Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I want to share with you some critical information that could absolutely save your life, or that of someone you love. This post is written with the ladies in mind, but if there are any gentlemen here, I would also urge you to read on. I promise I won’t be too graphic.
This is my Mama. Isn’t she beautiful? I want to tell you a story about my Mama and what a rare form of breast cancer did to our family.
October 2008, was last the full month of what I consider healthy bliss for my family. In November, on Election Day actually, my mother sustained what she thought was a minor injury to her breast. The swelling and soreness persisted, so after a couple of weeks passed, she went to her OBGYN to have it checked out. This doctor is a wonderful man and an excellent practitioner. He determined that it must be an insect bite of some sort, prescribed her with an antibiotic cream and sent her home. Another few weeks passed and there was still no improvement, so she went back to her doctor who then referred her to a breast specialist.
Mama made an appointment with the specialist at their earliest availability, which was another three or four weeks out. When the day finally arrived for Mama’s appointment, the specialist immediately recognized the redness and inflammation as a red flag and ordered a biopsy and mammogram. Mind you, my mother never missed an annual mammogram from the day she turned 40. Never once! She never had even a hint of cancerous tissue in her results. Of course, she had to wait again for an available appointment for the biopsy and mammogram and then about a week after that for results.
The biopsy confirmed that my mother’s body had been invaded by a deadly, aggressive cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The results came on a Friday, February 20, 2009, to be exact. I remember because my mother was scheduled to fly to Colorado that day to visit my daughter and me for our birthdays coming up. The breast specialist had already forwarded the biopsy results to the oncologist across the hall from her office and the oncologist’s office called my mother to schedule an immediate appointment, rather than wait for her to call them. The appointment was made for Monday morning and our birthday reunion was cancelled. Instead, my daughter and I packed up and headed to TX to help and pray and love. Thank God for the blessing of homeschooling in our lives; without it, I would have been considered a criminal because I would have been forced to un-enroll our daughter for this long fight. There would have been nothing to think about, that’s how important family is.
Ladies, Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a killer. It is silent as it manifests in your body, then it presents unlike any other breast cancer. It confounds even the best of doctors because it is extremely rare, but you must know that it is also extremely aggressive. These cancer cells work to block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast causing redness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the breast. It progresses extremely rapidly often in only a matter of a few weeks. At the earliest signs of IBC, the patient is usually already in stage III or IV of cancer progression depending only upon whether the cancer has spread only to nearby lymph nodes, or to other tissues as well. Generally speaking, it is unheard of to diagnose IBC in the early stages. We MUST be diligent and attentive at all times and know our bodies well.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer is difficult to diagnose as there is often no lump associated, and most women diagnosed with IBC have non-fatty (dense) breast tissue. The symptoms are also often mistaken for mastitis (an infection of the breast), or bruising due to an injury or insect bite. Another tell-tale symptom is that the skin on the breast often appears to be dimpled or pitted as the skin of an orange. It is imperative that you all take a few moments to learn about this silent killer; for your sake, as well as for the sake of your sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts……………. IBC is not discretionary, it targets women of all ages including the very young. Girls as young as 14 years old have been taken by this killer. (Note that men, too, can be diagnosed with IBC but it is exceptionally unusual)
My mother was treated with a multimodal approach which included several rounds of chemotherapy, a radical bi-lateral mastectomy, and multiple rounds of radiation therapy. She suffered much during this time. In August of 2009, her PET Scan showed no visible cancer in her body. We were elated, she had beaten the odds; or so we thought.
On Friday, February 19, 2010; we were dealt the devastating news that the cancer had returned. It had re-manifest itself in Mama’s lungs, filling them with fluid making it incredibly painful for her to breathe. A new PET Scan showed that the cancer had also metastasized into her hips, legs, and other areas. The doctors didn’t seem as urgent this time around as before so we believed that they had a good handle on the situation. However, at this point, Mama just got sicker and sicker. She spent weeks in the hospital, required multiple blood transfusions, underwent additional rounds of chemo and nothing helped. On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, two years, two months, seven days, and many many painful treatments and days of misery later; my beautiful mother left us to go home with her Lord to eternity. She was only 60 years old. I miss her every day and I thank God for the time that I had with her, but I don’t want any of you to go through what my family had to endure.
Please, just be aware that IBC exists, share this with everyone you love and urge them to do the same. We need to know our enemies, and in some cases, we need to educate our physicians. The sooner we can recognize this killer, the better our chances of surviving will be.
You can find additional information on Inflammatory Breast Cancer at the following links, please be informed and God bless you and your family.