The Back Story on Back in the Swing®

By Barbara C. Unell, author and founder, Back in the Swing

Everyone has a story about a moment in time that changed the course of her life. Indeed, the story of Back in the Swing USA began with one of those moments.

“As a leader of a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center, I have enthusiastically supported and facilitated the development of clinical cancer survivorship care. This book is an essential, evidence-based compilation of what it means to provide that kind of comprehensive survivorship care—up-to-date information, support, and empowerment—that everyone deserves and needs for optimum health and well-being.”

—Roy Jensen, MD, Vice Chancellor and Director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center

It was a hot Wednesday afternoon in August 1998 when I finished my last radiation treatment for breast cancer. I just naturally assumed that I would get the follow-up care at my cancer center clinic to “put me back together again”.
I thought that the clinic would provide that care or direct me to those who do, as would a doctor after you get your leg set when it’s broken. Routine stuff to get me “back in the swing,” as I put it, and help me recover from the side-effects of the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. I also just assumed that the personalized medical care that I was getting would continue in some sort of “after-care” post-treatment plan, giving me the prescriptions that I needed to prevent or end the physical side-effects, such as: damage to my heart, fatigue and joint pain from chemotherapy; hot flashes and dry skin from medication; skin damage from radiation; lymphedema from surgery; weakening of my immune system; and bone density loss from all of the above, just to name a few.
Again, these routine side-effects were known as the “normal,” predictable aftermath of the experience, based on my particular primary cancer treatment. But instead of giving me a plan to put me “back in the swing”, my cancer clinic gave me my “walking papers”. “Come back in three months for a follow-up visit and scans,” I was told when I had finished my last treatment.

“So what do I do on, well, tonight, or tomorrow, or next Thursday?” I innocently asked. “And how about Friday and Saturday, and the rest of every week until then? How do I improve and protect my health and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence . . . how do I get back in the swing?”

A dream comes true.

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Along with a team of passionate, fun-loving, dedicated volunteers, I founded the grassroots, nonprofit organization Back in the Swing USA® in 2000 to fill the void in patients having access to personalized, comprehensive clinical breast cancer survivorship health care, education, and medical research.

Our name is our mission.

Back in the Swing points consumers and their physicians to the one universal reason that every person with a diagnosis of cancer chooses to get treatment, why she goes to the doctor, and why she suffers the surgeries and insults to her mind and her body: To get back in the swing of life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for the rest of her life.

The role of The Back in the Swing Cookbook promotes this mission of supporting breast cancer survivors from the vantage point of the whole patient and the complex nature of factors associated with a diagnosis and the treatment of breast cancer, along with the other unique factors to each breast cancer survivor.  “Back in the swing of life” is where everyone wants to be the moment after she is diagnosed…and every day thereafter.