Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IBC is not a rootbeer.

Few people know that three years ago I found a suspicious lump in my right breast. This was just a few months after Deal was born, so at first I thought it was just a nursing/hormonal thing. Something told me otherwise. I took my health into my own hands and got in to see my Ob/GYN immediately. Talk about listening to your body. A few days later the surgeon removed a lump almost the size of an egg. An egg! It had been hiding in a place my monthly self exam would have never detected. It was only after the lump grew and shifted that I felt it. That egg was heading over to pathology for a biopsy. A biopsy?! I'm too young for this, I thought. Why am I the youngest woman in the waiting room, I wondered.

I banished all dark, negative thoughts lurking in my 2:00 AM sleepless psyche and willed myself to think about something else any time my thoughts veered to thinking about Bird and Deal growing up without me. Mac Daddy and I barely spoke, lest we erupt in tears of fear and worry. The anxiety was eating us alive. Yes, I jumped the gun, but feeling a giant lump in your breast that wasn't there a week ago on top of having a newborn and a 2-year old can make a girl's mind do crazy things. Luckily, that lump was a lipoma. Just a lump. Nothing at all related to the dreadful C word. Bullet dodged.

Lesson learned: listen to your body and be your own advocate when something doesn't seem right. No one knows your body better than you do.

I came across the following post in the blogosphere. I am reposting it in its entirety. The post is written by a fellow mom of two boys. She is fearlessly fighting a form of breast cancer that I didn't even know existed until I read her post. Applaud her courage. Say a little prayer. Hug your children just a little tighter. Now take a look and pass it on. Consider it your good deed for the day.

"We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom — or old man — or anyone in between — to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

Thank you."
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Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are aware and "in tune with your body"; even more so that it was not C.

Thanks for sharing this post on IBC!!!

Anonymous said...

If I had listened to my body in my thirties, I'd probably still be a fertile myrtle. Excellent advice and great post. Thanks for sharing.

Annie said...

Thank you for posting about this issue. I recently found a lump in my breast and am in the middle of doing "tests". I am scheduled for an MRI next week. My grandma died from inflammatory breast cancer and it was so hard to see. My dad has recently been diagnosed with cancer at 56. Cancer awareness is so important and you are so wonderful for posting on this topic. Keep up the good work (blogging)! Thanks again:)