In 2003, when I was a newly divorced, single mom of three teens and fighting to keep afloat financially and emotionally, I noticed a dull ache in my right breast. Thinking nothing of it, I continued to go through my daily routines.
The ache became more intense, my breast felt hot and heavy--so I called my doctor. She examined me, said it was most likely a milk duct infection and prescribed an anti-biotic. I felt uneasy about it but followed her instructions. After 2 weeks on medication, I was in incredible pain, my breast red, swollen and I could feel a large lump. I called my doctor and was told to put heat and ice on the breast to ease pain. She scheduled a new mammogram and had me come in a week later. By then, months had passed since I first noticed the bump in my breast.
My doctor did a needle biopsy which produced NOTHING but more pain for me. The mammogram showed nothing unusual, according to my doctor. She switched the antibiotics and told me to go home. After another 2 weeks of awful pain and increased swelling---I had had enough!
I called Kaiser and told the advice nurse that I wanted to be seen in the Breast Care Clinic, not by my OBGYN. She made my appointment. I thank God for that appointment!
The nurse took one look at my records and listened to me, then, once she saw my breast, she left to call in a surgeon. He came in and took one look and scheduled me for an immediate biopsy and MRI. This all happened after almost 6 months of no one recognizing my symptoms! I had a gut feeling that I was seriously ill. I mentally prepared for the results.
The surgeon called me early the next morning with the news---I had Stage 3B inflammatory Breast cancer, a rare and lethal form of breast cancer. I knew immediately that I was in a battle for my life. I had kids to raise and a life yet to live. I had recently turned 50 years old..
Long story short: I was diagnosed in March 31, 2004---still alive January 2, 2011. God is good. The diseased breast was removed and after a year of rounds of intense chemo, radiation, loss of all dignity, hair, appetite and pride---I embraced my life. I am a warrior. I love every minute of every single day.
I embraced all surgeries, chemicals, sacrifices, medications with the knowledge that I was in a battle to live. Life is meant to live to live---not to live to die. And I do not fear death--it will be glorious!
I did go back and talk to my OBGYN and let her know that she needed to get educated about IBC. She had no clue to what she was dealing with at the time she saw my symptoms. I educate everyone who will listen. Not everything that has beauty in it is beautiful and I found beauty in cancer---I discovered my desire to experience life fully and unencumbered by petty emotions and negative toxic people. I went to the places I dreamed of going to, I laughed and acted silly whenever I wanted to. I sing, I dance, I write, I draw, I love and I love and I share my thoughts and words with those who may need a helping hand.
I am a teacher and I touch many young minds daily. I know that part of my victory is their victory---BE positive Be Kind Be the difference! Life is good, and I live it out loud!