How I Found Out

How I Found Out

breastfeeding-mom.jpg

People ask me to describe how I found out that I have this rare cancer. I have read awful stories on the Internet where doctors and women ignored the symptoms of IBC until it was too late. In my case I am not sure when I started to have symptoms. I feel like it may have begun during my pregnancy with Clayton. At first I noticed swelling in my left breast-actually my whole left side. It went away after Clay was born but when he was three months old I noticed the left breast was bigger, had a lot of lumps, and felt hot. I thought that all of these were symptoms of an ordinary breast infection not unlike one that any nursing mom might experience. So I used hot compresses,cabbage leaves, motrin, and eventually antibiotics. None of these relieved my symptoms which kept getting worse. I went to the E.R. at Pennsylvania Hospital on May 5th,2007. They thought I had mastitis as well, but recommended I get an ultrasound of the breast to rule out abscesses. I took my last two finals ever on Monday6th and Tuesday7th. I felt free to focus on my health for the first time in months. I was happy and confident when I went for my ultrasound. When the Dr. remarked that he could find no abscesses, just a thickening of the breast tissue, and that he thought I should go see the breast surgeon, I knew. I asked,” Do I have cancer?”. He said,” I don’t know, but I think we should try to find out right away.” I changed back into my clothing while he made an immediate appointment for me across the street with the breast surgeon. While in the waiting room I noticed a pamphlet on Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I picked it up and read through the symptoms..doing a mental checklist…I have that, I have that, Oh man I have that too! I walked up to the Doctor and said,” I have this.” He said,” oh good you got the pamphlet.” “No, I have this cancer.” He was less convinced than me. I paced the hall for what seemed like hours but was probably more like 30 minutes. I prayed. I called my husband. I read the words..fatal,aggressive,etc. I held in my tears. I met with the surgeon. A wonderful older gentlemen. I told him that I had breast cancer. Deadly bad breast cancer. He said , “Andrea we don’t know that yet.” I said ,”I know. Well at least now I don’t have to pay back my student loans.” He laughed. From that point on I got an immediate biopsy and mammogram. All on the same day. I loved everyone I met. I decided to be nice and try to just laugh about it. Its not that I didn’t feel sad. I did to be sure. But mostly I just thought it was so cliche’. Very Lifetime television. Mom of six finally graduated from college finds out she has deadly cancer the NEXT day? Implausible. I made up a top ten list ala David Letterman. Top ten reasons its good that I have cancer. Some of them are very funny. I let myself cry only a little. I pray. And although I know that the next world is more wonderful than this one, I will hold on dearly and pray for God to let me remain here with my lovely children and wonderful husband. But I won’t be angry or bitter. Life is too short. Especially mine.

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14 Responses to How I Found Out

  1. imstell says:

    Andrea, I’ve read it before and it still astounds me – brings me to tears. It is so very Lifetime TV. You’re right. I hope you share your Top Ten list with us some day. I’d love to hear it!

  2. I totally want to read your top ten list!!

    I am also working on a list — mine is: “100 advantages of cancer”

    My top three are:
    Free Parking (I’m not kidding)
    My parents come visit a few times a year (instead of once every other year)
    and
    I see friends I haven’t seen for years (they come to keep me company at chemo)

  3. bcjenster says:

    By popular demand we hope you’ll be posting your top ten some day.

    Hey! We’re nearly neighbors. I live in Montgomery County about 10 miles NW of Valley Forge.

  4. punkrockmommy says:

    1. No need to pay back my student loans
    2. Access to awesome pain relieving narcotics no questions asked
    3.an excuse to smoke pot
    4.an excuse to lie around.
    5.i was trying to lose weight anyway
    6.cancer card- never be expected to do “too much” ever again
    7.see everyone you ever knew…they will all wish you well and be happy to see you
    8. no need to shave my legs or wax my……
    9.access to really cool free stuff…cancer yoga, cancer survivor parties, I get free acupuncture. Awesome!
    10. I can say anything and blame it on the medication

  5. imstell says:

    Hey… That looks suspiciously like MY mental “Cancer Perks” list. Have you been reading my mind? But #5 didn’t really work for me. I just gained a bunch thanks to the steroids! Sure! I would have to get the cancer that makes you GAIN weight! Just my luck! 😉

  6. bcjenster says:

    Great list!

    I never lost the hair on my legs – just everywhere else. The everywhere else was great! Except for the head and the eyes.

    And just like imstell – I gained on chemo! And then on treatment following chemo. And then on medication for funky rashes because of changes from chemo. :o(

  7. I had just had the 1st of 6 laser treatments to permanently “clean up” my bikini line right before I was diagnosed. I guess I saved money on the other 5 treatments as the chemo took care of everything!!!!

  8. sprucehillfarm says:

    Yes I love not having to shave anything! Although I do miss my long hair 😦 So far I still have my eyebrows and lashes.
    The list sounds a lot like mine too. Hee Hee 🙂

  9. whymommy says:

    Wow, Andrea, I didn’t remember that you found your cancer while nursing too. And yet they say it’s unheard of … it’s not. In fact, a baby’s refusal to nurse at a cancerous breast (which sometimes, but not always happens) actually has a name: Goldschmidt’s sign. Thanks for sharing your story — and your top ten list!

  10. Hi Andrea, I love the top 10 list, I have to admit I’ve never quite thought of cancer that way but now I will have to think about my own top 10! Amazing story, looking forward to getting to know you better too. Take care Jen B

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