One of the first things I did when a doctor said “Maybe” with “Inflammatory Breast Cancer” was to get on-line and start reading. When I didn’t know for sure, Jeremy would get mad at me….”get off the computer,” he would say. But I read enough to be pretty scared. IBC is not a good cancer to have and it is too late, too often, too quickly. Here is the scary part. If you look up IBC and blogging you will read over and over again about young moms who were either pregnant or breastfeeding and thought they had a plugged duct or mastitis (breast infection) and ignored it or thought it would go away. Most women diagnosed with IBC will either be pregnant, breastfeeding or in menopause. And women who get breast cancer before the age of 40 are most often diagnosed with a more aggressive kind. When I say too late I mean 6 months can be too late. I read over and over again MY story on other blogs….”I was nursing my baby and thought I had a plugged duct…..breast was swollen….breast was hot…” The words haunt me!
When I started to notice my symptoms I looked on LLL, Dr. Sears and Kellymom. I would type in “mastitis” or “plugged duct.” Not once did it alert me that I could have cancer. I don’t remember ever seeing….if a plugged duct or an infection lasts longer than two weeks….it might not be mastitis and other things can cause this. Even if they had said there were other things that could cause this…..without alarming women….it would have been helpful to me. I am thankful that I’m not a timid woman and after a few months I decided it was time for help. I never once thought “cancer.” I finally told my ob/gyn receptionists if they couldn’t see me that day then I would go to ER. They saw me that day. And when my doctor looked at it I am thankful she recognized it as IBC immediately. She saved my life and I am forever grateful.
If you hear anything I say….do not put off getting help if you have something that isn’t right. We moms get through days with a lot of aches and pains. We take care of everyone in the family first. Well ladies….if something is swollen, if something is red, if something has a lump, if something hurts, if the skin feels wierd, has a rash, has pits in it, feels hardened, has a bruise, looks like a bug bite….whatever…..do not let it go for more than a few weeks without seeking help. And if a doctor doesn’t listen to you go somewhere else. I have learned that your health belongs to you and you shouldn’t worry about hurting someone’s feeling when it comes to second opinions.
Here is a great site I was introduced to by another blogger. It’s called worldwide breast cancer and you can learn some symptoms to look for. Even though we’ve come a long way in fighting breast cancer, one thing we did that wasn’t good is tell women to check for only lumps….like it was the only symptom. It’s not, although it is probably the most common. So check out them lemons….lol!
I recently read the Lance Armstrong book again…..I read it five years ago….but now read it with a defferent perspective. He was lucky. He put off getting a painful testicle checked until it was the size of an orange. By then he was coughing up blood. He let it go for something like 6-8 months and by the time he sought help his cancer had mets in the lungs and brain. His chest x-ray looked like a snowstorm.
I plan to write some letters in the near future to LLL and some breastfeeding help sites on the internet. It doesn’t have to be too late. The earlier you catch aggressive cancer the better. It’s scarry, but facing it is better than hiding or ignoring a problem. Your prognosis will be a lot better too.
Dedicated to “punk rock mommy” who was too late. Your life and blog inspired us all. And to Dr. Vanderbrink-Webb who recognized my symptoms right away and was my advocate.