I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer 5 years ago. Running saved my life . . . .
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) doesn't usually present itself in the same way as other breast cancers. IBC grows in a sheet, not a mass like most other breast cancer and because of that is much harder to detect through mammography - it is usually found in later in the staging process - and has a much worse survival rate. According to data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, for women who were diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer between 1988 and 2001, the 5-year relative survival rate was about 40%. This compares with about 87% for all breast cancers combined. For more information on Inflammatory Breast Cancer visit IBC Research foundation.
So here is my story
I had my annual mammogram in May with nothing unusual identified, and my cancer diagnosis happened four months later in Sept. It still amazes me how fast this whole thing happened.
I woke up on July 30, 2004 and went to put my sports bra on for my morning run. As I was pulling it over my head (don't you just hate how tight those things are) I noticed that my right breast was swollen and slightly warm to the touch. When I got to work - I immediately called my Dr. and got in to see her that day. Both she and I thought that it was an infection and I was given 2 weeks of antibiotics. While my breast got slightly better it did not resolve itself and was put on a 2nd batch of antibiotics. I went back to the Dr and had a biopsy performed on the Friday before Labor Day. I received the diagnosis from the Dr. on the following Wednesday, Sept 8 and started chemo on the following Thursday Sept, 16, 2004.
My treatment involved:
- 4 doses of Adriamycin / Cytoxan - every two weeks - side effect: nausea
- Surgery - right side mastectomy - the cancer that was removed was 12 cm - which, even though it has been 5 years, still astonishes me. I find it hard to believe that I had a mammogram in May and this didn't show up - but that is the sneaky thing about IBC - since it grows in sheets, it is much more difficult to find. I also had lymph nodes removed during the mastectomy - 13 were taken out with 6 of them containing cancer.
- 4 doses of Taxotere - every three weeks - side effect: blister type burns on feet, hands and inside of my mouth
- Had a port surgically implanted in my chest - to make the weekly injections easier to handle
- 28 Radiation sessions
- Weekly chemo drug called Herceptin for 1 year
From start to finish - 16 months of treatment.
I am so thankful that I noticed my breast and took action that day in July. We were heading out of town for vacation at the end of that day - but I am so thankful that I took the time to see the Dr. that day. Who knows how much more it would have grown had I waited for any amount of time.
Cancer has made me so aware of my surroundings. That includes people and space. I try to make sure that I only do things that I want to do and are surrounded by people that I like. OK - that isn't always easy - but if I have a choice. Complainers and people who are not happy about anything drive me crazy. I am so appreciative of each and every day. I used to always think - if only I had this or that, or lost 5 lbs, or had new furniture, or ran faster or had a bigger house but now I am thankful for every day and realize that maybe . . . just maybe, this is as good as it gets, because things can change in an instance . . . Enjoy the day . . . enjoy your life . . . enjoy the moment . . . it might be the best day of your life.