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Sarasota Thursday, May. 20, 2010 7 years ago

Positive outlook

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Sara Switzer sat clutching a small blue Sesame Street mirror while her friend, Raimi Rose, ran a pair of hair clippers over her brown locks. For a moment, she laughed at her new hairstyle: a mullet and bangs. A few minutes later, when every hair on her head had been trimmed to a quarter-inch, reality set in.

Switzer, 23, underwent her fourth chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma (formerly known as Hodgkin’s disease) — a cancer of the lymph tissue typically found in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver and bone marrow — this week.

“Britney Spears shaving her head is the thing I thought about the whole time,” Switzer said. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Why would you do that when you have a perfectly good head of hair?’”

In February, Switzer noticed a large mass in her neck. She saw her doctor the next day, and for two weeks, she underwent bone-marrow biopsies, the removal of one lymph node and CT, PET and MUGA scans. The results revealed Switzer had stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“The first phase was shock,” Switzer said. “I was perfectly healthy, had just graduated college and had my dream job. I didn’t know why I had to go through this.”

She receives four drugs through IVs, which require sitting for four hours, and a daily shot to boost her white blood-cell count.

Today, Switzer sports a new brunette wig. The soft curls mirror the same long hairstyle she had when she graduated in 2008 from Indiana State University.

“It was really hard to go home and look in the mirror the first day,” she said. “I had all my stuff on the counter, my curling iron and everything. But with this wig, you can wash, straighten and curl. I just dunk it in Dove soap. I’ve had to learn a lot about wigs and wraps and what to do. I even went to a ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ class through the American Cancer Society. They taught me little things to wear under wigs so they aren’t so itchy. I really had no clue.”

And Switzer also has support at home. Last weekend, 25 of her friends and family traveled to Tampa for the “Miles for Moffitt” walk and run. They all wore matching lime-green T-shirts that read: “I’m a Sara Supporter.”

“I didn’t expect to run the whole mile at all,” Switzer said. “When I crossed that finish line, I felt so relieved and so happy.”

With eight chemo treatments left and a cure rate of at least 90%, Switzer is living day-to-day, while working as an interior designer with The Schimberg Group.

“The way I see it is I can’t give up what I’m doing,” she says. “I have eight more (treatments) to go, and then I’ll move on.”

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].

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