 1997 after the birth of our son to move to Ithaca.  Once in town I aspired to become active in the birth community, but my husband and I separated within 6 months, I went to live with the kids and a family whom I barely knew with no car, no job, no money, and very little self-esteem left.  Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

During and after treatment, I was amazed at the work of some of the nurses in surgery and oncology.  I knew who would be kind, who would laugh at my discomfort-inspired jokes, and who just wanted to knock out their hours.  I could tell who was there because they loved people and loved nursing, and who was there for a job.  The nurses who were filled with compassion, kindness, and caring in the face of a difficult job kept the flame on nursing alive in me.

Years later, after a subsequent diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, a catastrophic spinal injury and myriad late effects; my kids are now teenagers and I am moving toward my dreams and goals of working as a nurse.  In the past 15 years, I have become a staunch patient and legislative advocate.  I have a passion for the young adult (AYA) cancer community and speak nationally and internationally about the special needs of AYA’s living with a cancer diagnosis.  I wish to develop the skills needed to be able to continue to serve my community in the most effective way possible.  I think that as a nurse, I have more to contribute to changing the conversation around cancer, cancer research, legislative policy, and community as well as global health.  I look forward to taking time to go abroad and work with populations who are disadvantaged due to lack of knowledge, lack access to appropriate health care/diagnosis/treatment/medications, cultural norms which prevent care and place an unbearable burden of stigma on individuals and families who are ill.  In my role as a nurse, I wish to serve and I look forward to the opportunities and the challenges which lie ahead and the recognition of self which changes and grows with every new challenge.  I am honored and humbled to be a part of the nursing community.

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”
Plato, The Republic

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About Heather Swift

Heather “Swifty” Swift has been Kicking mAss since 1998. At 28 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a recently single mom with two small babies on her hip. After completing treatment with the thought that cancer was in her rear view mirror she worked, locally, as a volunteer for Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance doing community outreach to be certain that no one faced cancer alone. In 2005, she had a secondary diagnosis of breast cancer and tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation, which only amped up her commitment to creating positive change and to becoming a strong and effective advocate for the young adult cancer community. Now, at age 42, Swifty, her partner, Brian, and her two teenage children work together locally, nationally and internationally to advocate for change. Swifty regularly meets with legislators to work towards tangible change in health care, legislation that addresses the needs of cancer patients, care-partners, and families. She works directly with clinicians, medical/nursing students, youth & college students, cancer support organizations and others to educate them about the special needs of young adults living with a cancer diagnosis. Swifty is passionate about providing support by connecting people living with cancer to resources, to other cancer survivors, and to mobilizing and training individuals and groups to find their inner advocate. Swifty currently works with a number of amazing, hand-selected organizations, which provide her with opportunities to educate, to advocate, and to change the conversation about cancer and to work to bring an end to the disease. A few include: LiveSTRONG, mAss Kickers, Imerman Angels, National Breast Cancer Coalition, Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Dusty Showers & The Second Basemen, and Stupid Cancer. Swifty is an oncology nursing student in upstate New York, loves time with her family, paddling sports, and peanut butter. She is a Virgo, but not the really anal-retentive type. Her strange fascination with superheroes makes her popular in geek circles, but it can be endearing. Swifty will be riding a llama across Oregon in July of 2012 and really does believe we can achieve and end to cancer and in world peace. Motto: Never Give Up! Favorite quote: “Our own life has to be our message.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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